Name: Danielle Stolzenberg, PhD
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Occupation: Postdoctoral Fellow
Having a Ph.D. isn’t enough to secure a job these days, especially if you’re a scientist. That’s why Danielle Stolzenberg is dedicating nearly four years of her life to an academic residency known as a postdoctoral position. Danielle studies the neurobiology of maternal behavior, which is a fancy way of saying that she tries to figure out how and why mothers respond to their infants’ stimuli. Last year she graduated with a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Boston College, but it’s not as if this Cool Girl was a scientist from birth.
Growing up in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Danielle wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but she knew she hated the science fair and lima beans. “I wasn’t particularly good at science, and I definitely wasn’t a fan of it,” she says. This is a huge difference from the girl who, during the first week of her “Physiological Psychology” class in college, went to the registrar and changed her major and degree from a BA to a BS in order to pursue a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. “Physiological Psychology was rumored to be the most difficult of all the psychology classes, and even though I had never been a straight A student up till that point, from the day I stepped foot in that class everything changed. I got it on a level that seemed to make everything else make sense,” she remembers. She was hooked. As Danielle puts it, “Neuroscience was like the “gateway drug” for me.”
Average days for Danielle consist of conducting various stages of scientific experiments or compiling data, with the ultimate goal being to publish a manuscript. It’s a lengthy, arduous process. Her days might be filled with tests at the lab, but that doesn’t mean Danielle’s academic life has always been simply blinded by science. “Even though I decided to professionally pursue neuroscience, for the past five years I have still been desperately holding onto my original childhood aspiration of being an artist,” she says. Graduate school in Boston allowed Danielle to pursue playing electric guitar more than she had in her previous years. After teaming up with bass player Amanda Dellevigne, who was one of the undergraduate research assistants in her lab, Hot Box was formed. The two girls sought out other band mates, and found a drummer in Boston newbie and marketing maven Eric Kogelschatz as well as aspiring neuroscientist Jon Gill. Of course, with a band made up of this many brilliant people, simple rock ‘n roll wasn’t the only thing that went down. “Eric and I had several discussions about neuroscience,” Danielle remembers. “When Eric became interested in the new field which uses neuroscience methods to understand consumer behavior, known as neuromarketing, he asked if I would be part of the panel “Big Brother in Your Brain: Neuroscience and Marketing,” which he had proposed for SXSW 2010.” Danielle went on to be a panel member at the festival, and found herself at the heart of the perfect union between neuroscience and music. “It was ironic that neuroscience, rather than music, had actually brought me there,” she says.
A career in neuroscience is hard, as there’s rarely enough time for Dr. Stolzenberg to get to everything she’d like to take on. But all and all, it’s worth it. “When it seems impossible, I try not to let myself forget that I have an opportunity here to be the one on the frontier of human knowledge. The research that I publish might just be the next chapter in a textbook. That’s a pretty exciting feeling,” she says. When she left Boston and Hot Box behind in order to take on her postdoctoral work, Danielle feared that she gave up on her passion for music in order to foster her career in science. “I realize now that one will never win out over the other,” she says. “Instead, I see my future-self striving to keep both loves in her life.”
From the science lab to guitar tabs, Dr. Danielle Stolzenberg is experimenting in redefining what it means to be a “Cool Girl!”
You can check out what Danielle’s up to in the lab at her website, www.daniellestolzenberg.com, or follow her on Twitter, twitter/drstolzenberg.
To listen to the music that Hot Box made when they were together, click on myspace.com/hotboxboston