Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Jorryt Tichelaar

Date of news: 2 December 2020

JorrytWhat’s your name, nationality, current function, and department?

My name is Jorryt Tichelaar. I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Currently I am a PhD student in the lab of Rick Helmich (Systems Neurology) & Roshan Cools (Motivational and cognitive control) at the DCCN.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I always wanted to be a (medical) doctor. However, I found chemistry in high school to be very exciting. Deciding to combine these two, I started studying Molecular Life Sciences at Radboud University.

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?

I always enjoyed learning about the brain. I felt neurons really added something exciting (pun not intended) compared to the more boring cellular and molecular aspects of a “normal” cell. Later I learned more about neurons working together in networks to basically get everything done, which concerns our everyday lives. Being “hooked” to Neuroscience, I opted for an internship in the department of Neurophysiology (DI) where, together with Bernhard Englitz, we investigated sensory substitution in mice. I loved the Neuroscience and analysis, however the lab work, although enjoyable, was not something I wanted to pursue. Therefore, I opted for a data analysis internship abroad (Boston, USA), where I applied machine learning to investigate visual field degeneration in glaucoma patients (in the lab of Tobias Elze). Exciting as it was, I did miss Neuroscience, so that is why I applied to this data analysis PhD at the Donders Institute (and I am still very happy I got it).

What do you wish you would have known when you started your PhD project?

I would say; keep asking yourself why you are doing a certain analysis or experiment. Is it really getting you closer to your goal (the paper), or are you spending two months on MRI quality control because, well because.

What is your favorite book and why?

Difficult question, I have really lost myself in the books of Robert Ludlum (maybe most famous for the Jason Bourne series). I think he is really good in creating constant tension in a 1000+ page book. Furthermore, his plotlines are always intriguing and exciting.

What is an important life lesson you have learned in the past?

Life is a constant lesson, but I really like one from a song by Roo Panes (Little Giant) where they say: “Have the heart of a giant but know you're a man.” I think it is about giving life everything you have and making the most out of it, but at the same time, know your limits and be kind to yourself in darker times (in the song, it is also about how someone can make you feel that way).

What are you looking forward to in life?

Carpe diem, but otherwise; I bought a house this week and will get the keys in January, so I’m really exciting about making that a nice place. Also, I’m writing my first paper for my PhD, which I hope to finish soon-ish (@Roshan and Rick; very very soon). And I would like to give my friends a hug again when there will be a vaccine for COVID.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

If I could choose;

Friday drinks with colleagues -> Dinner and drinks with family -> Good night sleep -> Windsurfing in the morning and afternoon -> Cooking a fancy dinner with friends and playing board games for far too long -> Decent night sleep -> Relaxing on Sunday by myself charging up for the next week!

Do you have any handy PhD project-related tips and tricks to share?

Well I am not sure it is good advice and I cannot keep myself to #2, but;

  • Be open to your supervisors and colleagues, no need to feel ashamed for mistakes or a depressing personal situation.
  • Plan in time to read; although it might feel it is distracting of things that need to get done, it will really help on the long run.
  • Have the heart of a giant but know you're a human!