Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Natascha Roos

Date of news: 26 February 2021

Natascha_resizedWhat’s your name, nationality, current function, and department?
Hi, I’m Natascha! I was born and raised in the Rhein-Main area in Germany, about 3.5 hours driving from Nijmegen. Currently I am a second year PhD student in the Language Function and Dysfunction group at the DCC.

What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
In my PhD project, I focus on reorganization of brain functions and the recruitment of additional brain areas after suffering from brain damage. Specifically, I am testing stroke patients two and seven months after stroke to see how their language-related brain activity changes over time, and whether they recruit additional brain areas to perform language tasks. Next to that, I am planning a TMS study to investigate this neuroplasticity in healthy speakers after inducing non-invasive virtual lesions through transcranial magnetic brain stimulation.
So in practice this is a lot of planning and setting up studies, followed by many testing sessions for data collection, followed by many hours of setting up pipelines for data analysis. Luckily I can do most things from home, where I share my office with my beloved pawtner Benni (see picture).

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?
Looking back it seems quite random. During high school I went abroad for a year to be an exchange student in the USA, followed by volunteering in Venezuela and work and travel in Australia. After a gap year of travelling the world and gathering experiences in languages and cultures I went to study a Bachelor of Linguistics at the University of Frankfurt. After two years in the same place, I felt the urge to leave again and ended up in Nijmegen as an Erasmus student (fun fact: I stayed ever since). I finished my bachelor and got lucky to get into the Donders Institute’s CNS master program. Then I had another gap year from science (not by choice) and worked for a company in Arnhem, still applying for jobs in academia. Eventually I was lucky enough and could return to Radboud University and the Donders Institute to start my PhD in September 2019.

What excites you about working in science?
Out of all possible jobs, working in science seems like a good choice to me and I am happy to have this opportunity! It gives me a feeling of contributing something useful (regardless of whether that is actually true) and spending my time wisely. I love the freedom and flexibility I have in my work and all the opportunities to learn new things and connect with people from very different backgrounds in an international environment. Also science, and especially neuroscience and the brain just won’t stop to amaze me!

What did you want to be when you were younger?
Many things! Binge playing the Sims when I was young made me want to become an architect, or alternatively a musical star. Later I wanted to become a movie director, then a physical therapist, which I am still thinking of now and then. Nowadays I am dreaming of becoming a dog trainer (not sure if that is still a valid response, as I am not ‘younger’ anymore).

What does your perfect weekend look like?
Before getting Benni I would love to spend a weekend on a festival and dance in the sun all day! This still holds, but now I would prefer to go hiking with him and explore nature together. Ideally, it would be a weekend full of sun, with enough time for gardening, going for a run and seeing friends for coffee, food or games.

What is an important life lesson you have learned in the past?
Lately I realized that everything in life always has good as well as bad sides to it. These are not necessarily equal, but also nothing is ever only perfect. So take things as they are, and focus on the good sides to make the best of everything.

What are you looking forward to in life?
It makes me incredibly happy to see Benni grow up and become a good boy more and more every day. If life allows at some point, I would love to take in foster dogs until they found their forever home and maybe think about getting a second dog later on. Eventually I might also run the (canceled) half marathon that I had been training for last year. But for now, I am just curious what the future holds for Benni and me, and our friends and family around us.