How Dr. Valentin Slepukhin chose his scientific direction

Since high school, I liked math and physics. I was a fan of Martin Gardner and Jakob Perelman’s popular books on math, as well as many other authors. When I was choosing my undergraduate school, the choice thus was between math and physics. Initially, I was more inclined to choose math, since I was more successful at it on the school Olympiad level. However, I realized that if I chose math, I would not study physics, while if I chose physics, I still would be studying math as well. So I decided to go to the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

First, my dream was to discover the Theory of Everything. Looking back at it, it was of course bold and naive, but it was driving me to study hard very obscure areas of theoretical physics. However, later on, I started to feel that the dream was quite elusive and maybe even unreachable in my lifetime. At the same time, my value system changed quite a lot, and I wanted to do something more applicable to the world in front of me. 

When I started my Ph.D. at UCLA, I had one year to choose the lab I will be working at. I attended multiple journal clubs and seminars and liked most biophysics/soft matter journal clubs. At some point, Alex Levine, my future PI, suggested I think about the research question problem in the biophysics field that I seemed to be able to tackle using my skills in theoretical physics. This is how I initially ended up in biophysics.

A year later, I also acquired an interest in computational neuroscience after attending a course on neuroscience for physicists. Luckily for me, Alex did some research on this topic as well, so I picked up my second project, now in the field of computational neuroscience.

As I was applying to postdocs in the last year of my Ph.D.  I was applying to both biophysics and neuroscience postdocs. I got a few offers, and one was from applying biophysics for the understanding of microbial evolution. This seemed to me potentially very impactful, so after some consideration, I decided to pick this one, which brought me to Leipzig University, Germany.

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