This WiSE Wednesday, we're thrilled to bring you a profile of our very own DOCTOR Lital Chartarifsky - on Friday October 12, 2018 she successful defended her dissertation, allowing her to add "PhD" to her already strong list of credentials (which includes WiSE co-founder and president emeritus)!
Lital studies the brain circuitry behind multisensory decision making - if you're faced with multiple forms of input (like seeing a cute dog and hearing a growl) how do you integrate that knowledge and make a decision about what to do next? To answer this question, Lital trains rats to respond differently to different visual & auditory stimuli. She then looks at which brain regions they're using when choosing how to respond and manipulates those regions to figure out how those regions affect the decision-making process.
Lital first came to CSHL in 2011 through the Undergraduate Research Program (URP) and spent the summer researching an RNA processing process called splicing in the laboratory of Adrian Krainer (his name might sound familiar if you've heard about his breakthrough discovery to treat spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)). Inspired and motivated, she returned to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she continued studying splicing and completed a Masters degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
She came back to CSHL in 2013, this time as a graduate student. She was still interested in splicing but found herself becoming more and more fascinated by the brain. She integrated all the available information and made the decision to make the radical switch from RNA splicing to neurobiology.
Lital isn't afraid to take such bold actions - when she sees a need, she addresses it head-on and full-force. In 2015, together with fellow grad student Jackie Giovanniello and research technician Alexandra Ambrico, Lital founded CSHL WiSE to help support and provide resources for female scientists. Initially vice president, she later took on the role of president (now held by fellow neuroscientist & WSBS student Ally Nowlan).
Recently, she and Jackie co-founded an organization called STEMpire to provide professional development resources such as workshops & webinars specifically geared toward early-stage scientists and engineers - topics include burn-out, networking, navigating difficult conversations, and more.
Lital is an amazing leader and mentor and she makes every effort to put these skills to use. In addition to her work with WiSE and STEMpire, she served as Executive Board Member and Outreach Coordinator for INet NYC, an organization that provides resources to international scientists in the NYC area, and volunteered as a mentor for high school students through CSHL's "Partners for the Future" program.
Lital carried out her thesis work under the doctoral supervision of Anne Churchland, who is herself a strong advocate for female scientists. Churchland started Anne's List (https://anneslist.net/) - a database of information on female neuroscientists available for giving talks - to combat the YAMM (yet another mostly male meeting) & "mannel" (majority-male pannel). WiSE, together with CSHL Meetings & Courses, EMBO & ACB is working on a similar (but broader-focused) women speaker's list.
Congratulations Lital! We will miss you greatly but are so excited to watch the next path of your journey!