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Karla Melendez

Career Development

What field in Neuroscience did you study? What about the research process did you enjoy? Did you prefer gathering the data, brainstorming its meaning, the writing process, defending your research, presenting your research, etc.

I studied auditory neuroscience, specifically how little brown bats process communication signals. I preferred the writing process, defending and presenting my research vs. gathering and analyzing data. I felt that the latter was quite tedious, and it was much more exciting once I was able to share my findings.

Did you choose to continue doing research? Why or why not?

I chose not to continue to do research for several reasons. I primarily felt my personality was better suited in a role where I was regularly meeting and interacting people, and lab research felt isolating. I also felt that due to the restraints and pressures of granting agencies, I would not be able to pursue the scientific questions that truly interested me.

Do you still conduct research or has your career taken you other places? Why is that?

I no longer conduct research. I made a few career changes, first into university technology transfer, then biotech sales, and now software sales. I was more interested in pursuing business activities and found more job opportunities in this area as well.


Has your career path changed since your graduated? Why or why not?

Yes. I was more interested in pursuing business-related activities and also found more job opportunities once I switched fields.

What are some things you’ve been involved in since you graduated from the program? [Examples include: began a charity, advocate for animal rights, starred in a Puppet show, managed your kids’ PTA meetings, discovered your sexuality and now run an advocacy group for it?]

I have an AirBnb in Chicago, which has been rewarding on so many levels.

What is one major change that happened since graduation that you did not expect?

I’m now entrenched in the tech industry and loving it.


How has your personal life developed since you graduated? [Did you get married, adopt, start a family, discovered a long-lost sister, got a pet you now adore?]

I have a three-year-old girl with my long-term partner, and we’ve settled in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago.

How would you say you’ve changed since graduating?[More religious, more stable, became more socially aware, can’t tolerate flat earthers, turned into a total Parent, more adventurous]

I’ve become more “professional”—career-focused and deliberate in the way I speak and conduct myself.


What’s a fond memory you have as a graduate student?

I enjoyed the Neuroscience program outings (picnics, holiday parties, etc.) where I got to have fun and relax with my fellow nerds.

As a graduate student, was there anything you did that stood out to you or that you have fond memories of doing?

I continued to pursue my dream of being a secret rockstar by performing at open mic nights at Cowboy Monkey and other local bars/coffee shops. The most fun was getting a bunch of friends out for my performances.

Have you been back to campus since graduation? If so, when and why? If not, then why haven’t you returned?

I’ve been back a few times. I returned once to attend a good friend’s wedding. I also visited several times when I was in biotech sales, and I had customers in the Champaign-Urbana area.

What impact do you hope your thesis has on the field of Neuroscience? If you are currently in research, what do you hope your work has on the field? If not, then how do you feel about the impact you left on the field and its importance?

I hope that my thesis helps future researchers to understand communication signals in mammals.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

My career has taken many turns. I hope that my legacy entails being a strong, female sales leader in the tech industry, since it is still a male-dominated industry.