Name: Adam Klein
Hometown: Wyckoff, NJ
Research Area: Neuroscience and Behavior (N&B)
Research Specialty: Psychopharmacology, Drugs of Abuse
Adam received his BS in Psychology from CUNY-City College of NY in 2013, where he graduated with the highest GPA in the department. During his undergraduate career, Adam was a research assistant in the Neurochemistry of Learning Lab, a member of Psi Chi Honor Society, and the founding member and president of the CCNY Fencing Club.
Adam’s primary research interest is in understanding how psychoactive drugs are able to produce effects on mood, cognition, sensation and behavior. Currently, Adam is working under the mentorship of Dr. Aaron Ettenberg to understand how chronic cocaine exposure produces alterations in the serotonin system, which may underlie the development of anxiety disorders. This research combines the use of pharmacological techniques, behavioral assays and gene expression.
In addition to understanding how drugs work in the brain, Adam is also interested in the larger social issues of drug use and addiction, particularly how the science informs the ways society addresses these matters.
What is a typical day like for you?
There are no typical days! I have found that one of the most exciting parts of graduate school is the great variety of tasks and responsibilities. Some days are spent in the lab running marathon sessions of behavioral experiments, while others will have me in the classroom teaching sections and meeting with students. There are so many different things needed to complete an experiment that I often find myself learning how to do something new, whether it is a new technique, like mRNA quantification using qPCR, or a skill like mounting cameras and programming video tracking software. And of course, all of this is on top of my own class schedule! This constantly changing balance between learning, teaching and research makes each day unlike any other.
What best prepared you for a PhD in Psychology? What did you do in your undergraduate career that prepared you to be a PhD student (lab work, teaching, research)?
I spent a year as a research assistant in a behavioral neuroscience lab, which exposed me to many of the methods and techniques used in the field. This was probably the best preparation, as it gave me a good idea of the type of work that I would be doing while pursuing a PhD. Getting comfortable with lab work as an undergraduate made for a smooth transition to the demands of graduate school.
During my undergraduate career I volunteered as an assistant teacher at a nonprofit organization called The Fortune Society, whose mission is to help formerly incarcerated individuals make the transition back into society. My job was to teach GED math classes, as well as tutor students who were ready to take the test. This position allowed me to gain valuable experience teaching and interacting with a very diverse group of students. This job really inspired my passion for education. Here I saw first-hand the power of education to directly impact people’s lives.
What advice do you have for incoming students?
Start early! It will make the transition to graduate school much easier. I moved to Santa Barbara from NYC in June, and almost immediately started working in the lab. This allowed me to get acclimated to Santa Barbara, learn my way around town, find a house to live in and learn about UCSB and the department, all before classes began in the fall. Because of this I was ready to hit the ground running as soon as the academic year started.
Why did you choose UCSB?
Besides all the obvious reasons, like UCSB being a top research institute in a picturesque beach town with great weather year-round, I was really impressed by the academic environment in the department. I really liked how the N&B area faculty places such an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork over competition. This makes for a very supportive environment where everyone is eager to help out, give advice and share lab space and equipment. The cooperative atmosphere provides an ideal environment in which to grow and develop, not only as a researcher but also as a person.
Additionally, another major factor in deciding to come to UCSB was my advisor, who was a perfect match, both in terms of personality and research interests. I knew how important the relationship between student and mentor is to success in graduate school, which made the decision to pursue a PhD at UCSB a no-brainer!
What do you like about getting your PhD in Santa Barbara? What do you do in Santa Barbara in your (precious) spare time?
One of my favorite things about Santa Barbara is taking trips up into the Santa Ynez Valley. I like exploring the hiking trails, visiting the various wineries and breweries, or just driving around and taking in the scenery. Going up into the mountains is one of my favorite things to do here, and I think one of the most underrated aspects of living in Santa Barbara.
My favorite hobby though is cooking. I love finding new recipes, trying out new dishes, and cooking up a feast to enjoy with friends. The Saturday morning farmer’s market is great for picking up fresh fruits and vegetables, or just wandering around and trying samples from all the local vendors. Recently I have been experimenting with turning a standard Weber grill into a smoker, which has resulted in some interesting dishes, like hickory-smoked 4-cheese Mac and Cheese.
And although I haven’t had the opportunity to yet, one of my goals for the near future is to learn how to surf.
What are your future plans?
Right now my goal is to complete my PhD and hopefully land a tenure track position at a research university.