Faculty Interview: Dr. Joseph Manns

By David Bass

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADr. Joseph Manns is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Animal Behavior Division, and a member of the training faculty in the Neuroscience Program.

Why did you switch from studying the human hippocampus in the Squire lab to studying the rodent hippocampus in the Eichenbaum lab?

Apparently, there are some legal issues with putting wires into people’s brains without proper licensure.

When new people join the lab, you make it clear that we are a memory lab that happens to use electrophysiology. Why choose this methodology?

True answer: Back when we were both still in grad school, I asked Beth Buffalo why she was switching to electrophysiology, and she had a really good answer.  Unfortunately, I now don’t remember what her answer was.

What advice do you have for graduate students in their first couple years?

Ask yourself what would make the modern academic life worth it and then do that.

David Bass
David Bass

If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you do differently and what decisions would you make again?

The other career paths that I considered were “professional basketball player” and “jazz pianist”.  Unfortunately, I’m not very good at basketball and don’t know how to play the piano.   So, if I went back in time, I probably would have picked “academic” again.

As a professor and a mentor, you’ve spent a lot of time teaching your students, but what, if anything, have you learned from them?

I’ve learned that they are paying attention a lot more often than you think they are.

Joe Manns, the early years
Joe Manns, the early years

Aspiring scientists seldom ask about starting a family. As a faculty member with a 2 year old son, what advice do you have on starting family?

Sleep deprivation makes you dumber.

You’ve mentored PhD students, MD/PhD students, and pre-med undergraduate students. Based on your interactions, what do you believe are important considerations for choosing between these 3 paths?

All three are probably bad decisions if something else would make you equally happy.

Let’s say I just bought a pork shoulder. How do I make it taste yummy?

225 degrees + hickory smoke + sugary/peppery rub + REALLY long time = taste of candied bacon.

If you could sit down and talk with anyone who is dead or alive, who would it be and what would you talk about?

Steve Jobs.  My question: why does the program “iTunesHelper.exe” always seem to be running on my computer when I don’t use iTunes or any other Apple products?  It’s really annoying.


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