Gabriel Axel @GabrielAxel
I'm a neuroscientist, yogi, educator, consultant, and musician continually playing the edge between science and art. I was born in Puerto Rico and grew up in the United States. I am currently a PhD Fellow at the University of Newcastle, Australia, where I focus on developing mind-body interventions to help stroke patients renew the sense of agency in their lives. My broader interests lie around the fusion of neuroscience and yogic/mind-body science, to develop a historical neurocognitive cartography of practices that purposefully manipulate consciousness, and to develop educational, immersive, and interventional tools to this end. I remain open to where that takes me.
In my time here, the Interacting Minds Centre has shown itself to be a hotbed for cross-pollination of innovative ideas across disciplinary boundaries. The kind of scientific thinking here is at least six or seven ahead of the curve, if not more. I have met established and budding leaders in a number of specializations, participated in workshops, and listened to great lectures. Perhaps most significantly, I have sat down one-on-one with various researchers and discussed my current project and theirs, gleaning insights for both immediate application to my current project as well as seeding potential for potential collaborations. Everyone has been welcoming, friendly, and happy to share and help. The IMC is a bit of a hyperdimensional research center! Not to mention that I have been enjoying the delicious organic salad bar available in the building every day!
Frankly, my stay at the IMC this summer has been nothing short of pivotal, both personally and professionally. I came in with a bit of uncertainty over my research question—something hadn't quite clicked yet. I essentially reverse engineered myself and rediscovered the core burning question around which many life themes and scientific interests circumvolve. My visit here has suffused my scientific endeavors with greater motivation and vitality, and it has given clarity to my research direction. One of the reasons the IMC is unique is because due in large part to the density of the truly interdisciplinary nature of research here, there are more 'seams' between core research areas; more intersections and frothy peripheries, where there are more questions than answers, a circumstance that is leveraged to scientific advantage. I know I will always look back on this time as a milestone in my life. I look forward to orbiting back around!
To a future visitor, I would suggest to do one's best to hit the ground running: have in mind the feeling of what one wishes to get out of the visit and position themselves with openness so as to maximize those goals; have a working familiarity of the key researchers with whom one wishes to connect and email them a couple of weeks in advance; follow the IMC on social media, e.g. Twitter, to be abreast of published papers and what's on everyone's mind; and schedule the visit when there are ongoing studies of interest and ideally when there are events and workshops that are relevant to one's line of research. Most importantly, be open to inoculating one's own ideas with new ones and to chewing on questions that break down previously held answers at a faster rate than to one might be conventionally accustomed. My experience here has, of course, been due in part to the combination of my own circumstances and of the milieu here at the time of my visit; that said, one can always make oneself ready and open, and the IMC is a great place to do that.