Briana Chen

How I got into science

When I was a freshman in college, I took 9.00: Introduction to Psychological Science, a class that is arguably (in my completely unbiased opinion) one of the best classes MIT has to offer. I was immediately hooked by the anatomical complexity, processing speed, and storage capacity of the brain. Through my time as an undergraduate, I bounced around from lab to lab (doing everything from computer coding in a computational learning lab to designing and cloning cell lines in a lung cancer biology lab), but the summer before my junior year, I was incredibly fortunate to be connected with Steve in the Tonegawa lab.

I suppose the biggest thing about science that attracted me was how questions are always evolving. There will always be new problems to solve and protocols to troubleshoot. Each day is new, fun, and exciting. Yes, there will be days when all you get is negative data, and yes, there will be days when viruses won't express or mice won't behave how you predicted, but all of those times are worth it for that one incredible positive result where you realize that you are literally the only person in the world right now who knows this about the brain.

The projects I have done under Steve's mentorship have only cemented my passion for neuroscience research. Not only is research in itself humbling and enjoyable, it is exciting to see that the results we collect have tangible effects on the world around us. We do what we do not to seek fame or glory, but because we see the potential of neuroscience to improve lives and help the people around us. I am currently a senior at MIT and going to graduate school next year. I hope to one day become a professor and inspire others to pursue neuroscience.

Non-science biography:

Outside of lab, I'm a coxswain, a neat freak, and a morning person. I'm passionate about promoting women in science, and I firmly believe that every day you should treat yo'self. I owe everything to my family, friends, and sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta) because they've played a huge role in loving me, accepting me, and pushing me to be a better version of myself. I'm really bad at telling stories and jokes, but I promise to listen to and laugh at yours



The Sound and the Fury


Love Actually


Parks and Recreation


Alex Clare


Anything with smoked salmon


Gin and tonic



Coffee, friend or foe:

Addiction-level (so both?)

One thing I’m sorry I’m not sorry about

I'm one of those people who still sends Candy Crush requests on Facebook. Currently level 938 and nowhere to go but up.

What I look for in a scientist

Humility and enthusiasm. I love meeting down-to-earth scientists passionate about answering the tough questions because I think the most exciting thing about #science is how we are challenged every day to use what we do know to try and answer what we don't know.