Jory is a researcher in artificial intelligence and automation, in the Assaf Gilad lab for Synthetic Biology, and the Wolfgang Banzhaf lab for Genetic Programming and Evolutionary Computation.
He focuses on understanding the cultivation of features that make up intelligent and robust life-like behavior at all levels of complex systems. In addition to research, Jory is an enthusiastic educator and scientific software developer, interested in empowerment, usability, and human-sustainable industrial practices.
Jenna – Tell us about your background and what led you to become a postdoc at Michigan State University.
Jory- I suppose I’m like any other former music and performance major turned computational scientist. My university experience was full of wonderful liberal arts education, but eventually I had to find a way to answer the pesky question asked at dinner tables and family gatherings: “But what will you DO with that degree?” I decided to keep my love of music as a hobby and make ends meet with a tech job. Little did I know that years later I would be faced with a similar problem again in academia.
Now, I’m a researcher in artificial cognition on my second postdoc fighting the battle for positions and funding. While there wasn’t really a degree for this at the time, my PhD (MSU) let me curate my own degree in neuroscience, ecology, ethology, evolution, information, and behavior, along with computing. Through this wending path I cultivated passions for discovery, teaching, writing, team management, user experience, philosophy, and social reform. So I kind of enjoy academics.
What was your biggest surprise about being a postdoc at MSU?
Actually, the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs has been a big surprise in a good way. The amount of support we get through them is really great. About MSU in general, when I first moved here and was trying to navigate around the greater East Lansing area, I would get lost because there are no mountains on the horizon!
Have your career plans changed since becoming a post-doc?
I did have a couple changes of plan. The first was covid-motivated, propelling me back into industry for quarantine and funding reasons. The second change of plan that landed me back into academics was because I realized very few industry positions are going to be a good fit for more than a short term given my values and drives that most positions are unable to meet.
What is your advice on how MSU postdocs can get the most out of their experience here?
- Use therapists
- Use physical therapists if you need them: Olin has the best PT
- Seek active mentorship & peer mentors
- Do career planning
- Swim in the great lakes
A little more about you outside of MSU:
What is your favorite recipe?
I like to invite graduate and undergraduate students for group dinners, wherein we learn how to make new dishes and expand food appreciation. This has been a small COVID pod during the pandemic. My recent favorite for the hot summer is Thai Fresh Spring Rolls with a spicy peanut sauce. What I like about this dish is how healthy it is, while being fairly quick with many hands, and fun to do with a group. Here is the sauce recipe – the rest is easy enough. Enjoy!
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp vinegar (esp. rice vinegar)
2 Tbsp sweetener
1 Tbsp garlic chili sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
What was your favorite way to spend the day off?
Connecting with friends or family, usually outdoors.
What job would you have if it was not research?
If there could be NO research involved, then I would be in something that I’m good at with people and group communication, maybe I would even get a degree for family therapy or collaboration facilitation.
Who inspired you to pursue a PhD and Postdoc?
I don’t think there was a person who inspired me to do this. What inspired me was a fear of not getting to enjoy rich discovery in my life combined with a desire to learn more than “just the beginning” that I felt undergrad covered. That said, it was a lab postdoc I worked with one summer who really encouraged me down this path and shaped my scientific inculcation. I try to “pass it on” when I have the opportunity to give career advice to students.
Please feel free to nominate a fellow postdoc for upcoming PDA Spotlight Posts by reaching out on social media or emailing us at PDA@grd.msu.edu