Chantel Prat is interviewed about her life and career path in this Her Campus article.
How She Got There: Dr. Chantel Prat's Rise to Psychological Expertise
The casual conversationalist might assume that geniality and strength are direct opposites of one another—but Dr. Chantel Prat is a testimony to the contrary. Her warm demeanor and palpable eagerness (“YES I’d love to be interviewed!” she responds to my initial email) exist in complete harmony with the sheer stubbornness, as she calls it, that’s given rise to the impressive list of accomplishments under her name. An Associate Professor of psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics at the UW, a cognitive neuroscientist by training, the recipient of several grants and awards including the Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award, soon to be author of her own book, and wife and mother, Prat is a force to be reckoned with. If her name sounds familiar, it’s likely because she, along with UW researchers Dr. Andrea Stucco and Dr. Rajesh Rao performed the first groundbreaking non-invasive information transfer between two brains in 2013. Her story begins at an accelerated pre-med program in Kansas City.
Just a few credits and one social science course short of graduating, she found herself sitting in the lecture hall of an intro to psych class—the birthplace of the realization that she wanted to study the brain.
“I wouldn’t describe myself as driven before that moment. I was smart, and I got a lot of reinforcement in the world for being smart. [Pre-med] is just what smart people do.”
At the age of 19 and the on the fast-track to med school, Prat switched course entirely as she transferred to UC San Diego to pursue a degree in psychology. That same summer, the course of her entire life followed suit when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant. In need of a job for the sake of both practicality and professional experience, she secured a position at a lab specifically looking for research assistants with experience with children.
Prat discusses navigating this part of her life, novel and unexpected, in a way that pays solemn tribute to her daughter. She discovered while working at this lab that her daughter was reverse lateralized (her language hemisphere was on the right, instead of left hemisphere where most people’s are!). While her undergraduate career was born out of curiosity and in pursuit of a academic and professional fulfillment, it was fueled by the need to be better, and to create a more understanding and empathetic version of herself so that she could raise her daughter in the way she deserved. It’s clear that deterring off track was never an option for Prat—it’s difficult to conceptualize the option to quit when there’s a little piece of the future reminding you why you’re here in the first place.
Prat was in the process of raising her then-9 year old in Davis, California when she packed up her life yet again to move to Carnegie Melon University to complete her postdoc. There’s a particular conversation that Prat describes almost as if it was her grounding measure amongst background noise.
“What do you think of moving to Pittsburgh? It’s new and we don’t know anyone.” She asks her daughter.“If it’s your dream, let’s do it.”
Read the entire article here.