Phil O’Herron, a philosophy major and 2000 graduate of Christendom College, was the featured speaker at Christendom’s popular networking series, “Life on Tap,” held in St. Kilian’s Café on April 19. Over fifty students, faculty, and staff attended to listen to O’Herron share his experience in the field of neuroscience, and how they can achieve similar success thanks to their liberal arts education.
Now a post-doc at the Medical University of South Carolina, O’Herron began by relating his passion for science, which led him from Christendom to eventually earning a PhD in neuroscience at John Hopkins University.
During his time at Christendom, he loved the courses, especially philosophy. “It was in studying philosophy that I became interested in the brain. Philosophical questions, such as ‘How do we know the world?’ captured my attention.” After graduation, he moved on to graduate school and then began work in the science field as a post-doc.
O’Herron captivated his listeners with information about his work as a researcher, where he records the activity of brain cells in monkeys, does various experiments, analyzes data, and publishes in order to obtain a faculty position. “I love what I do,” he said, “I find how the brain probes this kind of information interesting. When you do experiments, you might be the first person ever to learn a particular thing about the brain. It’s intellectually rewarding.”
He advised students who plan on entering the field of science to ask around as much as possible and to get a head start by taking the right classes. His Christendom education, he claims, benefits him daily in the scientific field. Subjects such as philosophy, history, and Latin have helped him to analyze data or make decisions.
“The liberal arts educates the whole person and is useful in really any field. It’s like a treasure chest that you can return to,” he said. “Critical thinking and writing skills are something I have to use everyday in reading scientific arguments. As intellectually stimulating as science is, it’s only one part of our intellectual nature. The whole other philosophical, spiritual, and artistic side of human nature is not stimulated through scientific work, but through the kind of richness that Christendom provides.”
Besides that, O’Herron related that, in scientific academia, it is a predominantly atheistic world. Thus, he found it helpful to know the solid reasons for his faith and to bring that knowledge base to his work center.
O’Herron closed by emphasizing that scientific work can be tough — there can be very long hours when experiments do not work, but it pays off in the end if you like what you do.
The “Life on Tap” series is a bi-monthly event organized by the college’s career and leadership development office, featuring noted alumni and friends speaking on topics such as journalism, web development, and non-profit business. To find out more, or to see videos from past “Life on Tap” events, please click here