Julia Brodsky ’13 flies from pigeon lab to grad school to workplace thanks to Alumni Career Services
By Stephen Wilson
Upon enrolling at Lafayette, Julia Brodsky ’13 intended to become a physician. Once on College Hill, she took active steps through the Health Professions Program to make her dream a reality.
Then she met some pigeons, and everything changed.
Well, it didn’t start with the pigeons. It started with a psychology lecture and lab course taught by Jamila Bookwala, professor of psychology and dean of academic initiatives, and Carolyn Buckley, laboratory coordinator and instructor.
“I became so interested in the course material, thanks in large part to the professors and their approach to the content and lab,” says Brodsky.
It didn’t hurt that she was feeling less than excited about organic chemistry, a requirement for future health professionals.
So she pivoted majors, and with the same verve, she dived into psychology.
This is when she met the pigeons. As a summer EXCEL Scholar for Robert Allan, associate professor of psychology, Brodsky developed a passion for research after seeing how she could train the birds through behavior modification.
That research led to a senior thesis, which in turn led to being accepted as a Ph.D. psychology student in behavior analysis at Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY.
After finalizing her dissertation, Brodsky turned back to the College for help.
“I loved doing research and also knew that I didn’t want to teach,” she says. “When an alumna recommended that I contact the Gateway Career Center, I then found my fairy godmother.”
That spritely wish-fulfiller came in the form of Margie Cherry, associate director for Alumni Career Services.
Brodsky wanted Cherry’s help to find a role and position that would leverage her research skill set.
“Margie was a huge help,” says Brodsky. “She has a magnetic personality and is helpful in reassuring job seekers that everything will be OK.”
Over a few months, their weekly calls helped Brodsky consider online resources and networking strategies.
“She encouraged me to apply strategies I was hesitant to try,” says Brodsky. Brodsky worked at maximizing her time at networking events and stepping forward to volunteer at mixers.
Through her developing network, she landed a UX Research internship at a financial software company, which evolved into a full-time role.
She then applied the same strategies to land a position as a UX researcher at a technology company that better leveraged her skills.
Brodsky now works to pay it forward by assisting graduates in her field of research explore industry options.
“I am grateful for Margie,” says Brodsky. “The low-stress strategies she suggested to get me started combined with her constant support helped me make transitions from graduate school to a role in industry without a break in between.
“As a student at Lafayette, I was deciding how to balance my time between academics and clubs, so it was hard to know where career planning fit in,” she says. “But it was important for me to learn that there is always more than one path.”
In the world of birds, that advice translates into “as the crow flies.” In this case though, it’s pigeon, not crow.