The NIH Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is part of a new Presidential focus aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. Cornelia Bargmann, who heads the initiative, was recently profiled in Vogue. Bargmann, who grew up in Athens, Georgia completed her undergraduate educate at the University of Georgia and then her graduate studies at M.I.T, conducts her research at Rockefeller University in New York City. In addition to her achievements as a scientist, winning the Kavli Prize and the Breakthrough Prize for Life Sciences, she lives a life of culture and sophistication. She, along with her husband Richard Axel, a Nobel Prize winner, are frequent patrons of the opera and live on Riverside Drive in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Does Bargmann have it all? This would depend on your definition. Bargmann is childless – by choice.
“I never wanted to have children a single day in my life…The only time I feel bad about it is when I am talking to young women scientists and I know they are looking at me, thinking, ‘Oh, she gave up kids to be a scientist, and I want to tell them, ‘No, I didn’t!’ I am very happy with my personal life.”
Depending upon one’s tolerance for questions and criticisms as to why one would actively choose to defy cultural expectations, Bargmann’s choice to be in the growing minority – professional woman who choose to be childless – is arguably easier than trying to perfectly balance a demanding career such as hers and motherhood. Though, Bargmann is free of the seemingly inevitable guilt that women trying to “have it all” experience, most so because she has created her own definition. “All” is relative. Fulfillment lies in creating your own authentic (and realistic) definition.