PHutures – 100 Alumni Voices »

Ela Warnecke

“You can advertise yourself in a different way by using other words, but describing still what you’re doing, and that was really the biggest thing for me, to learn that way of talking about my research and my interests.”

Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

Psychological & Brain Sciences, PhD, 2018

Research Scientist at Meta

Ela‘s Podcast Episode

In this episode, we discuss Ela’s unexpected path to pursuing a PhD in Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins and her doctoral work on acoustics and bat echolocation, the important roles of both mentorship and networking in influencing her academic and professional trajectories, and her experience unlearning the pressures and work habits of academia after transitioning into industry and embracing a happier and healthier work/life balance.

Learn More About Ela‘s Story

I was the first person in my immediate and extended family to graduate high school and go to college. As the oldest of the “younger generation,” made up of myself, my sister, and three cousins, I had no idea what “going to college” meant, but I knew it would lead me down a new path that I could create myself. This image depicts the moment I first held a fixed brain in my hands, solidifying my affinity for science into a certainty. I was captivated by the way the brain processes sensory inputs, finding shortcuts and adaptations to the most challenging physical constraints in our environments. To understand both the neural and behavioral aspects of sensory processing, I studied Cognitive Science in Germany and spent a semester at a US university, where I worked in a lab that evaluated how animals process sounds—my first exposure to research.

At the Johns Hopkins University, I was a graduate student in Psychological and Brain Sciences, researching how echolocating bats process and perceive the acoustics of their surroundings, and how they subsequently adapt their flight and echolocation behaviors. After my PhD, I decided to move from the field of Animal Bioacoustics to Psychoacoustics, and switched to researching auditory processing aspects of humans. In this image, I am setting up multi-channel audio processing for experiments I performed during my postdoc, in which I researched how individuals with typical and impaired hearing perceive sounds that move around them. Switching from animal to human research allowed me to get a new perspective on acoustics and broadened my professional network to include colleagues from non-university research and development. It was an important stepping stone to my current career in a technology-defining research industry that characterizes the role of audio in augmented and virtual reality.