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Is It Possible to Be a Scientist and an Artist?

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Have you ever felt torn between two different career interests? Has someone told you that you could be a scientist or an artist, but not both? Perhaps you focus on one over the other because you feel you don’t have enough time to pursue both. Well, it is possible to combine different career paths---but it takes creativity and effort to pull it off.

Indre Viskontas, Ph.D. is an example of someone who followed her dreams---even when those dreams might seem completely different. Check out the video above, produced by KQED intern CaT Bobino, to see Viskontas in action as she combines her equally strong passions for opera and neuroscience.

Viskontas earned a doctorate in neuroscience and a Master of Music, and now she works as both a scientist and a soprano opera singer.  Currently, you can find her teaching a variety of science courses at the University of San Francisco, as well as courses in music and memory at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Outside of the classroom, Viskontas routinely performs with a number of opera groups, specializing in contemporary opera.

Viskontas started her music career early on, following the example of her mother, a composer. She realized she was usually the loudest singer in the room, and with some training, she landed her first professional performance at the age of 11. In high school, she discovered that although she loved music, she also had a love for biology and chemistry. After reading books by the renowned neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, Viskontas realized that she also had a calling for cognitive neuroscience.

After earning a bachelor's degree in psychology and French literature from the University of Toronto, Viskontas decided to focus on her opera career. She spent a year in France trying to find work as a singer, but her fascination with science persisted. She left France for California, where she received her doctorate in cognitive neuroscience from UCLA, studying memory. Never content to stick to just one thing, she also received her Masters of Music in voice from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.


Viskontas could not and would not choose one career over the other, so she didn’t. Instead, she used her training and knowledge in both science and music to craft her own, unique career trajectory.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. Indre Viskontas, you can visit her website here.

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