Plan change story: from neuroscience academia to cost-effectiveness research

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Hauke did a PhD in Neuroscience and was planning to go into academia. But after reading our research, he applied to all our top recommended careers: jobs in German politics, consulting, tech-startups and our parent organisation, the Centre for Effective Altruism. He’s now Director of Research at Giving What We Can, where he researches which charities most effectively alleviate extreme poverty.

Hauke’s story


Hauke studied Cognitive Psychology at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany. As a first year undergraduate he took a course on Global Challenges, which outlined major world problems, like extreme poverty and climate change. This got him more interested in using his career to make a difference. Also, during a semester abroad at University College London, he attended a lecture by Michael Worton which encouraged students to seek leadership positions so that they can change the world for the better.

After finishing his Bachelor’s degree, he started a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, with the intention of pursuing a career in academia, doing basic research in Neuroscience. In his words:

I think everyone who goes to university is implicitly exposed to the ‘basic research is the most noble / high impact pursuit ever’ meme.

During his PhD he was also a Research Fellow at Joshua Greene’s Moral Cognition Lab at Harvard, and published several papers in neuroscience.

How did Hauke’s plans change?

During his PhD, Hauke became more sceptical of whether basic research was the most high value thing he could do with his career, through reading articles like ‘Science economics: What science is really worth’. He read many articles on the 80,000 Hours blog and watched a talk by Toby Ord from an early 80,000 Hours event, through which he became aware many of our key ideas.

While he was finishing his PhD, he read a blogpost on our top recommended careers. He systematically went through the list of careers in our post, and applied for assistant jobs with German MPs in the Social Democratic Party, several consulting firms, a tech startup, and the Centre for Effective Altruism.

What is Hauke doing now?

Hauke is now Director of Research at Giving What We Can, where he researches which charities most effectively alleviate extreme poverty and communicates the findings to a wider audience. He has also written about effective altruism in the Boston Review and the Huffington Post.