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Student Spotlight

Name:
Madeline Dickens

Major track:
Philosophy & Cognition

Activities:
Currently, Madeline is a research assistant in the Decision Lab, under the direction of Dr. J. Frank Yates, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Marketing and Business Administration, and Coordinator of the University of Michigan Decision Consortium, where  the team is studying all facets of decision-making and judgement. This research investigates how people delimit and evaluate options, the factors that influence their decisions, and the effects that these decisions have in the world.  The project for which Madeline serves as RA  studies how small factors can subtly influence people's decisions.  Madeline codes survey responses so that the data can be numerically analyzed. The study aims to understand how these nudges work, and the ultimate goal of this study is to use the results to help people make more effective decisions.

Outside of her studies, Madeline enjoys singing and spending quality time with the people she loves. She relishes the time that she manages to do both as a member of the Women’s Glee Club, which specializes in performing school spirit songs on and off campus. The Women’s Glee Club is composed of women enrolled in a vast array of majors and from multiple schools across campus. Madeline has loved the time they spend united through song over the past three years and says, “We truly are the embodiment of our motto: Sisterhood, Song, and Strength!”

Interests in cognitive science:
When Madeline first came to the University and began to explore the field of Cognitive Psychology, she desired to delve deeper into the topic of cognition. After exploring other interdisciplinary majors that included Psychology, she decided to pursue Cognitive Science. Madeline appreciates the Philosophy and Cognition track within the Cognitive Science major because it offers the most Psychology class options and it has also prompted her deep interest in Philosophy. She is very passionate about helping people and the Philosophy and Cognition track allows her to explore how people learn, perceive, and make decisions.

Post-graduation plans:
Madeline’s definition of success is to make a positive impact in the world. While there are many ways of achieving success, she is interested in working with people to improve their circumstances. She has considered human resources, nonprofit management, and educational reform as just a few potential career options. With a degree in Cognitive Science, there are a wide array of ways Madeline may use her training to help serve others. 

Joshua Wieringa: Decision & Cognition

Name: 
Joshua Wieringa

Academic year:
Junior

Major track:
Philosophy & Cognition

Activities:
Joshua is highly involved in supporting veterans in many different ways. During the summer of 2016, Joshua volunteered as a liaison in the Veteran Service Officers’ (VSO) waiting room at the VA and greeted veterans and their families as they entered the office. The VSO plays a key role in assisting the veterans file disability claims necessary to gain eligibility to receive continued treatment at the VA. Currently he is volunteering in the social work office at the VA and while completing simple organizing tasks, Joshua is familiarizing himself with all the roles that social workers fulfill at the VA.

Joshua is also a mentor at the Washtenaw County Veterans Treatment Court. As a mentor Joshua supports veterans as they work through personal and legal issues by connecting them with the resources at the VA hospital that will allow them to lead healthier lifestyles and avoid prison sentencing. In a fourth role, Joshua holds a position with the American Legion Post 268 in Milan, MI as a Post Adjunct. In addition to general paperwork in the office, Joshua helps decide how to raise money and where to spend it for various causes pertaining to the well-being of veterans and their families. For example, his post hosted an event with Foundation 14, a group of military veteran motorcyclists, who raised money with Harley Davidson of Tecumseh in order to modify a motorcycle for a Marine veteran amputee.

Interests in cognitive science:
Joshua decided to major in Cognitive Science because it allows him to use a diverse range of disciplines to understand how the mind works. He is able to study subjects that interest him while also delving deeper into topics that will be beneficial to his future plans of working in the mental health field. He is inspired by the innumerable possibilities that come with studying the breaking field of Cognitive Science. By understanding the principles in which people perceive their environment and how they react to  different stimuli could change the way in which patients with mental illnesses and injuries are treated.

Post-graduation plans:
After being discharged from service Joshua discovered the field of social work. His ultimate goal is to help veterans understand that receiving help, especially treatment for mental illness, is not a form of weakness. As he has come to realize the diversity within the field and how he could use the vast range of expertise to empower veterans and their families, he plans to apply to U of M’s School of Social Work. After losing a friend to suicide, Joshua has an even deeper appreciation for his friends and family that encouraged him to seek treatment from social workers and doctors at the VA after his discharge from the Army. Joshua hopes to use his experience as a combat veteran to relate to others who don’t trust that social service and healthcare professionals truly understand their unique experiences.  

Amanda Nelson: Philosophy & Cognition

Name:
 Amanda Nelson

Academic Year:
4th year

Major Track:
Philosophy & Cognition

Activities:
I am a co-president of the student organization Cognitive Science Community - I assist with planning discussions and other types of events for the student organization. I also work as a research assistant with Dr. Tarik Bel-Bahar in the Center for Consciousness Science (CCS). The CCS is a part of the Department of Anesthesiology in the U-M Medical School, created for the purpose of advancing research on consciousness in a multidisciplinary way. I am working with electroencephalogram (EEG) and questionnaire data from a study on ketamine. Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has the potential to help us answer questions about the functional connectivity of different areas of the brain during altered conscious states as compared to normal waking or unconscious states.

Additionally, I am involved with the Residential College Student Government. I’ve been involved with the RC Student Union (RCSU) since my sophomore year. The main focus of the group is strengthening the RC community in and outside of East Quad and acting as a liaison between students and faculty. We plan a lot of events, have a voice in decisions at the administrative level, and are a close group of friends. The RC is a unique living/learning community where students have freedom and control over their education and academic space. This is one of the foundations of the RC that isn’t always found in LSA, and RCSU helps keep it alive.

Interests in Cognitive Science:
Studying Cognitive Science has given me a philosophical background that allows me to think more deeply about the questions being asked and what cognitive science as an empirical discipline is capable of answering about “consciousness” and the word’s multiple possible meanings. Cognitive science and philosophy offer a way to ask and answer some of the deepest questions about the human experience.

Post-Graduation Plans:
I am still trying to figure everything out! I plan on looking for research opportunities in labs similar to the Center for Consciousness Science that are not in the state of Michigan. One possible future out-of-state location is Berkeley, CA, because they have an amazing student housing co-op system. After living in Ann Arbor co-ops, I’ve developed an interest in cooperatives in general and that would be something I would be interested in continuing. Also, the weather is a nice perk! After a few gap years, I am interested in graduate programs that will allow me to engage in both the practice and the philosophy of consciousness research.

 

Jenny Tou: Computation & Cognition


 

Name:          
Jenny Tou

Academic Year:
Fifth year, double major

Major Track:
Computation & Cognition

Activities:
I am a research assistant in the Direct Brain Interface Laboratory directed by Professor Jane Huggins. The main focus of the lab is to make the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology practical for target users. Dr. Jane Huggins particularly works with population with cognitive impairments. Currently, the lab is developing a Brain-Computer Interface that would allow children with cerebral palsy to take cognitive tests, so that they can receive quality education that meets their needs. These children are usually under-placed in classrooms since they cannot fully express themselves in normal cognitive tests.

Another very fun and rewarding experience was participating in the Design for Maternal Health in Ghana program. I along with three other teammates spent 8 weeks in Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana in July and August 2015. We did observations and interviews with healthcare providers to understand unmet needs specifically in the Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Department in the hospital with the goal to identify a project opportunity to develop a medical device, and we decided on working on a blood pressure device for low-resource settings. The academic year following the clinical immersion experience in Ghana, we developed 3 iterations of functional prototypes. We brought our device back to Ghana over spring break in 2016 to get feedback from healthcare providers; we also presented our project at the Design for Medical Devices Conference and participated in the Rice 360 Global Health Design Competition.

This summer, I will be writing my honors thesis with Professor Jane Huggins supported by the Honors Fellowship. I will also work with Professor David Chesney to develop the Coloring Wall, which is a tool specifically for children with autism to play with and will them with fine motor control skill over the process.

Outside school and research, I like to work on my own mini projects. Recently, I got the Google Cardboard virtual reality glasses, and I am still thinking what to do with it. I also love travelling, extreme sports, food, and cooking.

Interests in Cognitive Science:
It started with one lecture in Introduction to Cognitive Science Cogsci 200 (It is the most inspiring class I have taken. Everyone should take it!), when Professor Rick Lewis talked about evolutionary artificial intelligence and showed us a video of a robot being thrown into the water, and it gradually learns how to swim with trial and error. Cognitive science is cool, and the human mind is fascinating. Currently, I am most interested in human-machine interaction and technologies that will improve quality of life with understanding of the human mind.

Post-Graduation Plans:
I really like research and I plan to apply to graduate school, possibly PhD in Machine Learning, or a MD/PhD program. I think my experience makes me a pretty good candidate!

Rennie Pasquinelli: Language and Cognition

Name:
Rennie Pasquinelli

Academic Year:
Sophomore

Major Track:
Language & Cognition

Activities:
I am an active member on Michigan's Policy Debate team, which requires me to travel around the country for competitive and scholarly discussions regarding United States military presence. I am also a debate coach for high school students in both Minnesota and Colorado. I work at the University's Psycholinguistics lab with Professor Julie Boland, where I assist on various research projects regarding language and the mind. I look forward to soon beginning a volunteer position at the Sunfield Center for Autism, ADHD and Behavioral Health.

Interests in Cognitive Science:
It's impossible not to be interested in Cognitive Science! I have always been extremely interested in language, specifically in the mind. The Cognitive Science major immerses me in a curriculum that fits my exact interests. The introductory Cognitive Science course (COG200) taught me about language in a way I knew that an average linguistics course could not. The following topics got me really interested in the field: learning about the brain as a computer, moral problems, and decision making.

Post-Graduation Plans: 
Post-graduation I hope to study cognition and communication in cognitively impaired populations. The Language & Cognition track could not be more perfect for preparing me for graduate-level coursework in this field. Working in the Psycholinguistics lab and with those who are affected by cognitive impairments help greatly as well. I'm also attending a professional academic conference over the summer in Helsinki, Finland made possible by a grant from the Weinberg Institute of Cognitive Science. I will be presenting my ideas regarding language acquisition and the way it is discussed in contemporary fiction. I'm already excited to apply to graduate school because of the great curriculum of the CogSci major, and the experiences I have had around campus!

Nicole Cuneo: Language and Cognition

Academic Year:
Sophomore

Major Track:
Language & Cognition

Activities:
I am a Volunteer Chairperson on the Executive Board of the Autism Speaks club. I am a participant in the mentorship program at the U-M Center for Students with Disabilities. I also volunteer with the Movers and Shakers program at Sunfield Center - a center for Autism, ADHD and Behavioral Health. In addition, I mentor and do support work for a teenager with cognitive impairments.

Interests in Cognitive Science:
I stumbled upon Cognitive Science accidentally during my freshman year. I was unable to register for a class I wanted to take, so I signed up for COGSCI 200 instead. I instantly fell in love with the course! Everything about cognitive science fascinated me. I enjoyed learning about various mental states, Turing machines, and all of the in-betweens. I find the human mind fascinating!

Post-Graduation Plans:
My coursework at U-M has been directly applicable to my intended career. I want to study Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with a focus on Autism. I am also interested in learning about language acquisition problems that many people on the spectrum encounter. The Language & Cognition track helps me to understand language development. Learning about how the mind works will help me learn how to develop aids for those whose minds work a little differently. In order to gain direct experience with those who are on the spectrum, I joined all of the clubs and volunteer organizations listed above. I strongly believe in hands-on learning experiences!