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Student Spotlight

Name:
Madeline Trumbauer 

Academic year:
Class of 2023

Major track:
Decision and Cognition

Interest in Cognitive Science:
Madeline has been trying to figure out how best to live her life. “I’m hyperaware of how precious each individual’s time is on earth,” Madeline says. “And I question cultural norms that could be preventing me from living my best life, especially because they might be completely outdated in a couple decades.” Knowing she wanted to devise an ethics of her own, Madeline turned to decision-theory and philosophy to craft her values in her adolescence. Madeline was attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of Cognitive Science and how it could be applied to whatever career role she wanted to pursue.After learning about the importance of considering others, Madeline—taking a utilitarian approach to her career-decision—wanted a career that would affect the most number of people and produce the most good, so she chose Digital User Experience design, which is the front-end construction of digital platforms. “I’m interested in helping improve online interfaces because of the daily frustrations I can eliminate for the average person with better user experiences. So many in-person systems can be more efficiently conducted remotely, and I want to help our world transition to using digital technologies.”With support from the University of Michigan Career Development Office, Madeline took her passion for UX to the professional world in a summer internship with PNC Bank on the Mobile Retail Banking Team. In this role, she learned about how banking can be digitized, and how to implement solutions from the user’s perspective. “In a Product Manager role, I worked closely with designers to augment features in the app. In my team, we iterated through each phase of the design process to produce user-research informed solutions. We researched, brainstormed a project idea, built personas for our target user, then journey-mapped the desirable experience we wanted them to have, and began sketching the interface as well as the possible steps available to the user with user flow diagrams. It was so amazing when we finally had a working prototype, because so much thought had gone into it beforehand to ensure every decision had a justification rooted in helping the user. It was an impactful experience that has driven my passion for UX!"

Activities:
Beyond her academic studies, Madeline enjoys reading, running, and writing. In fact, she says, “I love to learn! Being in the information age, there’s so many valuable resources available. I love TedTalks, Coursea, and any free online books I can get my hands on. I’m so happy to be absorbing all the work of great thinkers of all time.”

Post-Graduation Plans:
After graduation, Madeline will be looking for a job in User Experience. She hopes to move to the West Coast because it’s always been her dream to live by the ocean. A cute puppy would be part of the dream, too! “I am so excited to pair my understanding of human psychology with my technical knowledge of web interfaces to build digital systems that support the people using them,” says Madeline.

 

Hattie Benedetti : Philosophy and Cognition

Name:
Hattie Benedetti

Academic year:
Class of 2023

Major track:
Philosophy and Cognition

Activities: Hattie is very involved in psychology research and has been a research assistant the majority of her time on campus. Outside of reading and writing for her thesis, Hattie loves to shop at thrift and antique stores in the Ann Arbor area. “I have always loved shopping at thrift stores because of the amazing finds and great people I have met at local establishments along the way. I enjoy taking my time to meticulously look through each rack because I can always find something fun for someone in my life, whether they think they need it or not! Shopping second-hand is also an easy and amazing way to reduce your consumption and support local businesses.”

Interest in Cognitive Science: After taking CogSci 200 during her freshman year, Hattie was intrigued by the interdisciplinary design of the cognitive science major and Weinberg Institute. “I really liked the ability to customize my major by selecting a track. I was happy to learn that courses I took from the other tracks would count towards my major requirements as well” she says. “The breakdown of cognitive processes, for example, vision, that were explained in that introductory course allowed me to see psychological topics in a whole new light.” Hattie also enjoys her philosophy classes. One of her favorite elements of philosophy courses is how she’s given the opportunity to write in a different style than what is required of scientific research papers. 
While attending the psychology lab fair held in her first fall semester, Hattie met lab managers and graduate students in many psychology labs and disciplines. Resulting from these interactions, she was selected as a research assistant during Winter 2020 for Dr. Kent Berridge’s affective neuroscience and biopsychology lab. In her research assistant role, she gained valuable knowledge about the scientific research process and working with animal models. In May 2020 she joined Dr. Reuter-Lorenz’s cognitive affective neuropsychology lab (PARL) as a research assistant and is presently pursuing an honors thesis in this lab. She joined the Working Memory Training project, headed by Dr. Alexandru Iordan, and she continues to work on this project as a senior RA.  
Hattie’s honors thesis is focused on assessing the efficacy of a verbal working memory training task for individuals with MCI. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a presumed-manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease that currently has no pharmacological solutions to combat the severe decline. She is also investigating if training gains resulting from the training program will transfer as gains to other trained and non-trained cognitive tasks. “In young adults, training programs of this nature have been shown to improve not only the cognitive measure trained on but also on other unrelated cognitive measures. That is the amazing human brain’s quality of plasticity at work!” Through her thesis, Hattie is investigating those transfer effects as they pertain to older adults, and older adults with MCI. 

Advice for Fellow Students Pursuing Research:  Hattie says to anyone looking to gain research experience-“If you want to pursue an honors thesis or work in a laboratory; just ask! Speaking to, or emailing lab members such as the lab managers or graduate students is a great way to introduce yourself to them, and see if they need a research assistant. The next step is volunteering hands on in a lab and reading scientific articles published by the professors and doctors who are the head of research labs. I’ve found experience to be the best way to learn about precise research details and determine whether or not they match your interests- both career interests and personal as a potential researcher.” 

Claire Wan: Computation and Cognition

Name:
Claire Wan

Academic year:
Class of 2023

Major track:
Computation and Cognition

Internship Experience:
This summer, Claire worked as a software engineer intern for J.P. Morgan in Chicago. She initially got this position through the School of Engineering's Multidisciplinary Design Program. This program runs from January-December and her project includes a summer internship. In preparation for the application process, she revised her resume with resources from career centers and feedback from peers. She also prepped for interviews and practiced a lot. The application process included meeting the corporate sponsors at the project fair as well as submitting an application and virtual interview.The project Claire worked on was completely student-led. The team interviewed product owners to first identify a business need and then proposed two products to solve it: a recommendation app based on machine learning insights and a data analytics report. Claire had to work on all parts of the product lifecycle to develop these two products including ideation, prototyping, data analysis, machine learning modeling, and full stack development. Claire's advice for students is that it can't hurt to try for a position and apply. She almost missed out on this great opportunity by not applying because she did not think she was qualified.

Study Abroad Experience: Before her summer internship, Claire also took a short 3-week study abroad program through the School of Information in Barcelona. The class she took was on design thinking which is a cognitive and problem-driven process focused on people's reasoning to develop a solution. This class was very interactive and she went through the process of identifying a problem, interviewing the target audience, designing a prototype, and incorporating feedback. She found it very valuable to learn how cultural norms may affect people's reasoning as the differences were very apparent especially when interviewing students from University of Michigan versus University of Vic. Although it was a short study abroad program, she felt that she still had the time to learn just as much from exploring the city as the classroom. 

Archive

Clara Moskowitz: Decision and Cognition

Name
Clara Moskowitz                                                                               

Academic Year: 
Class of 2018

Major Track: 
Decision and Cognition

Interests in Cognitive Science:
Clara is fascinated by human behavior, specifically why people make the daily decisions they do and how people perceive the world and their decisions through their unique lens. As an incoming freshman, Clara says her goal was to study why the brain works the way it does and to pursue a major that incorporated science yet didn’t limit her career options to the traditional medical fields.

Through the decision and cognition track in cognitive science, she’s been able to do just that, as she explored the relationship between the physical behavior of humans and the mental capacities we hold. In her cognitive science courses, she has learned concepts and methods from a range of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy. This interdisciplinary knowledge base has provided her with a multifaceted set of analytical skills, she says, that will be extremely beneficial for her desired field of work in business.

Clara’s favorite part about the interdisciplinary major is that students are able to cater their classes toward their personal interests. Once she became interested in neuromarketing, she was able to take a consumer behavior marketing course in the business school and a collective intelligence course in the Complex Systems department, both of which deepened her understanding of how humans think and work together.

Overall Experience as an Undergraduate in Cognitive Science:
“My experience as an undergrad in the Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science has been fantastic!” says Clara. “As vice president of the Cognitive Science Community, a student-led organization, I’ve been given numerous opportunities to meet peers in the department and explore aspects of CogSci that I originally wasn’t interested in, such as philosophy and linguistics. My favorite class that I’ve taken for CogSci is Collective Intelligence with Professor Scott Page, which I highly encourage all students—CogSci or not—to take!”

Last summer, Clara was a consumer behavior analyst at a virtual reality and augmented reality company in Austin, Texas. She quickly discovered her passion for analyzing and predicting human behavior and was able to cater her CogSci classes toward her business interests.

Activities:
Clara loves to be outdoors, she says, “whether I’m playing sports, hiking, camping with friends, or napping in my hammock, you can usually find me outside.” In her free time, she enjoys attending speaker events on campus about current events, cognitive science, and innovative research. Her greatest joy comes from discovering new music and being with her older brothers.

Post-Graduation Plans:
After graduation, Clara will start the Master of Management program in the U-M Ross School of Business. Once she gets her master’s degree, she plans to work in the strategic marketing space.

Logan Bickel: Philosophy and Cognition

Name:
Logan Bickel

Academic year:
Class of 2018

Major track:
Philosophy & Cognition

Interests in cognitive science: 
As a boy growing up in northern Michigan, Logan always knew that he wanted to become a professor of cognitive science—even if he wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. Fast forward ten years, and Logan is on track to realize his goals. He recently completed an honors thesis in cognitive science and was one of two student speakers at the 2018 graduation reception for the Weinberg Institute.

In his remarks, Logan said that while he has always been interested in morality, it wasn’t until he was introduced to moral psychology while taking Cognitive Science 200 at U-M that he knew this would be the direction of his research. Logan became interested in how a person’s cognitive and emotional processes are linked to moral and prosocial behavior, and he specifically related his interest to the environment.

Logan’s advisor, Dr. Stephanie Preston, has conducted previous research on environmentalism and psychology, and Logan took this line of inquiry one step further. He wanted to see how emotion affects one’s likelihood of wanting to help the environment, and whether different parts of the emotional process have different effects on one’s opinion regarding the destruction of the environment. Specifically, Logan said, he wanted to “split up the experience of emotion into different components to see how they affect one’s likelihood of wanting to engage in prosocial behaviors that benefit the environment and others.”

Login’s thesis research included such questions as: What role does emotion play in forming one’s opinion on the environment? Do people who care about the environment experience more emotions in general? Are environmentalists less likely to suppress their emotions? And finally: Do environmentalists process their emotions faster, or at a greater rate, than people who are indifferent to environmental issues?

Overall experience as an undergraduate in cognitive science:
In his speech, Logan said that the Weinberg Institute truly surpassed all expectations one could have for an academic program. Logan’s favorite class was Cog Sci 200. Logan explained it this way: “It’s like a TED talk of all the interesting discoveries and questions in Cognitive Science. It gives you a teaser of all the things you may want to explore.”

His advice to current students is to reach out to professors and others working in your field of interest: “Send emails,” he suggests. “Introduce yourself to people working in your area of interest. Meet with professors and bounce ideas off of them.” Logan said he talked with a lot of great professors during his time as a student and discussed research with them, as part of their job is to engage with students and generate interest in their research. He also suggests sending emails during the summer to see if there are any openings in your area of interest.

Post-graduation plans:
Logan is very focused on cognitive science. During the next year (or two), he’ll be conducting research at Brown University in their Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab. His new position is Laboratory Manager/Research Assistant. Logan would eventually like to pursue a PhD in Cognitive Psychology, and his long-term goal is to become a professor and researcher in Social Cognition.

Sheebani Talati: Philosophy & Cognition

Name:
Sheebani Talati

Academic year:
Class of 2017

Major track:
Philosophy & Cognition

Activities:
Sheebani chose to study cognitive science because she is intrigued by the interdisciplinary approach that she finds to be especially relevant to her passion for medicine. With the ambition to become a physician, her interest in moral ethics and bioethics are critical aspects in bettering patient care. Her interests in neurocognition and neuropsychology led her to seek opportunities for research at U of M.

Sheebani has been involved in neurocognition research since her sophomore year of study. This lab focuses on working memory training in congruence with brain stimulation, specifically transcranial direct current stimulation. This is a light, noninvasive stimulation method that exhibits the promising result of increasing working memory in patients with ADHD. As Sheebani develops her own research for her thesis project, she plans to investigate whether concurrent stimulation with working memory training improves or impedes working memory advancement when stimulation is introduced either before or after a training task. She views her involvement in research as valuably transformative: “I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in psychology research at U of M - it has allowed me to better understand research methods, learn more about the workings of the brain, ADHD and brain stimulation for cognitive enhancement, and gain experience in talking to others.”

In her free time, Sheebani enjoys discovering new music, cooking and eating her creations, travelling and dancing. She is also involved in the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), which creates sustainable health programs and opportunities for mothers and children at FIMRC clinics throughout the world.

Post-graduation plans: After graduation, Sheebani has goals to earn a master’s degree in physiology and biomedical sciences at Johns Hopkins University or the University of Michigan. As she loves working with kids, her ultimate career goal is to integrate her passion for children and medicine with her interests in neuropsychology as a pediatric neurologist. 

Joshua Wieringa: Decision & Cognition

Academic year:
Class of 2018

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.  

Madeline Dickens - Philosophy & Cognition

Academic Year:
Class of 2017

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. 

Amanda Nelson: Philosophy & Cognition

Academic Year:
Class of 2017

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


 

Academic Year:
Class of 2017

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

Academic Year:
Class of 2018

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:
Class of 2018

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!