Relocating and Adjusting to a New City

[By Victoria Licht]

In this blog series we have heard from almost all the ESRs, talking about the challenges we encountered in our research and the progress we have made the last 7 months.  While all of us have moved from different countries to be at our present university, some of us have had minimal problems adjusting to our new city and others like myself needed some time to get use to our new home.  I am originally from Germany, grew up in Southern California, and eventually moved back to Germany. I finished my bachelors in California and then went to Germany for my Master’s degree, I really considered myself a chameleon of being able to adjust to new surroundings. I have traveled to many place in Europe and went to South America for six weeks, I convinced myself I was able to make a home anywhere.

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Developing collaborations between academia and industry

[By Chiara Capparini]

As you may already know, the MOTION network is made up by a diverse team of experts and early stage researchers mixing both academic and industrial expertise. In this blog post, I am going to discuss with you my really fresh experience developing collaboration between my host University, Lancaster University, and an industrial partner, Smart Eye.

First of all, let me briefly introduce myself. My name is Chiara and I am originally from the beautiful Lake Como, Italy. I obtained my Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Italy. I was lucky to join the MOTION network as an Early Stage Researcher at Lancaster University, moving from that branch of the lake which inspired the Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni to the Lake District which inspired many, let me just mention Beatrix Potter (since our interest lies in infancy and childhood!). Here, apart from a nice and quiet town surrounded by placid parks and lakes, I found an amazing Babylab waiting for me, with a very welcoming environment full of great researchers, a lot of equipment and many nice families willing to be involved.

What I am researching on is how babies process social information in their environment. Thus far, most of the research relied on simplified two-dimensional images presented centrally on computer displays. Since in reality only a minority of the visual information is restricted within the central and parafoveal visual fields, my first steps into this research project aim to understand what visual information infants can process and perceive at peripheral locations.

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Collaboration between Smart Eye and Lancaster University

[By Clément Dardenne]

In the last couple of months, I worked on the development of a new version of our eye tracking software, adapted to the head morphology and eyes anatomy of infants (6 months – 3 years old).

In order to validate the new algorithms, the feedbacks of researchers involved in infant studies are primordial. On top of that, we need to enhance the size of our database (i.e. infant recordings), to keep improving our algorithms. The best way to achieve these goals is to provide a Smart Eye system to partners Babylab in the MOTION project, to see if it’s meeting the researchers expectations, and also because they have the possibility to involve a lot of infants in their studies.

That’s why Smart Eye decided to lend for free one of its systems for a period of 6 months to Lancaster University Babylab. The system is composed of 3 cameras and is accompanied of an Alpha version of a software adapted to infants. The system will be used to carry out a study on peripheral vision on 6 months old infants.

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On the Intersection of Two Companions for Ecological Validity: Research and Industry

[By Umay Şen]

The second meeting of Motion Network (Mobile Technology for Infant Social-Cognitive Neuroscience: Interdisciplinary Training Network for Innovating Infancy Research) took place in Oldenzaal, Netherlands. In this meeting, there were various workshops regarding the interaction of research and industry. As the early stage researchers of the network, we have strong connections with both industry and academia. This provides the opportunity to get involved with them both now and also in future.  Although, most of us do not have concrete career plans after PhD, we are questioning the possibilities of staying in academia/industry or changing our tracks from one to the other. To make decisions about future, is an effortful and delicate process. In this blog post, I am going to discuss about the research environments in academia and industry and also how they are similar and different with a little bit of my own perspective as a PhD student who is planning to pursue an academic career.

In the Motion Network, we have direct access to a community consisting of international and qualified researchers who have experience in both academia and industry. Furthermore, we have collaborations with researchers, practitioners and people from companies who have different specializations. Being a part of Marie Curie Network is providing us the excellent opportunity to be involved in all these different disciplines, exchange of knowledge and to integrate different skills sets.

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How are we doing? Our mid-term check

[By Joanna Rutkowska]

This month TMSi kindly ho  sted our project check meeting and the third training school in Oldenzaal, the Netherlands. We got off to a shaky start with all of our early stage researchers (ESRs) and their supervisors (principal investigators, PIs) coming from outside the Netherlands stranded at Schiphol Aiport and arriving to our location late in the evening before the first scheduled day. Fortunately, the next day we did not have our project check meeting yet, or else the Research Executive Agency (REA) Project Officer would be greeted by a group of sleep-deprived and exhausted individuals (or maybe that short description fits all of the scientific researchers anyway?).

MOTION is an Innovating Training Network (ITN) that is a part of H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions funded by the European Commission. Our name, MOTION, is an abbreviation of the full name of our network: Mobile Technology for Infant Social-Cognitive Neuroscience: Interdisciplinary Training Network for Innovating Infancy Research. As you can see, it would be too hard to use the full name in a sentence! On our website you can also familiarise yourself with the goals of each of the ESRs involved.

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Questions, possible solutions and more

[By Valentina Barone]

What am I doing here? What is the purpose of my job? Is it really necessary – to someone else or at least to myself?

These questions have been raised by human beings for a sustained amount of time, and you are probably wondering yourself the same from time to time, even if you have just started your long way into the labour market. This happens also to myself, to my-new-self in the role of an early stage researcher for the MOTION Project. With a background in Psychology, Communication and Cognitive Neuroscience it sounds probably normal to hear that I belong to that kind of people who question everything. It is often an annoying habit, but it can be useful as well. The latter was, indeed, the case during the training school at Radboud University in Nijmegen, where my colleagues and I had the occasion to collect some practical answers to those tricky questions.

Still filled with our Christmas meals and relatives’ stories, we met up at the beginning of January for a 4 days-long full immersion into the intricate world of ‘’Infant&Child Development’’.

After a couple of days of well-prepared lectures and active discussions (see Tommaso’s post to find out all the stimulating activities of the Nijmegen training school),

we attended a workshop provided by two experts from Karel de Grote Hogeschool Antwerp – Centre of expertise for pedagogical support in childcare and school. ‘’Starting the dialogue between basic science and practitioners” was an intensive workshop provided by Monique van Boom and Lynn Mampuys, but mostly it was a great introduction into the world where research can meet practical daily applications. This was so remarkable for us, since it is something a researcher does not focus on that often: we all know that experimental processes require a huge amount of time-consuming activities, which more often have their main goal in a successful publication and a worldwide recognition. But what about transposing those results into practice? What about seeing years of behind-the-desk-knowledge transformed into actual pedagogical rules or exercises?

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The second training school: discussions and lasers!

[By Tommaso Ghilardi]

This month Radboud University hosted the second training school of the MOTION project and obviously Joanna and I tried to contribute to the organization of the event. Organizing a training school may seem like an easy task but it is not. Considering the needs and demands of all the participants, while balancing interesting and useful lessons, to leisure and bonding activities can easily be compared to solving a jigsaw.

I will not bore you by describing every single aspect of the organization or the details of how the training school was. However, I would like to tell you about two aspects that, in my opinion, have made these five days a success.  

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Filming stimuli is more fun than you would think!

[By: Julia Mermier]

It all started that one day when, seating in an office, my colleagues and I were looking at the potential databases we could use for our next study. We were designing a study about emotion processing in infants, consisting in showing them short videos of female faces expressing different emotions. Thus, we needed a database that contained dynamic stimuli (that is, videos rather than pictures of emotional expressions to make it more naturalistic), and that met several other criteria required by the design of our study. Although several databases were of great quality, none of them was filling all of our requirements. Thus, we had to make a choice: we could modify slightly the design of our study to be able to use one of the existing databases, or stick to it and create our own database. The advantage of creating our own database was, of course, that we could conceive it exactly the way we wanted, but it was also a considerable loss of time. After a few days of reflection we finally decided to go for it: homemade database it was!

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The joy of infant and child research

[By: Lisanne Schröer]

As Saya describes a few weeks ago, MOTION aims at understanding how young children learn and develop through everyday interaction. Most of our research will involve testing infants and toddlers. You might already be familiar with psychological research with adults, but infancy research may sound very interesting to you, as it is very different in several ways. I would like to share some of my experiences with infant and toddler while I was doing my bachelor and master degree. I hope that this blog will give all of you, whether you are a researcher, a parent, or just a curious folk, a better understanding of the ins and outs of baby research.

First, let me start by briefly introducing myself. I, Lisanne, am originally from the Netherlands, the land of bikes, stroopwafels, tulips, and mills. I have obtained my bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and my master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I became fascinated with cognitive development during infancy and toddlerhood during my internships at the Baby & Child Research Center in Nijmegen.

Exchanging the quiet town of Nijmegen for the busy city of London and my bike for a daily commute in the London underground, I am now involved in the MOTION network as a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London working with Professors Denis Mareschal and Richard Cooper. I am interested in how young children gain a high level of cognitive abilities in order to execute complex action sequences. When and how do we learn to plan and combine different behaviours to achieve one goal, and how can we learn to adjust our behaviours on each step that we can ultimately achieve the overall goal? That is very shortly my research interest.

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Motion Algorithm of an ESR’s pathway to success – a sci-fi case study

[By: Iara de Almeida Ivo]

Although it may not be true that all conscience afflicted beings have wondered “What is life? Why are we here? Where did I come from?” it isn’t hard to imagine that out in the world, hyperventilating at the same frequency, PhD students around the world ask themselves those very questions.

If it is indeed true that the first three years of life have more impact than any other time period [1], can we extrapolate that thought regarding our careers? Are the first three years into an academical research career the highest contributors to its success?

Assuming that they are, the question dangled in my brain as I was asked to write this blog post: How can I take this home and make these three years the jumping point to a successful career? It is said that usually, when an article starts by asking a lot of questions, their answer is often no. Let’s see if I can turn that around, shall we?

Read moreMotion Algorithm of an ESR’s pathway to success – a sci-fi case study