Canadian charme in Montréal

The summer of 2019 came with a very special highlight for me: Visiting Canada for the first time to attend not one but two co-located conferences and additionally introduce myself at the Shared Reality Lab at McGill University! After a quite calm flight I could enjoy the impressive city of Montréal, a city full of opposites with high skyscrapers and historic buildings side by side. The 52nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Mathematical Psychology and the 17th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling had again joint forces and took place together. My talk that introduced cognitive modeling work from my PhD was scheduled right at the first conference day after an insightful ACT-R workshop on the day before. I was really excited that “the big names” from the community such as John Anderson and Niels Taatgen attended my talk as well!

After a very successful talk at the McGill University and an amazing trip to Mount Royal (including sunset and fireflies!), the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society started and came with broad opportunities to extend my professional network. Introducing the poster of our former intern Lin Xu resulted in great feedback on future steps in this research direction. My talk afterward strengthened my networks even more, as I had the incredible opportunity to meet Andrea Stocco and Wayne Gray and discuss my research. I further had the opportunity to engage in mentoring activities and provide advice to the next academic generation, thus the trip turned out to be really worthwhile. The amazing fireworks and the beauty of Notre Dame and the Old Port only supported this impression!

Visiting the Human Factors community

This year’s Annual Meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Europe Chapter took place in Berlin and I had the pleasure to visit it. Despite the busy “dissertation-submission-marathon” I could present a poster on the joint work with my highly valued colleague René Schmidt, a best-practice interdisciplinary piece of research that emerged from our collaboration in the Research Training Group “CrossWorlds”. It was well received by fellow researchers from the Human Factors community who stepped by to discuss our findings. In addition, we got interesting ideas for future studies, such as mentally putting our participants in a car instead of a living room. We are curious what would happen and already plan future research on that!

Returning to Groningen

To add the final piece to my PhD thesis before submission, I had the amazing opportunity to return to the Cognitive Modeling Group at the University of Groningen and complete my ACT-R model under the kind supervision of Jelmer Borst. I made incredible progress during that time and also had the chance to enjoy the beauty of the city. My favorite activity: A relaxing bike ride to the Hornsemeer. An additional highlight for me as cat lover was to visit the cats café. I’m really attached to the city by now and always look forward to coming back!

Introducing the next generation

Having arrived in 2018, on the occasion of the 60th Conference of Experimental Psychologists, in addition to my own talk on the latest results of my PhD work, I proudly introduced my master student and appreciated collaborator Shirin Esmaeili Bijarsari to the stage of the experimental psychology community. Since I had a lot of encouragement from my academic supervisors back then, I strive to pass the same experience to students under my supervision. She did very well at her poster and received quite encouraging feedback that helped her to proceed in her project. I am even more proud that she immediately performed her next appearence on the scientific stage at the 51st Congress of the German Psychological Society in Frankfurt in September.

Playful education in Berlin

Before the year ended, with the play4innovation in Berlin I could attend another exciting event. Organized by the team of StrategicPlay, the open space format offered a variety of playful sessions on different topics by people from all over Europe. Besides manifold opportunities to socialize and the excellent, creative food provided by Daniel’s Eatery, the special event was truly amazing! We visited the interactive museum “The Story of Berlin” that provides a foray through the history of Berlin by using modern multimedia technology. As part of the guided tour, we even experienced the oppressive atmosphere in an original nuclear bomb shelter from the Cold War. I really got goosebumps down there, particularly when the guide explained that the shelter would never have worked in the case of emergency.

Going beyond disciplines

Emerging from the interdisciplinary collaboration in the Research Training Group “CrossWorlds”, together with colleagues from the computer science faculty I organized a workshop on “Computer Science & Cognition” for the INFORMATIK 2017 in Chemnitz. We addressed cognitive research from perspectives of both psychology and computer science by featuring projects on delay in a virtual speech-based memory training, the prediction of mental workload in an air traffic controller task, instructional design features in a robot construction task, or the classification of Twitter users with a machine learning approach. Our audience raised interesting questions and provided valuable ideas, particularly in the concluding discussion on benefits and challenges of interdisciplinarity.

European research excellence in Potsdam

In September 2017, I had the pleasure to attend an extraordinarily well organized 20th Conference of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology in Potsdam and enlarge my professional network across Europe. For instance, during lunch I discussed issues in multitasking research with colleagues from Belgium, or issues in embodiment research with an Italian colleague currently residing in France. I could even see Alan Baddeley, who provided amusing anecdotes during his speech at the 20th ESCoP celebration ceremony on the last conference day. Altogether, the organizers had done an extremly good job – not only by organizing the most amazing vegan chocolate muffins that I ever tasted. The conference venue was located quite close to the beautiful scenery of lake Griebnitzsee and offered the chance to enjoy a nice walk between the sessions. In addition, during one bright and sunny day, I used the opportunity to visit the impressive and beautiful park of Sanssouci palace.

Visiting “The Big Smoke”

Proceeding further in the year 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to visit London on the occasion of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Aligned to the conference topic “Computational Foundations of Cognition”, I brought along some work-in-progress results on the ACT-R model that I develop within my PhD thesis. Since I also attended the ACT-R workshop the day prior to the main conference, the stay turned out to be a real benefit for my ongoing work. My personal highlight: I had the incredible honor to meet John Anderson in person just before the ACT-R workshop started! When I presented my poster, several established researchers from the community stepped by to provide me very helpful ideas and hints. Besides attending the conference, there was indeed some time left to explore the city, for instance by visiting the Royal Greenwich Observatory or enjoying a cold ale in front of the Thompson Reuters building in Canary Wharf.

Strenghtening ties

With reference to my conference visits, the speed of events did not slow down in 2017. As every year in early spring, the Conference of Experimental Psychologists took place. It was held for the 59th time this year and located at the University of Dresden. My colleagues from Berlin had organized a symposium on cognition and emotion in human-machine interaction and invited me to contribute a talk. Due to the more applied focus of the session, I chose a study that had been conducted within the bachelor thesis of one of my students and focused on interrupting features of hyperlinks in digital learning material.