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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The excitement still went on due to my first trip to the USA to attend the 14th International Conference on Cognitive Modeling at Penn State University. After a long flight that involved a change of planes and a panic attack, I arrived at the cutest little airport I have seen so far and was suddenly called “ma’am” by the polite people everywhere. A strange experience, but I was really impressed by the wide space everywhere and of course the nice people (although I had some difficulties with the accent in the beginning). To finally meet the international ACT-R community in person was at least as overwhelming as the experience in Bochum before! In addition to the scientific part, I had some time to discover hidden treasures of the city, like the Arboretum or the Palmer Museum of Art. When I looked out of the plane window during my departure, I already started to miss the spacious surroundings and the cosy buildings, and promised myself to come back some day.
A further highlight in 2016 consisted in the chance to refresh old memories by visiting Bochum, my former place of residence for four vivid, instructive and also challenging years. The occasion was another international conference, the 9th International Cognitive Load Theory Conference that especially addressed research related to the Cognitive Load Theory, a main focus of my PhD research. Since lots of “big names” in the field were present at the event, above all John Sweller himself, it was quite overwhelming!
The 2nd International Meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Granada was the first international conference that I attended since starting my PhD, and this experience particularly increased my confidence in presenting my results at an international stage to a broader audience. Moreover, the conference attendance really fostered the development of my scientific network, particularly during the social events. Such was even more the case within a speed mentoring session, which had been organized by the related society for “Women in Cognitive Science” and took place right before the conference started. All social events were really impressive, since the organizers had put a lot of effort into providing us unforgettable experiences. The welcome reception included a typical flamenco show that was truly amazing, another event comprised an exclusive guided tour through the Alhambra, which usually has a long waiting list for tourists, and the conference dinner took place in the beautiful Alhambra Gardens. In addition to getting familiar with the beauty of these places, during all events I could chat with interesting and important people in my field, discuss my research and get helpful advice that supported me in proceeding within my PhD project.