Away from work for a couple of months

This calendar year has been reasonably productive for me. After finishing my PhD thesis and defending it, I’ve been post-doc’ing to finish up a couple of on-going projects. My contract ends today and I’ll take a couple of months off to be away from the computer and hike a long-distance trail. I should be back in Groningen towards the end of November and will continue a short post-doc appointment in the department here to finalize a number of on-going projects.

Acknowledgements from my PhD thesis

The Acknowledgements are in the printed version of the thesis and the in electronic version (link to PDF) but I felt like they should also be publicly available:

When I designed the cover for this thesis, I felt a bit strange putting only my name on it. I’m the one getting all the credit but there’s no way I could have finished my PhD without the help of a large number of people. This section is meant to acknowledge some of them. I am immensely grateful to all of you. My life in the last four years was amazing because I always had something interesting to do and was always surrounded by loving, supportive, and incredibly fun people. Thank you all.

First and foremost, I would like to thank my family. You have always supported me and encouraged me to pursue my interests. You contributed nothing to the content of this thesis. Yet, your contribution was the most important because you did all the difficult groundwork that made me the kind of person that’d tackle a project like this. There was never a doubt in my mind that you’d have my back no matter what. I couldn’t have done it without that peace of mind.

Most directly responsible for the completion of this thesis are my supervisors. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the complexity of both work and my life shortly after I started my PhD. I am grateful to Richard and Candice for your patience and guidance. I couldn’t have hoped for better role models and mentors and was sad to see you leave Groningen. Rob was the perfect promotor, always having an open ear, giving me advice, and keeping me on track. Hedderik saw me most and had the biggest influence on me; thank you for always making time, counsel me through the endless obstacle course that is academia, and guiding me towards becoming a more independent researcher. A PhD project is a team effort and I can’t thank you all enough for playing on my team.

The psychology faculty has always been a pleasant place to work. Thanks to my various office mates – Tanja, Tam, Mariska, Rasa, Edyta, Sabine, and the two Michaels – and colleagues – both at Psychometrics and Statistics and at Experimental Psychology –, spending time at work was only as stressful as I made it for myself. I appreciate that doors, ears, and minds were open and the flat hierarchy that made everyone easy to approach.

I also want to thank all the students. Lecturing, being an academic mentor, and grading reports always made me feel a bit awkward because I still see myself as a student. These interactions taught me a lot about myself. The best part was to see students turn into colleagues. Friederike, Sarah, and Charlotte: This thesis would have been at least a chapter shorter if it weren’t for you. You set a very high bar for any future collaborators, thank you.

A big thank you should also go to the “Minnaars en Minnaressen”. Aafke, Ana, Anne Marthe, Aytaç, Berry, Catia, Daniel, Darya, Elliot, Felicity, Jolien, Julia, Kim, Lowie, Luzia, Maja, Marloes, Nadine, Nico, Rob, Russell, Susie, Tassos, Tineke, Tomas, and Wisnu. Thanks for the drinks after work and the countless other social events over the last couple of years. A special thanks to the inner circle – Aafke, Darya, Kim, and Rob – and a very special thanks to Nico and Berry: living with you was amazing. Also on this list should be George and Garrett, who I didn’t see nearly enough. Having you in my life made me a better person. Thanks for calling me out on my shit and the never-ending support. I love you guys.

There were also some people outside of academia that I want to thank. Adam, Arun, Brenda, and Harmen (and everyone else at Squadraat) for countless hours of squash. I always had a blast and knew I’d get a good workout in if you guys were on court. Thanks for letting me win occasionally. I’d also like to thank my friends in Germany for making the effort to stay in touch and all the good times and trips that were a necessary break from my normal PhD life: Franze, Max, Tobi, Katchi, Lutz, Tobi, Caro, Lena, Catharina, and Basti and everyone else that was around occasionally.

The last four years were the best years of my life. I am sad to see them come to an end and incredibly excited for the future. A future in which I hope to cross paths with all of you again.

PhD defense is approaching

This is really the final stage of my PhD. The contract has been over for a couple of months now but I’ve still been busy with a surprising number of administrative things surrounding the thesis and the defense. Today, two weeks before the defense on the 20th of April, I finally have the printed version of the thesis in my hands. A whole stack of books that contain the labor of the last four years of my life. Pretty surreal.

thesis cover photo wide

The PDF of the thesis is available on the Open Science Framework.

If you want to join for the public defense, you’re welcome to attend on April 20th, 2017 @ 16:00 in the Academy building in Groningen.

Accepted to the FENS Hertie Winter School 2016

This week, I received confirmation that I will be able to attend the FENS Hertie Winter School in Obergurgl, Austria in December. This year’s topic is Memory Mechanisms in Humans: from Physiology to Behavior and Computational Models. This will be a great opportunity for me to expand my network and to learn more about memory on different levels and from different perspectives.

In the last months, I have been spending a lot of time and energy on finishing my PhD. Which is great. But it does make me feel a bit too focussed. This winter school comes at a perfect time: by December, I will have submitted my PhD thesis and will be thinking more about what to do in the future. I hope that meeting other researchers in Obergurgl and learning more about what some of the leading labs in the field are working on will give me new ideas and broaden my perspective again.

Proceedings for CogSci 2016 are online

The annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (i.e., CogSci) will start in Philadelphia next week. The proceedings are now available online. Our conference paper is part of those proceedings and can be cited as:

Sense, F., Meijer, R. R., Van Rijn, H. (2016). On the Link between Fact Learning and General Cognitive Ability. In Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Ready for ICCM

I finalized my poster yesterday and had it printed. On silk. Nice and foldable so I don’t have to take a poster tube. I am looking forward to the International Conference on Cognitive Modeling (ICCM) and present this preliminary, exploratory work there. I’ll be good to talk to some people and get some input.

Here’s the poster if you’re interested:

ICCM16 poster thumb

Can’t wait to hang out with Garrett Swan at Penn State. While I am there, I’ll be working on my CogSci talk…

Psychonomics submission accepted as poster

As reported about a month ago, I submitted an abstract to the annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society in Boston in November. Today I received an e-mail that the submission was accepted as a poster. Awesome!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I didn’t expect to get a talk because those are handed out based on seniority. In fact, the acceptance e-mail states:

I am pleased to inform you that your submission to the Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society has been accepted for presentation as a poster. […] All of the spaces on the spoken program were filled by Fellows of the Society and the nine Member Select-Speaker Award recipients. […] No other Member papers, Student Member or non-member papers could be put on the spoken program. In addition, a few spoken paper requests by Fellows could not be honored. I apologize if you are a Fellow and were given a poster instead of a spoken presentation. Once the spoken program was full, posters were assigned no matter what preference was indicated.

Which means I am quite happy to have my Student Member submission accepted at all.

I did not get a CANTAB Research Grant

I submitted an application for the CANTAB Research Grant and last week, I got the following reply:

We were particularly impressed with your application and the research you are hoping to complete but unfortunately we had to pick just one winner from your region and your proposal was not successful on this occasion.

Which sounds very nice. But the mail continued “[w]e would however still very much like to support your research” and went on to offer me a 20% discount.

I just wish these defaults text were less over the top. I much preferred the message I got when I didn’t get a Travel Award for CogSci:

I am sorry to inform you that you did not receive the travel award for which you applied. We had many more requests than could be filled, and the choice of awardees was somewhat a matter of chance, chance that unfortunately fell to others.


State-trace paper published online

We submitted our paper “Opportunity for verbalization does not improve visual change detection performance: A state-trace analysis” to Behavior Research Methods and it is now available online.

In the paper, we tested whether engaging in articulatory suppression (i.e., repeating aloud non-sense syllables) during a visual change detection task is necessary to obtain useful data. We conclude that, “Enforcing precautionary articulatory suppression does not seem to be necessary to get interpretable data from visual change detection tasks.”. This conclusion is based on a Bayesian state-trace analysis of data from 15 participants that each did about 2,500 trials of a simple visual change detection task.

This paper is based on the work that I did during the first year of my PhD (’12 – ’13). It has gone through multiple re-writes and I am very happy that it is now published in Behavior Research Methods. My thanks to my co-authors (Candice Morey, Melissa Prince, Andrew Heathcote, and Richard Morey) for their help and contribution.

Abstract submitted to Psychonomics

Yesterday was the deadline for abstract submissions for the annual meeting of the Psychonomics Society in Boston in November. I’d really like to go to present my work there so I submitted an abstract. Usually, when you write an abstract, you include the research question, how you addressed it, what you discovered, and what it means. In this case, I went a slightly different route: I explained the question and how we are going to address it but then stated that we just pre-registered an experiment. Thus, we don’t have the results yet. But I think the data will tell an interesting story either way and I hope that the abstract makes that clear.

I am curious whether they will accept it and let me present the results there. Unfortunately, the selection of submitted abstracts seems to be largely based on seniority so I don’t think my chances are too good as a student member. We’ll see.