Note: The 2020 FoVea Travel and Networking Award Recipients deferred their awards due to the pandemic. Their reports will be added to the 2021 awardees’ reports when those become available this Fall.
2019 FoVea Travel and Networking Award Recipients
As a 4th year PhD student I have reached a pivotal point in my professional development where I need to start considering the next steps regarding my career trajectory. While important, the idea of networking with senior scholars has always seemed like a daunting task, as it was hard to imagine busy and successful academics having time to chat with me. When the FoVea Travel and Networking Award was announced, I was encouraged to apply and it felt like the perfect opportunity to push myself outside of my comfort zone to reach out to scientists who I admire in the research world. My networking plan involved meeting with Dr. Monica Castelhano and Dr. Allison Sekuler, whose research interests not only align with my own, but who have both obtained successful careers as female scientists in academia.
With Dr. Castelhano our conversation started with a discussion about how some of her research involving real-world scenes to examine scene gist might translate into the context of my own research involving visual illusions. This led to a candid conversation about how to overcome the feeling of failure when research projects don’t work out the way they were originally expected to, coupled with a comforting reminder that even the most successful researchers sometimes have to revamp a study two or more times before it works out. Our conversation ended with a discussion about balancing family life with academic life, and the importance of recognizing that different seasons of life will require prioritizing time accordingly.
With Dr. Sekuler, we began our conversation talking about balancing commitments and how to prioritize when deadlines all seem to occur simultaneously. With an interest in the next steps following graduate school, we also talked about reaching out to potential post-doc advisors, ways to enhance leadership skills, and career opportunities available to graduate students that aren’t necessarily tenure-track related. Her final advice was a reminder that even amidst the busy life that balancing academic and family commitments together brings, to be sure to find time for myself, a reminder that I very much needed.
Above all, this opportunity really helped increase my confidence as a female scientist. Having such a positive experience with both Dr. Sekuler and Dr. Castelhano helped me realize that networking is an important way to share research ideas and ask for advice from others who have been in my position before. With that said, I would like to thank my Networking targets for all the great advice and FoVea for organizing this amazing opportunity.
Michele A. Cox
Much thanks to FoVea for the unique opportunity provided by this award. I benefited immensely from the exercise of identifying networking targets in advanced of the meeting. The act of explicitly codifying who I wanted to meet with and why was immensely helpful on a number of fronts. First, it made me consider not just where my research line is presently but also the directions I might want to take it in the future. Second, and perhaps less surprisingly, preparing for each meeting made them more impactful. In fact, in reviewing my application while writing this report, I realized that I actually discussed each of scientific topics I outlined with each of my networking targets. I came away not only with concrete ideas for experiments and next steps, but also plans for how I can get formal and informal feedback on my research questions and approaches as I develop them.
In all, I met with Mary Hayhoe of University of Texas at Austin, Preeti Verghese of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, Jeremy Wolfe of Harvard Medical School, and David Peterzell of University of California Berkeley. In addition to stimulating scientific discussions, I also had useful discussion around topics relating to career development. One benefit of having several meeting was the diversity of perspective I got on my career development questions. Major take aways for me were that there is no one way to have a successful research career, and that, with luck, I have more career years ahead of me than I do behind me. This was particularly impactful to me a new postdoc settling into a long-established research group while mapping out my own research line.
I am a senior PhD student thinking about a career in academia. The FoVea Award was the perfect opportunity to set up networking meetings with senior scientists to chat about pretty much anything. I previously had the chance to discuss my research with other scientists in my field. For example, I signed up for “meet the professor” at VSS at previous conferences. However, the brilliant thing about the FoVea Award is that the topic of conversation is completely up to you and that you get a one-on-one meeting with any researcher that you can pin down.
I am a German vision scientist currently located in Canada and was interested to meet with other German researchers that returned to Germany after being abroad early in their careers. I met with Karl Gegenfurtner, Melissa Võ, and Martin Rolfs, three senior scientists at different career stages and universities. With each networking target I discussed possible career paths and they highlighted what had helped them to become a vision scientist in Germany. The experiences they shared with me were very valuable on both a personal and professional level. Whereas I prepared a set of predetermined questions, I was surprised to find that every meeting went into a different and sometimes unexpected direction. In the end, I received unique advice from each of my networking targets highlighting that different skills and experiences can contribute to a successful career in vision sciences.
If you are a female vision scientist considering to apply for the FoVea Award, do so. Just going through a mental list of possible networking targets will help you to think about your research focus and professional career path. Networking is something you cannot start early enough, especially, if you want to stay in science. Overall, it was a great experience from taking the initiative to contact my networking targets to meeting with them at VSS. Thanks to FoVea for offering this great award!
I’ve been an enthusiastic and regular attendee of VSS since graduate school. Attending previous meetings greatly helped me advance my career, as getting to know both junior and senior colleagues working on similar topics help me build a network of peers which in turn made me feel more confident when presenting my own research. However, I wasn’t able to attend VSS 2018 because I was pregnant with a due date in early June. My pregnancy also coincided with the start of a new post-doc position and due to this switch-over I didn’t end up having enough data to be able to submit an abstract for VSS 2019. Receiving the FoVea award nevertheless allowed me to attend, and this was very important to me as it helped me stay up to date with current developments and maintain my network at VSS at a time where I had a decrease in my productivity, which could easily have been perceived as a ‘disappearance’ or drop-out from the field.
I choose to meet with Dr. Aude Oliva, who is Principal Research Scientist at CSAIL-MIT, and Executive Director of MIT-IBM Watson Lab and MIT Quest for Intelligence. She is a personal hero of mine because I consider her a founder of the field of scene perception, my main research field. I find her ability to straddle the border between neuroscience and AI – applying models and computational insights from computer vision to human perception and neuroimaging – very inspiring. This ended up being a very fortuitous choice because by the time the meeting happened, I had started to apply for assistant-professor positions and had in fact just received an job offer in an Informatics department, where I was planning to start an interdisciplinary group focusing on the computational mechanisms of scene perception. We discussed Dr. Oliva’s experience with leading an interdisciplinary group consisting of computer vision and human vision scientists and the ensuing challenges and pitfalls, which was extremely helpful to me. We also discussed some ideas for experiments related to my ongoing work in my post-doc for which Dr. Oliva provided some good and useful feedback.
Setting up a ‘networking plan’ may seem a bit contrived, but I felt that having a one-on-one meeting that was designated explicitly for this purpose of networking was in fact very valuable. While given the overlap in our interests and research I might have been able to talk to Dr. Oliva in a casual encounter during e.g. a poster presentation, this meeting allowed me to prepare and to ask more targeted questions and to get her feedback on my personal career development. The fact that FoVea facilitates this type of interaction is thus a very important and valuable contribution to women’s careers and I hope it will inspire junior (or senior!) scientists to set up such meetings at their own initiative – I will certainly try to do this for future meetings, and I imagine it is nothing but a joy to be a networking target for someone else someday.
When I applied for this award, I had been working on a new project on temporal information in visual working memory for about six months. This is the first time that I am in the role of a Principal Investigator responsible for my own funding, so this project is not only important to me because I care about the research topic, but also because I feel that its success is critical for my career over the next few years and probably beyond. The first couple of experiments produced promising and interesting results, and I thought that at this stage, the development of the project would greatly benefit from expert feedback. Therefore, I chose two networking targets, whose work overlaps with different aspects of my project: Timothy Brady for his work on the representational architecture of visual working memory and Yaffa Yeshurun for her work on temporal processing and attention. Both were generous with their time, and we got to discuss a range of issues during our meetings, from theoretical implications to experimental details and upcoming challenges. I am particularly grateful for some practical advice on timing and design choices in temporal attention tasks, which I am sure will save me a lot of time and frustration in the future. Some new ideas for further experiments also emerged during our conversations and I am eager to try them out.
A great thing about the FoVea Travel and Networking Award is that the application process itself is extremely worthwhile, irrespective of whether or not the application turns out to be successful. It forces the applicants to pause and think about the big picture of their research and career, about what specifically they would like to get advice or feedback on, and about who would be the right senior scientist(s) to talk to about this. We probably all have some idea of that anyway, but the FoVea award provides a structure that may seem weirdly formal and a bit awkward at first – having to write a “networking plan” and contact “networking targets” – but that is actually a great way to gain more clarity and that pushes you to take action. So I would like to urge anyone who is reading this because they are considering applying to do so (and if it works out, the award and the funding are a nice additional bonus). Many thanks to Fovea for creating and organizing this award!
Networking is an important component to developing a foundation for a successful future in academia. However, approaching senior scientists at conferences can often be overwhelming and intimidating, especially for those in early stages of their career. This past fall, I attended a local conference as a second-year graduate student where I first learned of Dr. Mary Hayhoe’s research during her keynote presentation. I was just beginning to develop my interests for graduate research, which included the capacity limits of attention and the costs of performing two simultaneous tasks, or dual tasking. I was interested in studying the effects adding a cognitive task might have on one’s gait while walking (cognitive/motor dual tasking) and learning about Dr. Hayhoe’s research immediately sparked an idea on how her methods could be applied in my research. Even with a clear motive, I never got up the courage to approach her during the conference.
Upon discovering the FoVea Travel and Networking Award, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to finally reach out to and meet with Dr. Hayhoe. During our meeting at the VSS conference, I was able to tell her about my idea to implement her foot placement and eye-tracking methods as novel gait measures in a cognitive/motor dual tasking study. She provided valuable feedback and information on her methods, including how I could set up the study, which measures will be necessary to collect, the devices I will need, how to interpret the data outputs, and potential pitfalls that might arise. She also offered to help me in the future, should I have any questions. Because her methods have yet to be used in the dual tasking literature and are unfamiliar to both my advisor and I, her guidance was extremely helpful in laying the foundation of my research project. In addition to providing feedback on my research idea, she also gave me advice on how to succeed in academia, especially as a woman. Given her reputation as a well-established scientist with collaborators around the world, her intel and stories were inspiring. It was also comforting when she shared that she, too, used to be shy and hesitant when approaching more senior scientists. Overall, the information I gained from my meeting with Dr. Hayhoe was tremendously valuable and I appreciate her taking the time to meet with me.
The experience I’ve gained from applying to the FoVea Travel and Networking Award was eye-opening in many ways. Not only was I able to meet with a senior scientist to receive feedback on my research, but I learned how uncomplicated networking can be. Setting up the meeting was as simple as sending an email and the meeting itself was more casual than I had originally expected, which makes me feel much more comfortable about networking in the future. I’m grateful for the opportunity FoVea has given me and I believe their mission will continue to encourage young female scientists to be more confident in networking with senior scientists.
2018 FoVea Travel and Networking Award Recipients
Cristina de la Malla
The FoVea Travel and Networking Award is an excellent opportunity for students and post- docs to get advice on their research and academic trajectory from Senior Scientists at VSS. Unlike the discussions that we normally hold during a poster session, which are normally related to a specific set of results, and often time limited, setting a meeting within the FoVea environment requires the applicants to think about what they need advice on. We are used to ask for and get advice and feedback from our work, but sometimes we might also want to look at our trajectory and get advice about what to do next, or how to get where we want to. In my case, when applying for the award I had been a post-doc at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam for about three years, trying to obtain a tenure-track position. I chose Dr. Anna Montagnini (Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone, Marseille, France) and Dr. Miriam Spering (The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada) as my Networking Targets. They work on research topics close to mine (so the scientific discussion was ensured), but beyond that they got tenure-track positions early in their careers, so they were the perfect targets for me. Thus, I did not only get feedback on my work, but they also carefully prepared our meeting and helped me in understanding what would be best for me to get a tenure-track, or which parts of my CV could be enhanced and how I could achieve that enhancement. Furthermore, we discussed different possibilities for grants, projects, supervision and how to get and deal with them.
Beyond all the information and feedback I got from them, I learned something else. We sometimes do not make the effort of actively networking with senior scientists when attending conferences. There might be different reasons for that. Maybe because we are shy, or because we might expect a negative answer we might not dare to ask for a meeting with someone. However, the will, the enthusiasm and the energy that both Dr. Montagnini and Dr. Spering put into our meeting made me aware that these meetings really worth it. For all this, I would like to thank my Networking targets and the FoVea for all the scientific and career advice I got. This will certainly be useful for next steps in my career.
Thanks to FoVea for organizing this great award, the whole process has been really beneficial to me. My networking plan involved meeting with Prof David Brainard, who is a leading researcher in the field of color vision, and whose research interests overlap with my own. Prof Brainard met with me and offered helpful advice on how to develop my career and prepare for applying for a faculty position in future. We discussed my ideas for possible future grant proposals, and Prof Brainard helped me to better define and frame my research questions. As a result of our meeting, Prof Brainard organized for me to be invited to speak to the Vision Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania in November this year, which will be a valuable opportunity to present my research, meet other vision researchers, and to gain experience in a setting similar to a job talk. Prof Brainard also offered to give me feedback on grant and fellowship proposals I prepare in future.
I’d encourage any female early career vision researcher who is considering applying for this award to do so, since the act of applying for the award provides an excellent opportunity to make contact with someone who can help with your career. When I contacted Prof Brainard about applying for this award, he offered to meet with me regardless of whether I received it, so even an unsuccessful application could be of value.
As a third-year graduate student, my work was starting to produce cohesive results, and I was beginning to wish I could talk to other researchers in the field to situate my new findings. I knew whose feedback I would be interested in, but reaching out to those individuals was daunting. When the FoVea Travel and Networking Award was announced, it acted as a catalyst, giving me the structure — and the extra push — to contact senior scientists I was hoping to learn from. I reached out to three people: Melissa Võ, Monica Castelhano, and Russell Epstein. All three are people who have thought deeply about cognitive and neural representations of scenes, and who I thought would have interesting perspectives on my own work exploring the representation of reachable space (“reachspaces”).
With Russell Epstein, I discussed recent neuroimaging results showing dissociable representations for reachspaces and scenes. The conversation allowed me to practice presenting my work in a one-on-one setting, where questions come more frequently and delve deeper than in talk settings. With Melissa Võ, we discussed how some of her ideas on scene structure might apply to reachspaces, and brainstormed ways to test whether her models applied to both kinds of environments. Finally, my meeting with Monica Castelhano started with an animated discussion about data, and ended with a candid conversation about the challenges a young female PI can face, especially early in her career, and some strategies to mitigate them. This meeting was a perfect complement to the FoVea Workshop this year, which discussed “Remedying the (Still) Too Slow Advancement of Women”.
Science is not an individual pursuit: there are always people we know we should talk to, people who have thought hard about issues close to our own. As a young scientist, this was something that I understood, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. Participating in this FoVea award showed me that it’s as easy as sending an email. I learned more from each of those conversations than I was expecting. Meetings like this afford the opportunity to hear broader perspectives on our work, to be exposed to other opinions and models, which leads to new ideas for experiments to arbitrate among them. Furthermore, I learned that meeting with senior scientists for career advice is as powerful as meeting with them to share scientific ideas. There are challenges to being a PI that cannot be anticipated as a grad student, and hearing from the experiences of others, and the solutions they have devised, is extremely valuable. Next time, I won’t need the galvanizing force of a travel award to encourage me to set up these kinds of meetings. The FoVea Travel and Networking Award is a great program, and has demystified for me the concept of meeting with senior scientists for opinions and advice.
As a third-year PhD student studying in the UK, where PhD degrees typically last 3-4 years, I have just over a year left of my PhD, meaning I am at a critical stage for both my research and considering my next steps for the future. With this in mind, I chose two networking targets for the FoVea Travel and Networking Award, one whose work relates very closely to my own, and one who would be very valuable to talk to about furthering my career.
My first networking target was Preeti Verghese, who I was very interested in talking to about my current experiments. In the past she has done work that is extremely closely linked to my research investigating the different ways that we may combine information about the speed of moving objects. When we met, she suggested lots of possible explanations for my findings that previously I had not considered, as well as new ideas for things I could look at. She also kindly suggested two useful new experiments for me to carry out after VSS, and offered to Skype call if I had any further questions.
My second networking target was Allison Sekuler, who I wanted to talk to more about career development. We discussed a range of topics, including managing a lab whilst in leadership roles, ideas for research, research funding in Canada, and dealing with trolls on social media. Allison also introduced me to several other vision scientists, helping me to network further, and offered to give me a tour of Baycrest in Toronto, where she is vice-president of research and director of the Rotman Research Institute. Both Preeti Verghese and Allison Sekuler were very generous with their time, and I am very grateful for being able to meet with them both at VSS 2018.
Beyond what I gained from meeting my two networking targets this year, I also benefitted hugely from applying for the FoVea Travel and Networking Award in 2017. Despite not winning the award at that time, I met with my networking targets at VSS 2017 anyway. Those meetings led to me being able to visit several labs at the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Toronto after the 2018 VSS meeting, where I hope to be able to get a postdoctoral position in the future.
More generally, the FoVea Travel and Networking Award has made me much more confident about approaching and talking to other researchers, both at conferences and through email. Whilst in the past I would have been hesitant about contacting other scientists and asking them about their research or to meet, I now feel much more comfortable about doing so. I am incredibly grateful to be a recipient of the 2018 FoVea Travel and Networking Award.
I am a graduate student finishing up my PhD this summer. I am at a key stage in professional development where I have the opportunity to make pivotal decisions regarding the skills I acquire during postdoctoral training. In addition to pursuing my academic research interests, I have developed an interest in the role that organizations in government, industry, startup, and clinical contexts can play in translating research and methods from the vision sciences into applied settings.
In line with this curiosity, I took the opportunity provided to me by the FoVea Travel and Networking Award to meet with senior scientists who have built different kinds of careers in applied research settings: Drs. Laurie Wilcox, Andrew Beau Watson, and Benjamin Backus. Collectively, these three have experience managing grants and partnerships with industry and government agencies while maintaining a productive university research and teaching career, moving from fundamental vision science research to the role of Chief Vision Scientist at a multinational technology corporation, and balancing a part-time university appointment while working with a clinical translational start-up as Chief Science Officer. All began their careers with training similar to my own, and have supervised trainees who have entered a variety of academic and industrial careers, so I knew they would be able to provide some useful insights based on how their unique career paths unfolded.
The informational interviews I had with all three scientists were really illuminating. We talked about how they transitioned from PhD studies to the “real world,” and whether non-academic partnerships were on their radar at this point. It was interesting to see the variety of ways in which these partnerships began – for example, while one person was approached by an industry partner, another initiated contact with a company via a web contact form! I also found that they were attracted to partnerships for a variety of different reasons – this included a desire to make more directly applicable contributions than those made in theoretical research, but also excitement over the chance to tackle new kinds of challenges compared to what they were used to. I asked about the skills they would recommend developing, and the biggest surprises or obstacles they encountered. We also discussed how time and budget are managed differently compared to what I have been exposed to in academia.
I have never reached out for advice from anyone who is in a later career stage than I am, but this experience taught me how valuable this simple action can be. It’s also much easier than I anticipated. I thought it would be awkward to approach someone for a chat like this, but it didn’t turn out that way at all – all three were enthusiastic about setting up a meeting, took me very seriously during our discussion, and seemed very happy to share their experiences and advice with me. If you see someone with a career you aspire to – get in touch, even if it seems intimidating!
Networking was particularly critical for me this year, since I was at a decision-point in my work investigating what types of scene information may be stored in memory across brief delays. Working with Dr. Tim Brady, I had hoped to find a paradigm that was a good entry into investigating what types of information about scenes (e.g., layout information, global image properties, semantic information) were preserved across brief delays. The work I presented this year called into question the paradigm we had used as our first entry point into addressing this question, suggesting that instead of previous results reflecting boosted performance due to memory across delays, they reflect improvement in an orthogonal part of the task.
At VSS 2018, I had two networking meetings, one with Dr. Russell Epstein and one with Dr. Monica Castelhano. While the vast majority of visual memory research tests memory for discrete, simple visual objects, both Dr. Epstein and Dr. Castelhano have experience working with real-world scenes and thinking about the impact our choice of stimuli may have on how we characterize the way the mind works. Both meetings helped me gain a broader perspective on this field and on the challenges of investigating scene layout in memory. During my meeting with Dr. Epstein, we discussed potential experiment designs for addressing the question of memory for scene layout information using cognitive neuroscience methods. Dr. Epstein is also an expert in spatial navigation, and he pointed me towards some relevant work I haven’t read before. We talked about how memory across fixations may operate differently than memory across multiple views of a scene, and we discussed the relative contributions of working memory and long-term memory in both processes. Relatedly, in both my meeting with Dr. Epstein and my meeting with Dr. Castelhano, we discussed how the presence of depth information in a scene may influence how we actively explore it and what types of information may be stored about these scenes in memory. Dr. Castelhano also had interesting data about prioritization of foregrounds of scenes that underlines how critical it is to study how vision works in natural scenes as well as in arrays of discrete visual objects, and her insider knowledge on the memory paradigm I have been using will be useful if I continue using it in the future.
Overall, the FoVea Travel and Networking award created a fantastic opportunity for me to interact with senior scientists in my area of research, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience.
2017 FoVea Travel and Networking Award Recipients
Over the next year I will complete my PhD and become a postdoctoral researcher with the goal of obtaining a tenure-track research position. I chose three networking targets (Lynne Kiorpes, Anthony Norcia, and Michael Landy) for the FoVea Travel and Networking Award. Each of them was chosen because their careers and research interests overlap with my current research agenda and career goals.
During previous years at VSS, I’ve had a number of positive, productive conversations with senior scientists from outside my home institution but almost exclusively in the context of poster sessions in which I was presenting a poster. As part of the award application process for the FoVea Travel and Networking Award, I formulated an argument for why I wanted to meet each of the targeted senior scientists. This process was incredibly valuable and it reframed how I thought about networking at VSS. I was forced to consider interactions outside of the context of a poster session. I became comfortable with the notion that it was reasonable to ask a senior scientist for some of their time during a conference to discuss overlapping interests, to ask questions about their science or my science, and to seek their opinions about how to progress in my career even if it’s not necessarily going to take me to their lab. When I submitted my application I decided that I would still try to meet with each of the targets even if I did not receive the award. It occurred to me that interacting with senior scientists in my field was a necessary part of the transition to being a more mature and independent scientist, a transition that it was time for me to start making.
Shortly after I submitted my application, I attended Cosyne, a conference focusing on computational and systems neuroscience. Influenced by the FoVea application process, I identified two scientists that I wanted to have longer conversations with: one who I was interested in working for as a postdoc and another whose work I’d been reading recently. I introduced myself to each of them early in the conference and invited them to my poster. They both visited my poster and this led to other interactions throughout the conference. This success was encouraging and reinforced the utility of setting networking goals ahead of upcoming conferences.
During VSS, I met with each of the networking targets. The topics of conversation included ongoing projects in their labs, my current research, and my postdoctoral transition. I also had several brief informal conversations with each of the scientists as I ran into them at posters and between talks. Reflecting back on VSS for the purpose of writing this report, I realized that these informal conversations were particularly important. They were evidence that the FoVea Travel and Networking Award was succeeding in one of its primary goals: helping female vision scientists to build their professional network.
The Vision Sciences Society conference contains a wealth of talks and poster presentations relevant to my research, including face processing, prosopagnosia, and visual plasticity. As my 10th VSS meeting however, 2017 was of particular importance due to the meetings I had lined up.
This year, on Monday 22nd May at 1.30pm, something extraordinary happened: independent from the conference program, a group of ~15 prosopagnosia researchers from around the world, sat down together and discussed consensus of diagnosis for developmental prosopagnosia. The group identified specific issues that needed to be addressed. Due to the success of the meeting, the group plans to organize further meetings, as well as an official mailing list and website containing information from the ~33 international researchers/groups involved in prosopagnosia research, opening up information to other researchers and the prosopagnosic community. Needless to say, this was a rare and valuable experience, which paved the way for further collaborations.
The day before, I met with my ‘networking target’ – Dr. Joe DeGutis – to discuss rehabilitation of prosopagnosia. Despite the large number of studies on prosopagnosia, very few have attempted rehabilitation of prosopagnosia, and nearly all have been single cases. To date, only three studies have attempted rehabilitation in a cohort of prosopagnosics – one by Joe DeGutis (DeGutis, Cohan, & Nakayama, 2014), and a more recent study by myself (Davies-Thompson et al., 2017). With both training programs showing promise, we decided to combine our efforts and resources to progress prosopagnosia rehabilitation research faster. Specifically, we aim to 1) compare the efficacy and efficiency of the two face training programs, and 2) understand how training can be tailored for each person to improve outcome. This collaboration provides a unique opportunity to assess which avenues are worth pursuing further, and where future resources should be directed. We are currently working towards funding applications for NIH (US) and the ESRC (UK).
One of my long-term research interests has been to investigate sub-types of developmental prosopagnosia. In acquired prosopagnosia, damage to different parts of the face network can cause face recognition problems; developmental prosopagnosia is also likely to be heterogeneous. Understanding the variability in face recognition deficits can help to tailor training programs to the individual and improve clinical outcomes. Currently, I am building an international multicenter collaboration, with the aim to examine the neural correlates of prosopagnosia sub-types. At VSS, I met with three of these researchers to further discuss the project as well as funding opportunities: a challenging issue due to geographical constraints with funding bodies. Enquiries with various funding agencies, including the Human Frontier Science Program, are ongoing.
In all, VSS 2017 was a highly productive meeting, which has resulted in a minimum of two international collaborative projects, as well as providing the opportunity to be involved in a large group discussion with other prosopagnosia experts. Moving forward, I will be applying for 3 grants with collaborators I met with at St Pete’s Beach. I only hope that the funding agencies are as enthusiastic about the projects as we are.
Davies-Thompson, J., Fletcher, K., Hills, C., Pancaroglu, R., Corrow, S. L., & Barton, J. J. (2017). Perceptual learning of faces: A rehabilitative study of acquired prosopagnosia. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
DeGutis, J., Cohan, S., & Nakayama, K. (2014). Holistic face training enhances face processing in developmental prosopagnosia. Brain, 137(6), 1781-1798.
The FoVea travel and networking award provides an excellent basis for making contact and meeting with relevant experts at the Vision Science Society’s (VSS) annual meeting. It provides an opportunity to connect junior and senior vision researchers from a broad range of disciplines. I arranged to meet with Dr. Andrew Glennerster, a professor of visual neuroscience and head of the Immersive Virtual Reality Laboratory at the University of Reading to discuss my Ph.D. research on shape perception in virtual environments in head-mounted displays (HMD).
During our meeting, we discussed my research plans to evaluate the accuracy of depth perception of virtual objects rendered in HMDs. My work will establish whether the capabilities of current consumer HMDs can be used to evaluate performance in tasks that depend on fine depth discrimination. Dr. Glennerster commented on the value of this work, since the quality of depth from HMD systems has yet to be evaluated using traditional psychophysical methods. We also discussed his previous work on the latency, spatial calibration, and navigation in virtual spaces. He described techniques he used in his own research to achieve accurate calibration using established camera calibration techniques and ray tracing to estimate parameters of HMDs. During this discussion, we talked about his used of the nVis SX111 HMD compared to more modern HMDs, like Oculus Rift CV1. Our discussion ended with an open channel for collaboration and an opportunity for a future lab visit.
Overall, my discussion with Dr. Glennerster provided insight into potential issues that may arise in the preliminary stages of my research. While planning my experimental design, the discussions with senior scientists like Dr. Glennerster will prove invaluable and time saving over the course of my Ph.D. The FoVea travel and networking award provides an opportunity for junior scientists to reach out to senior scientists to meet and discuss shared research interests, regardless if the applicant receives the award. I recommend this travel award to future VSS attendees as a means to overcome apprehension regarding making contact with fellow vision scientists. Lastly, I highly recommend attending future FoVea workshops at VSS. The topic of this year’s workshop, “Negotiation: When and How to Do It Successfully” discussed issues for women in professional work environments. The hosts, Dr. Marisa Carrasco and Dr. Allison Sekuler, created an engaging space that promoted open discussion of issues commonly faced by women in the workplace that is relevant to vision scientists of all genders. Previously, I had not given these issues careful consideration, but feel that I will be better prepared to deal with them in the future.
I would like to thank FoVea for awarding me one of the inaugural FoVea travel and networking awards, not only for the funding but also for the opportunity to represent FoVea and women in vision science. It was fantastic to be able to network with top scientists at the Vision Sciences Society meeting at St Pete Beach, Florida in May 2017. Receiving this award afforded me the opportunity to meet with three top vision scientists from around the world, all of whom were extremely generous with their time. In my networking meetings I was fortunate enough to discuss many interesting topics relating to vision science and cognitive neuroscience, as well as more practical aspects of being a scientist, like applying for grants and publishing papers. I met with Dr Bruno Rossion from the University of Louvain, Belgium (UCL), Dr Liad Mudrik from Tel Aviv University, Israel, and Dr Stefanie Becker from the University of Queensland, Australia. Dr Bruno Rossion and I chatted about many topics relating to face perception and the technique of fast periodic visual stimulation. I gained a lot of insight into the nuances of design and analysis of frequency tagging experiments. We had an interesting discussion about the development of lateralised visual perception. Our interests overlap a great deal so it was fantastic to have some time to pick his brain. I had a really informative discussion with Dr Liad Mudrik about integration of visual and multisensory features, both from a low-level and higher-level perspective. At the conference Dr Mudrik gave a symposium talk that I really enjoyed, and we spoke about a topic that she had mentioned in her talk, namely the importance of experimental replication and how science relies on converging evidence. Dr Stefanie Becker and I discussed many interesting topics including attentional processing in humans as well as in honeybees, which I studied years ago during my Honours project. It was also informative talking to Dr Becker about the current scientific landscape in Australia. I plan to return to Australia this year, and Dr Becker gave me a great deal of insight into the current climate for grant and fellowship funding in the country, which was extremely helpful. Once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank FoVea for this award, as I was able to attend VSS and meet with high profile scientists, which was made possible with their generous funding. I learnt a lot from discussions with my networking targets and the meetings undoubtedly helped me refine my networking skills and expand my networking circle, which will certainly come in useful in my career. I plan to keep in contact with all of my networking targets and hope that our discussions will lead to future collaboration.
For the 2017 FoVea Travel and Networking Award, I proposed a networking plan with Dr. Bevil Conway to discuss issues of mutual interest in our research and a potential for collaboration. I am currently a graduate student studying the neural representation of color, specifically how individual differences in color perception interact across changes in hue, saturation, and luminance. Dr. Conway is a leading color scientist investigating the function of and information coded by cell types in the processing pathway of color perception using single-neuron recordings, fMRI and psychophysical techniques. A recent study for which Dr. Conway was a co-author evidenced luminance invariant, hue-selective cells in the inferotemporal cortex, demonstrating responses like those which underlie the differences in color appearance judgments that I have measured behaviorally (Bohon et al., 2016). At the 2017 Vision Science Society meeting, Dr. Conway and I met to discuss the similarity in our results and have planned to apply some of the modeling techniques outlined in his recent paper to my data. In this paper, Dr. Conway and his co-authors modeled the response functions of neuron populations to understand how they might be organized to represent perceptual color space. They compared the organization and tuning properties in these populations to what would be expected from canonical models of color perception. I am currently working on developing an outline for which modeling techniques from his paper that I would like to learn and to apply to the factors extracted based on my hue-scaling data. Together we’ll decide which techniques would be most informative and make predictions based on the chosen analyses for how the two datasets might compare. Furthermore, our conversation developed into a discussion on many of Dr. Conway’s previous studies, including his work on color language, categorization, and the influence of natural scene statistics on color-coding. Ultimately, I enjoyed exploring these various topics with Dr. Conway, and his ideas on the function of color perception in humans. I look forward to the continued development of our collaboration, and I am grateful that the FoVea Award encouraged my networking with Dr. Conway. This experience will continue to be critical to the development of my research and an inspiration to my vision science career.