This summer (July-August 2019), I had the fantastic opportunity to spend three weeks at the Computational Cognition and Learning Laboratory, Indiana University, working with Prof. Chen Yu. This was made possible through a LuCiD Travel Award, with the goals of receiving training on dual head-mounted eyetracking and networking with a very influential lab studying language development.
The Computational Cognition and Learning Laboratory is a world-leading centre in developmental psychology and computational modelling of developmental processes. This lab produces cutting edge empirical infant studies and computational research. Key to my interests, this lab is also the first lab in the world to set up a ‘Home Lab’ – a very naturalistic play room that is fully equipped with scene cameras (to capture the interaction between infant and caregiver), mobile dual head-mounted eyetracking (to capture their visual scenes and visual attention), and motion sensors (to capture their movement in the space). This setup enables the studying of naturalistic interactions between infants and caregivers, and provides multiple measures of rich, time series data. The combination of creating a super naturalistic setup and collecting such rich data means that we can get the most accurate and generalisable picture of the sensory input of the infant and how this affects their cognition and learning. In the hopes of setting up a similar lab in future, this was the lab to visit to learn how to do so. Thanks to the generous LuCiD Travel Award, I was able to do just that.
During my visit, I was trained in the practical setup required to conduct a ‘Home Lab’ study, how to test infants using these methods, and how to pre-process and analyse the resulting data. I was provided with vast training materials and code that will be invaluable when setting up a similar study. Prof Yu’s lab has written vast amounts of code that automatize previously painstakingly long pre-processing steps such as synchronising different data streams. I was able to shadow testing of infants in this setup, observing both when it goes well and when it doesn’t go so well, and how to troubleshoot in these situations. I was also able to discuss my planned and current research with lab members, and was invited to give a talk about one of my research projects. We also discussed our recent grant application that Prof. Yu is an international advisor on, and how we may foster future collaborations between our labs. As well as this, Bloomington, Indiana was a beautiful city to explore and work in, with many independent cafes, a beautifully leafy campus, and great places to eat, shop, and explore in my free time.
I am very grateful to LuCiD for awarding me this travel grant, as it was highly education and interesting. This is a great funding scheme, and I would recommend all LuCiD members and affiliates to apply, especially early career researchers who may otherwise find it difficult to fund such a visit. I am very grateful to all lab members who made me feel welcome and imparted their knowledge, and especially Prof. Yu for hosting me, setting up my training, and our very inspiring conversations.