Welcome First Years, 2015

29 September 2015

The cognitive science department is excited to welcome seven first-year PhD students in cognitive science this year. They've graciously taken the time to introduce themselves below.

Shuai Tang comes from a small city named Anqing in Anhui Province in China, though his family moved to Shanghai 10 years ago. Zhejiang University is where he got his bachelor degree in Information Science and Communication Engineering. Shuai's previous research mainly focused on Sparse Representation and its applications in Visual Tracking. Shuai says that sparse Representation in visual tracking is tricky work, because we always want to model the problem as a convex optimization question, so it can be solved easily. In future work, Shuai will concentrate more on machine learning, especially Deep Learning and its applications. For hobbies, he loves to listen to pop songs and choir performances. Shuai has previously had no chance to visit the US before and hopes doing research in CogSci will give him a wonderful memory.

Eric Morgan hails from Los Angeles, and lived there most of his life until moving to San Diego three years ago. He spent a couple of years in community college in Santa Monica, followed by a year at Montana State University, then decided that the siren call of paychecks was too strong to resist, so he spent around 15 years working in tech support for a few companies before finishing his undergrad degree online. He is currently researching visual perception of contrast in Virginia de Sa’s lab, specifically illusory contrast (when you see something as darker or lighter than it actually is), and using models to try to find the structures and connections which cause these illusions.  He is fascinated by unexpected complex behaviors that emerge from relatively simple interactions, and hopes to find simple neuron connection models to explain various quirks of visual perception.  Another couple fun facts about Eric: His current hobbies are mainly baking and candymaking, so the department may have to schedule a little more time at the gym to compensate. He also has a natural tendency to turn left when everyone else is turning right (and vice versa), and he says thinking outside the box is easy for him ("I usually have trouble _finding_ the box"), so if you get stuck on a problem and need to look in the wrong direction to find the answer, feel free to chat with him.

Tricia Ngoon comes from Valencia, CA (the land of Six Flags Magic Mountain) and completed her undergraduate degree in psychology at UC Berkeley in 2013 (Go Bears!). She became fascinated by cognitive psychology from her research in human memory and learning. After graduating from Berkeley, Tricia worked as a research assistant at the Stanford Cognitive & Systems Neuroscience Laboratory examining the structural and functional brain changes that occur in conjunction with math learning during development. Now in the Cognitive Science Department here at UCSD, Tricia is integrating her past experiences in psychology and neuroscience to create meaningful learning experiences through technology. Her research in The Design Lab focuses on human-computer interaction and is looking at how to design technologies to assess and encourage metacognitive processes that strengthen learning. In her free time, or perhaps as her methods of procrastination, Tricia enjoys leveling up her characters in video games, binge-watching TV shows, and exploring the San Diego coffee shop scene. She also likes swimming, yoga, and has practiced martial arts pretty much her whole life. 

Amy Rae Fox is originally from Hay Lakes, Alberta, Canada, which is about the coldest place you can be from.  She fled the frigid temperatures for UNC-Chapel Hill, from which she graduated with a B.Sc. in Computer Science.  After a number of years working as a technology consultant and user experience designer, she completed a dual MA/MEd program in Cognitive Visualization.  She joins the UCSD PhD program with a passion for information visualization. She hopes to understand how humans conceptualize space and time, and apply this learning to the design of multi-modal information representations.  She holds a firm belief that time is both wibbly and wobbly.  In her spare time, Amy enjoys whitewater kayaking, and thinking about whitewater kayaking. 

Reina Mizrahi is originally from Mexico City but has spent most of her life in California. She graduated from UCSD with a bachelor’s in Psychology and a specialization in Neuropsychology. She has focused on language and memory research for the past couple of years and hopes to continue in these two fields. As part of Reina's research, she has worked with bilinguals and clinical populations to better understand the process of language selection and how memory deficits can impact our ability to speak two languages. In the years to come, she will be studying language processing in both monolingual and multilingual children. Whenever there is time left to spare, Reina loves to read, draw, and do things outdoors.

Kevin Jenson was born, raised, and educated in the always spectacular Eugene, OR. While attending the University of Oregon he performed research for Electrical Geodesics, Inc., a company that strives to develop the most user-friendly dense array EEG systems possible. This turned into a research gig in the Regional Epilepsy Center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, which was great because it meant he didn't need to take a job at Les Schwab changing tires in order to be reunited with his fiancee. At UCSD Kevin wants to continue working with EEG with a focus on its oscillatory features and their relationship to various components of cognitive development. Kevin's favorite activity is giving his pup belly rubs, but he also loves to read popular science/philosophy, drink delicious coffee/beer, hike/backpack, type forward slashes, and hang out in/around the ocean.

Michael Allen is from the west of Ireland and completed his undergrad in Applied Physics at Dublin City University, followed by an MSc in Maths-Physics in University College Dublin. He subsequently moved to London, UK, eventually completing a master's degree in Psychology there as it seemed to reflect more closely his interests and questions. While in London Michael learned how to sing and how to box, but not concurrently. He's looking forward to exploring Southern California by bike.

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