Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Innovative Ideas

This spring, the Graduate School awarded up to $5,000 each to five different groups or individuals that proposed innovative ideas for enhancing interdisciplinary graduate education. The winning groups offered suggestions to potentially create new programs, practices and opportunities for graduate students to pursue academic and creative interests across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

One recipient of the award hopes to bring specialized or emerging technologies directly into students' hands through an annual one-day intensive workshop, which will begin in December.

A committee of graduate students from the University of Minnesota's multidisciplinary Center for Cognitive Sciences noticed many students lacked access to the specialized technologies that they learned about. Inspired by a successful bootcamp on ERP (event related potential) methodology, the group viewed the Innovative Ideas grant as an opportunity to meet the student need for an Emerging Technologies Workshop.

The first Emerging Technologies workshop, on electroencephalography (EEG) and other physiological measures, is planned for December 5, with registration open for interested students and faculty until November 5. The lecture portion of the day, featuring faculty speakers from the University's speech-language-hearing sciences and psychology departments, will be in Walter Library 402. The hands-on part will take place in the Social Behavioral Sciences Lab in Anderson Hall 174.

Based on the interest of the University community, the upcoming workshop will focus on EEG, a test that records electrical activity in the brain through sensors on the scalp. The workshop could draw people from a wide range of departments within the University, since it focuses on methods and techniques with numerous applications.

"It will bring together students from multiple disciplines and provide an opportunity for them to talk about their shared interests, which could lead to the next big idea," says Nicole Scott, a co-chair on the committee of Center for Cognitive Sciences graduate students planning the workshop.   

Those studying various disciplines -- including cognitive science, psychology, human development, neuroscience, biology, medicine, statistics and linguistics -- could benefit from the workshops. For example, EEG can be used for studying language processing, child development, brain-computer interface, diagnosing sleep disorders, and monitoring brain activity during brain surgery, Scott says.

Through the grant, the group has invited an external speaker, Emily Kappenman from the University of California Davis, to lead a breakout, hands-on learning session at the workshop. "Bringing in an outside expert gives students the opportunity to hear about a different perspective on the same topic and possibly some new ideas," Scott says. "We are excited to have such an expert walk through an EEG experiment in the short time allotted."

Event website:

Link to registration:

– Lyra Fontaine