Greatra Mayana

Career & Employment Opportunities

Medical Research. Is it the profession for you?

My name is Martha Bawn. I’m an undergraduate
research assistant at the Bunge Lab at UC Berkeley. Right now we’re in the eye tracking
lab in Tolman hall. I’m from Boulder, Colorado. My parents are
both kind of science minded. My mom grew up in Poland and she got the equivalent of a
master’s degree in physics over there. When she came here in the 80’s she worked as a
computer programmer. My dad is also a computer programmer and that’s how they met. In my household growing up it was always talking
about science and new things that were going on in really all fields of science. In high school I learned a lot about cognitive
science on my own just reading pop science books. That kind of thing. When I came here
to Berkeley cognitive science was the major that I chose. It was a really great thing
because here you take classes in a lot of different disciplines. Psychology, neuroscience,
computer science, philosophy. That really broadened my perspective. Specifically with this lab I applied for a
research position through the program with the university. I just applied to the three
most interesting labs and this was the one that caught my attention because it’s using
this eye tracking technology which is almost like mind reading. It’s a really cool thing
that you can use for a lot of different purposes so I thought it would be really good to learn
that kind of technique that I could apply to lots of different problems. In the study that I’m working on now with
the eye tracker we’re asking people to solve these little puzzles. Afterward we ask them
“How did you solve this puzzle?” They just write it down. It turns out people are really
bad at doing that. They don’t know the process that they’re mind is taking. The cool thing
about the eye tracker is that we can see specifically what parts they’re looking at in what order.
We can see the strategy that they’re using. But they don’t actually consciously know that. Just last week or so we finished the process
of getting the data into a useable form. When it comes out of the eye tracker it’s hundreds
of thousands of lines of just numbers. You can’t really tell anything from that. It took us months, I guess, to get that into
the software and get a visual representation of that data. We’re just starting to look
at that visual representation and it looks like our hypothesis is at least applicable.
We’re actually seeing different strategies that people are using to solve the problems
and we can separate those strategies out based on the eye tracking data. I think the only thing that was randomized
was whether the correct answer was this one or that one. I’ve learned so much. I’ve only been here
six months or so but I’ve learned a lot about the nitty gritty of putting together and experiment.
Everything from making a list of all the variables you have to control for. Writing the actual
code that collects the data and then processing that data so that it’s usable. I’m learning a lot about just the programming
and the statistics and the designing the experiment that I don’t think is really taught in classes. The study is showing that practicing your
reasoning skills can apply to lots of different kinds of problems that involve that reasoning
skills. I think actually doing something, getting your hands dirty, it’s not just getting
better at that one specific thing. It can actually change the way you’re think and the
way you approach problems. Specifically this lab people seem really excited
about the kinds of questions they’re asking and not just the ones they’re working on but
everybody’s. I really like how people get involved with each other’s projects. The environment
in the lab is one where everybody continually wants to learn and ask new questions and take
things further than they are taken now. That’s absolutely the kind of environment that I
want to work in.

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