Neuroscientist, researcher, and builder of a brighter tomorrow.
Hi, I'm Sophia, a recent grad and rising PhD student. I just finsihed a double degree at UC Berkeley in Psychology with Honors, and Interdisciplinary Studies within Computer Science, Neuroscience and Bioethics.
Yeah, I know, not the easiest thing to pitch in <30 seconds; but basically what I do is try to understand the "why" of "what" we are by looking at the brain and technology.
I do this in two main ways.
Firstly, coming from biosciences, I look at models of psychology, perception, cognition, and physiology to understand how we interpret and interact with the world.
It also turns out that despite being told that legos were for boys, I actually quite enjoy building things. So I develop for Augmented and Virtual Reality, research optimization and connectomics within AI, and build within a field called Human Computer Interaction.
All that makes it a bit rough to explain over family dinners so generally I just go for
"Hi, I really like science."
Why I Do It
Every "what" begins with a "why".
Facebook designs new features because it wanted to give us more ways to share and connect with people, iOS 7 brought transparency to drop screens so that you could feel the depth, and 3D interaction within the device.
So why do I do what I do?
Have you ever looked at a house and thought "why are those windows there, in that corner, at that height, in that room?" Or seen turning traffic backed up at an intersection, but no cars driving down the side road to sneak around it? Have you thought about what pocket do you put your phone in, and do you know why that pocket?
My parents have old videos of me as a kid that generally go something like this:
"why the sky is blue" (scattering of blue light)
"but why?" (because blue light has a shorter wavelength)
"but why?" (Rayleigh scattering)
"what's that"? (Go ask your mother)
Why did I ask questions?
Because it's so very very interesting, and because someone had to have made a choice that the windows of a house should go exactly there.
So why do I do what I do now?
Because it's hard. Neuroscience, HCI, Human Factors, AI, Engineering; it's endlessly frustrating and every day I have to think. Every day we spend in the space we have to work on untangling some of the most impossible questions. Because the stakes are so high (either it's someone's brain, or it affects a couple million users) and you have to outpace the universe as it finds the flaws in your design -
- but mostly because we can be better. Because I look at how my brother discards something when it's "too difficult" to use. I hear my parents' brand new washing machine beeping for another unknown reason and the ways Mum works around it by manually switching things over. I feel the problems we create with "innovative" technology, I hear the promise spatial computing brings, and I notice the harm that can be done by it.
I see us as users, creators and builders of the future that we are going to inhabit.
Why do I do what I do?
Because if we are to be the creators of the future, then let's build it brighter.
What I do, is look at how we interact with the world; because everything we do, is a form of interaction
and every interaction, changes us.
From the cytoarchitectonics and protein synthesis that strengthens neural pathways, to our cognitions and way we understand and behave in the world. I build and research these dynamics by taking 3 approaches.
How our sensory perception of *something* is created and interpreted by the brain
How the systems we perceive are used (or not used)
How our interactions and perceptions of the world combine and give rise to the way in which we experience our worlds.
The way we design reflects how we view the world, and our projects are how the world gazes back.
What's Up Next
Like many other recent grads, I'm faced with the question of "what next". I am looking for internships for during my PhD (hint: my contact information and resume is here if you need something sciencey, and here if you need something more management focused). I'll be based in Europe during my PhD, but my end goal is to come back to the states.
Job wise, I love the Product work I've been doing for the past 2 years, but am also just as at home doing Research, and User Experience Design. I have experience in rapid prototyping - I learn, I code, I design, and I also bake mean chocolate chip cookies.
So whether I choose to go back into the research lab and look deeper into the why of what we are (aka. neuroscience), or if I do get to join a team of people heaven sent and hell bent on changing the world; I will do what I do best. Ask harder questions, and find better answers.
While I don't know what I will be doing just yet, I will keep building. I will keep learning. I will stand on the shoulders of giants, and reach just that little bit higher. And I will always ask what happens to the brain on silicon.