Join the team
At the moment, we have no open positions in the lab, but we plan to advertise a 3-year PhD position (TVÖD E13 65%) in early 2023. As a group, we have committed ourselves to fair hiring practices and candidates with a minority background are particularly encouraged to apply.
To minimize the effects of internalized biases in recruiting, we ask that inquiries regarding PhD positions, internships, lab rotations and theses projects for bachelor’s and master’s students use this form: https://forms.gle/M7xHisXDPHCBNQoKA
Opportunities for Postdoc and PhD students
We will advertise open positions whenever they become available and we are open to unsolicited inquiries from strong candidates aiming at employment in 6-12 months (typically via external funding). Strong candidates have a healthy mix of skills in experimental design, programming, writing and graphics design (in this order of priority). In particular, we are looking for:
- a well reasoned interest in the information-based investigation of cognitive processing and working memory in the human brain.
- a good understanding of how to identify confounds and caveats in psychological and neuro-cognitive experimentation.
- academic writing and presentation skills (in English) ranging from literature management and attention to details in prior work to concise description and argumentation.
- the ability to visualize complex data and concepts in a clear and compact form.
These skills are inevitably interdependent and as a member of the team our goal would be to broaden and deepen them during the course of your work in the lab. Prior experience in (1) working memory research or in research into one of its neighboring fields (e.g. long-term memory, attention, perception, object recognition) as well as (2) fMRI or related neurocognitive methods (EEG, TMS, intracranial recordings) is a big plus!
Opportunities for master’s students (theses, assitant positions, internships)
We are open to unsolicited applications for master’s theses and internships and will advertise student assistant positions whenever they become available. We are likely to receive more applications than we can responsibly supervise at any given moment. In general, we are looking for applicants who are considering a long-term commitment to cognitive neuroscience and working memory research.
How we work
- Our lab relies on shared decision making. Every member of the has a different background and different experiences and are involved in individual projects to various degrees. Combining this collection of skills, insight and knowledge helps us to make better decisions. It is essential for every lab member to have agency over the work that they do and running a project that does not make sense to you is not an option.
- On an individual level, we aim to have a sensible mix of safe but incremental and ambitious but risky projects. On a larger scale, we do not aim to maximize the (perceived) riskiness or safety of any given project but we aim to maximize the expected long-term value of our research (i.e. the summed value of all possible outcomes when multiplied with their relative probabilities).
- Mistakes are a natural part of research work, delays are frequent and projects without a tangible outcome are a real possibility. Setbacks are an opportunity for learning and not a reason for shame.
- Learning is part of everyone’s work in the lab. Learning entails spending time not on the specific problem of your project, even if that learning does not have an immediate effect.
- Overwork and burnout are real risks in research work. While scanning schedules and conference deadlines sometimes lead to extra hours and sometimes we want to analyze the new data over the weekend, we aim to compensate for these extra hours with free time and we do not encourage this overwork.
- Research is an inherently collaborative activity. Helping others to succeed is an integral part of the work of every lab member. This notion extends to work with other researchers and we thus aim to share our insights, methods, and data as broadly as possible.
- While different projects require different resources, we aim to divide limited resources in a fair and transparent way. We work to ensure that supervision time is never a limited resource.
- The progress that other people make in their project is not a benchmark for anybody else’s progress. One person’s luck or success is not another’s downfall.
- Recruiting (particularly for a long-term contract) affects everybody in the lab. Thus, recruiting is a team decision.
- We aim to minimize bias during the initial stage of the recruiting, by using a standardized recruiting form. We want to know about your skills first, your CV later.
- We aim to keep our applicants informed to the best of our ability throughout the process. Every serious application deserves some feedback.
- Informed decisions are good decisions. For long-term contracts, we schedule a series of meetings and plan to use exercises to know more about our applicants’ skills.
- Recruiting is a process where both sides need to make an informed decision. While we want to learn as much as possible about our applicant, we also want to provide applicants with any information they might need to make that decision.
- Recruiting procedures for internships, theses and lab rotations are less elaborate, but follow the same principles.
- The lab has been working in our home-offices for most of the time since we started working together. We have returned to our lab at the BCAN (housed inside the Charité, Berlin Mitte) since 2023 and work both from home and in office.
- We use discord for team communication, git for code sharing, and a variety of online tools for working together. For data analysis, we use the dedicated compute and storage servers of the lab (housed by the BCCN, via VPN). We share computational resources with other groups, if necessary,
- We have a weekly lab meeting (Wednesday 10 am). During the lab meeting everyone presents a single slide representing their progress through the week. After the lab meeting, everyone meets with Thomas. Additional meetings happen throughout the week as necessary.
- We organize joint lab meetings with other groups to challenge our assumptions, minimize groupthink and share our insights.
- We reevaluate our mission and procedures during our yearly retrospective (in January).
2022 – The year of the brains
2022 was the year when we started acquiring large scale fMRI data sets. As scanning calendars were filling up in Berlin as pandemic restrictions were reduced, we moved scanning operations to the CCNB at FU Berlin. Due to the restless effort of PhD and Master’s students we acquired more than 200 hours of task-based high resolution multiband fMRI data and over 300 hours of behavioral data. We all learned a lot about how to acquire data efficiently and how to make sense of these data sets. We also got to spent a few days by the lake, because in the middle of this, you need to spend some days by the lake. Christmas time brought chocolate and plans for hitting next year’s conference rotation with our exciting data.
2021 – The distributed cognition and memory group starts operations
We started off our lab in January 2021. This was a difficult year to start a new chapter in one’s life with a majority of the year spent in home office. In this year, we all learned a lot about how to run behavioral experiments online and we have started our first imaging experiments. We also learned a lot about how to be a lab and how many cat memes we need in our lives (a lot!). Finally, we learned to do the paperwork necessary for all this, but we still have some improvement to do on this end.
2020 – Let there be grant
I got the news that I had funding for my own research group in spring 2020 a few weeks after the first pandemic wave hit Europe. I got help from a lot of people at the start of this group and the lab wouldn’t be what it is today without that help. While this is not the place for exhaustive thanks I am contractually obligated (by David Wisniewski) to share this first draft for a lab logo by Martin Hebart.