Postdoctoral fellowship on mapping and tracking visual object representations

Icelandic Vision Lab, University of Iceland, Reykjavik

The Icelandic Vision Lab (visionlab.is) advertises a two-year postdoctoral position, potentially extendable for one year. The position is fully funded by the Icelandic Research Fund (IRF) through project grant “Mapping and tracking visual object representations: Individual abilities and disabilities” (Grant No. 228916-051). Principal Investigator is Dr. Heida Maria Sigurdardottir (University of Iceland, Reykjavik).

Qualifications:


People with backgrounds from various disciplines will be considered, e.g., cognitive science, experimental psychology, computational neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, mathematics. A Ph.D. in a relevant discipline is required.

A strong computational background – especially prior work with neural networks, a strong publication record, strong data analysis and data visualization skills, programming/scripting experience (e.g., R/Python/MATLAB), experience with experimental psychology software (e.g., PsychoPy/Psychtoolbox), experience in the field of object perception/recognition, excellent communication skills in written and spoken English, and good interpersonal skills are all desirable assets. This should nonetheless read more as a wish list rather than strict requirements. Promising candidates showing enthusiasm and willingness to learn will also be considered.

Project Description:


What are the principal diagnostic dimensions on which objects differ visually from one another? Do these dimensions provide the foundation for the organizational principles of visual object perception, as evidenced by individual differences in behavior, special abilities and disabilities, and developmental trajectories? With the aid of convolutional neural networks trained on image categorization, we will estimate the dimensions on which individuals differ in object perception abilities. We will furthermore use behavioral and neural measures to assess whether people who struggle with recognizing particular objects – faces and words – have unusual difficulties with visual processing of other objects. We will measure age differences in children’s object perception abilities to see if and then what visual dimensions develop independently and at what speed. Finally, we will estimate whether object perception abilities predict later problems with visual word recognition as children go through formal schooling or if problems with visual word recognition predict later problems with object perception, and whether these depend on similarity with visual words.

Emphasis is on individual differences in high-level visual abilities, a relatively neglected field of research. Unlike differences in personality and cognitive abilities, we have limited knowledge on how people differ in their object processing capacity, and whether such abilities are fractionated or unitary. Besides providing fundamental knowledge on the organization and development of the visual system, the proposed work can give us greater understanding of the causes of developmental dyslexia and prosopagnosia, both of which are debilitating conditions. The work can additionally guide the development of novel screening methods to identify those at risk for developing reading problems, which could be applied alongside existing evidence-based methods, as well as guiding the development of novel training programs for people who struggle with reading. Detecting children at risk for reading difficulties before any overt problems arise could give the opportunity for early interventions when brain plasticity is particularly high and cognitive and perceptual training is expected to have maximum long-term effects.

The project involves behavioral studies, computational modelling, and EEG. The extent to which the postdoctoral researcher will be involved in each of these aspects will depend on the skill set and interests of the candidate chosen for the current position.
Icelandic Vision Lab Meeting at Laugarvatn
5th International Icelandic Vision Lab Meeting at Laugarvatn 2021 involved great talks, wonderful food, music making and karaoke. Photo: Mohsen Rafiei.

The Lab:


The Icelandic Vision Lab offers a stimulating academic environment. Despite the name, the lab is truly international with current and former members from a dozen countries across the world. The successful candidate will join this vibrant community of graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty who all work on various aspects of perception and cognition. The lab is well funded and provides good access to necessary equipment for the studies. It is co-run by five Principal Investigators: Drs. Árni Gunnar Ásgeirsson (University of Akureyri), Sabrina Hansmann-Roth (University of Iceland), Árni Kristjánsson (University of Iceland), Inga María Ólafsdóttir (Reykjavik University), and Heida Maria Sigurdardottir (University of Iceland).

The PI:


Heida's research focuses on visual cognition, especially individual differences, including face and object perception/recognition. She has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Brown University (emphasis: systems/cognitive neuroscience) and is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Iceland. You can often find me at the lab's twitter account: @IceVisLab. More information: https://visionlab.is/heida
Heida
Heida as depicted by one of her students, Knútur H. Ólafsson.

The country:


Iceland consistently ranks as one of the best places in the world to live: Icelanders are among the happiest people in the world according to many polls and life satisfaction is among the highest in the world. Iceland is rated the most peaceful, most gender-equal, and most LGBTQ-friendly country in the world. Iceland has spectacular nature and a buzzing cultural scene. And finally, there are no mosquitoes in Iceland!

The position offers the opportunity to work within a vibrant scientific community in a country consistently found to be among the best places to live in the world.
Icelandic Vision Lab at the volcano
Lab excursion to Iceland’s newest volcano, August 2022. Photo: Sesselja Björnsdóttir.

Further Information:


For enquiries about the position, please contact Heida (heidasi@hi.is). Starting time is negotiable, but the sooner the better.

Applications:


A job advertisment has been posted at the University of Iceland website, vacancies (https://english.hi.is/vacancies), though which formal applications should be submitted. Application deadline is October 3rd. Applicants should send in their curriculum vitae, a letter outlining their research experience and career goals, a list of peer reviewed publications, as well as the contact details (names, emails, and phone numbers) of two academic referees.

All applications will be answered, and applicants will be informed about the appointment when a decision has been made. Applications may be valid for six months after the application deadline.

Appointments to positions at the University of Iceland are made in consideration of the Equal Rights Policy of the University of Iceland.

The salary for the position will be in accordance with the current collective wage and salary agreement between the trade union and the Minister of Finance.