Good News Updates from our lab

Like just about every other institution, our research institute, the Brain and Mind Institute at Western has been on “stay at home” orders. We’ve all been working at home since March 14th, teaching, doing research, and trying to stay well.

All the labs in the institute have been sending around brief, “good news” email newsletters to the larger group of professors, PIs, postdocs, and grad students, with an emphasis on the fun things we’re doing. We may not see each other in person, but it’s a great way to stay in touch. This week was our lab’s turn and we decided to expand the updates and share them on our blog.

So what have we been up to?

Lab Work

As a lab, we’ve been meeting up several times a week on Zoom for writing support. These are really informal meetups, usually in the mornings. We talk about what we’re working on, then we turn off the mics and sometimes the cameras, and we just write or work on code. After about 90 minutes, we check in and talk about what we wrote, ideas, we had, any writing challenges, etc. Mostly, Zoom is just there in the background while we keep each other company and write. We also do more structured lab meetings and we’re going to star up our journal club too. It’s been a good way to stay cohesive when we’re sheltering in place

OK, Here are some individual updates from our lab:

Emily Nielsen

Emily is the senior PhD student in the lab. She has been keeping busy finishing up her dissertation, with a plan to defend this summer. She’s also been spending some time exploring the city and taking care of her plants. The neighbour’s cats have been stopping by periodically to check in on her and she’s had some nice visits with some other furry friends as well. Last week, Emily cooked meat for the first time ever and, not only did everyone survive(!), but it was actually quite tasty. She also recently learned that a couple she’s been friends with from undergrad is expecting their first baby, which she’s very excited about!

Picture from Emily, including her indoor plants, outdoor walks, and animal friends

Josh Hatherley

Josh is a third year PhD Student in psychology and Josh is keeping busy spending a lot of his time looking out his window with his cat Sim and Sim’s friend Olive. He can be found gardening in the backyard, jogging around the neighborhood, blacksmithing in his shed, or contributing to the internet’s ongoing baking renaissance with his collection of sourdough bread pictures on Instagram.

Josh and Kate and their cats, breads, and gardens

Ana Ruiz Pardo

Ana a third year PhD student in Psychology, has been joining in on the #COVIDbaking and #COVIDcooking trend. Ana and her boyfriend Rex have been making something baked about once a week and Ana tries to have a steady supply of homemade dumplings for when they get a craving. Ana has also started painting again to help her fill weekends with something outside of work or binge watching TV. Ana is helping two former honours students (Kira Forman-Tran and Elyse Cater) apply for The Undergraduate Awards, which is an international competition that Western has competed in for the past few years.

Ana’s baking, dumplings, and paintings

Toka Zhu

Toka is a second year PhD Student. Toka has been working on a manuscript revision to CJEP and working on completing her comprehensive exams. She’s been following Yoga with Tim 30 day challenge and is now on day 25. Toka misses the gym (and Zumba) greatly and is planning to write a travel memoir to cheer herself up with the memories she had in Sydney, Australia last summer. 

Bailey Brashears

Bailey is a first year PhD student in the lab. In addition to working on studies to be run online, Bailey has been spending time baking with her partner, Victoria, and keeping up with friends through Animal Crossing and Splatoon. She is thankful for the company of their two cats, Potato and Punchy, and their blue-tongue skink, Radish. Bailey also just found out that her submission to the Cognitive Science Society Conference was accepted as a talk. Cog Sci would have been in Toronto this year, but it’s going online, so we’ll be working on that this summer. We’ll post a preprint of the paper soon.

Bailey’s cats and focaccia

Tim Qiu

Tim is an NSERC USRA student has been working from his home in Guelph. Tim was going to study brain activation during mindfulness meditation and mind wandering states using fNIRS, but that’s not possible right now. But we’ve worked out a new project that we can carry out remotely. He’s currently re-evaluating his relationship with technology, spending more time just sitting outdoors like an old man. When he’s not doing that, he is consuming an inordinate amount of tea. 

Chelsea McKenzie

Chelsea is a research assistant in the lab, has completed her third year at Brescia. She’s been keeping busy by staying active (i.e., practicing yoga, walking the dogs, jogging around London, and using the elliptical at home). Chelsea is grateful to be at home with her two dogs, Bella and Jules, and for having more time to spend in the garden. 

Chelsea’s dogs and tomatoes waiting to be planted

John Paul Minda

Finally, from lab director John Paul Minda (that’s me): Since sheltering in place with Beth, my two daughters (one home from university and one doing Grade 10 at home), and my cat Peppermint, I’ve been running more, cooking more, eating more, tweeting more, and writing more. I’ve also learned to sew masks and we’ve been playing more board games. The second edition for my Psychology of Thinking textbook is finished and will be published in the fall, and my non-fiction book with Little, Brown and Co should be completed this summer and will be published in 2021. 

That’s it from our lab for now. We’ll update later in the summer with some research progress and someday we’ll be back in the lab.

Stay well and stay safe!

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