Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Undergraduate Research at the Graduate Level

Carissa Filip '12, of Norco, California, may be 19, but she can add world traveler and international conference presenter to her list of achievements. The psychology major at Gordon College returned from Spain, where she presented her current undergraduate research—amongst graduate student dissertations—at the Workshop on Embodied, Distributed and Extended Cognition at Le Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

The workshop, aimed at discussing philosophical issues in post-cognitivist cognitive science, was presented by the TECNOCOG Research Group, the Cognitive Science Society and by the Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science Society in Spain.

Many presentations also focused on recent practical approaches to cognitive science, such as embodied cognition, the extended mind and socially distributed cognition. Though the conference accepted submissions from undergraduate students, Filip was one of only two undergraduates selected to present and go abroad to join other researchers in her presentation. “Those at the conference didn’t realize that my work wasn’t part of a graduate dissertation until the final day, when I shared I was 19 and a sophomore college student,” said Filip.

“Carissa's quiet confidence in her faith and learning in an international mostly graduate conference serves as a testimony to the quality of a liberal arts education and the excellence of Gordon’s faculty,” said Dan Russ, dean of the faculty. “We are proud of her and our professors.”

Filip reached out to faculty on Gordon's Research Committee for support, remembering Brian Glenney’s words from her Philosophy of Mind course: “I’m holding each of you to a graduate-level quality of work.”

Filip’s research presents a problem with an infamous experiment by Libet that suggests humans have no free will. Her work was titled:
Stressing Free Will: A New Libet Experiment.
Carrisa’s success helps further confirm that undergraduates can do research at the professional level,” said Glenney, associate professor of philosophy. “Students need to provide the drive and the smarts; Gordon and its faculty strive to provide the opportunity, connections and support.”

As researchers and experts at the conference pressed challenging questions, Fillip shared her perspectives. Stating she felt prepared for these discussions as “many of the topics had been introduced in courses at Gordon.”

“A grad student from the university said he recognized Gordon’s name from a sensory substitution study carried out by Dr. Glenney,” said Fillip. The study, working with senior Zach Capalbo, a computer science and physics double major, and Zach Renolds, now at the Schepens Eye Institute at Harvard, was presented in Tokyo. “Turns out this graduate student was writing his dissertation on their findings,” shares Filip, a psychology major. “It was a full-circle moment for me connecting Gordon with researchers around the world.”

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