National Cognitive Science Conference Recap!

5 min readApr 26, 2021

CSSA recently held its 2021 National Cognitive Science Conference on the theme of Innovations in Intelligence. Just in case you missed it, we’ve taken the time to recap each day’s events below:

Day One

On the first day of CSSA’s conference for this year we invited UX designer and founder of CreateApe, Alessandro Fard, to share advice and experiences from his own journey as a UX Designer. Despite his initial dream of wanting to become a farmer, Mr.Fard found his true calling working in UI/UX design. Throughout his career, he learned more about the importance of becoming an advocate for the user and creating a product that would be viable for the users. According to Mr. Fard, the biggest goal as a UX designer is to make everyone happy; to connect the needs of the users and the overall user experience to the business’s provisions. In the process, while there may be failures or mishaps, it’s important to embrace them in their entirety and use them to find a solution to problems.

“I urge all of you to constantly look and evaluate. Can the things around you be better?” -Alessandro Fard

Attendees were able to choose and alternate between the workshops of day one. The workshops included sessions in Machine Learning, Neuroscience, and Language and Culture.

The workshop in Neuroscience was presented by Professor Andrea Chiba, one of our Cognitive Science Professors here at UCSD, and delved into what drove her into the field of Neuroscience and Neural Anatomy. In a Q&A style session, she discussed the relations between brain and behavior, potential career paths for students specializing in Neuroscience, and some of the new directions she hopes to take her lab and research in the near future.

The Language and Culture workshop was also hosted by one of UCSD’s Cognitive Science Professors- Professor Stephanie Ties. In this session, she explained the process of finding words when we speak, the neural processes behind language acquisition and retrieval, and the research methods used to study the involved neural regions.

The Machine Learning workshop was hosted by Alex Merose, a software engineer at Google AI. He walked us through the concept of ‘Machine Learning on the Edge’ and the benefits of edge computing in various applications. Students then got a chance to work on their own machine learning models to detect and identify audio through a live demonstration by Alex.

Day Two

For day two of CSSA’s conference we had speaker Shobhit Varshney, strategy adviser and AI practice lead at IBM, discuss his experiences working with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in regards to Computational AI and Quantum Computing. As a current AI Analytics Practice Lead, Mr. Varshney is involved with the digital work that goes with AI, the data insights from processing documents, cognitive enterprises, and building machine learning models. His work with Conversational AI is best exemplified by IBM’s current AI system ‘Project Debater’ which can debate with humans on complex topics. His work in Quantum Computing looks at ways of answering problems typical supercomputers may not be able to solve and involves Quantum Computers such as the IBM Qubit which massively reduce the amount of time required to analyze combinations. Calculations that would take classical computers about a week to be calculated could be computed in just 1 second! How cool is that?

“Machine learning can help augment the intelligence of humans and help them do what they do even better.” -Shobhit Varshney

Workshops on day two included sessions in Design, Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience, and Clinical Aspects of Cognition.

The Design workshop was hosted by Digital Experience Design Leader Himanshu Bharadwaj. He covered how to be an innovative designer and introduced designs that would add new value. It’s important to ask the right questions and find the right balance in design work, as design shouldn’t be a stressful process!

For our Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience workshop, Rohini Sen, Clinical Research Associate at the Functional Neuroscience Laboratory, shared her current research on studying the effects of EEG Neuro-Feedback on working memory and other cognitive abilities in individuals with schizophrenia and mild cognitive impairments. If you’re interested in lab research that has to do with the Neurological processes of the brain, this is the workshop for you!

The Clinical Aspects of Cognition lab was hosted by Naomi Lin, PhD student at UCSD, who shared various insights about her experiences in clinical careers, advice with networking to find job opportunities (pro-tip: take advantage of professor office hours!!), and potential graduate school/career options connected to this specialization.

Day Three

On the last day of CSSA’s conference, we invited a team of professionals for a career panel, including Sumedha Garud (Marketing/Outreach at NASA Ames Center), Melody Kim (Product Designer at BetterOmics), Leo Ham (Experience Research Manager II at Nike), Benazir Shaikh (User Experience Researcher at Google), and Kyle Shannon (Co-Founder/ Data Science Lead at Turnkey Trips). Each of them shared their own insights in regards to typical days at the workplace, challenges and memorable experiences, and what they anticipated for their fields of work in the future. All of them had wonderful advice in regards to what they think makes job candidates for their positions stand out and how academic knowledge can be implemented in professional experiences!

We also hosted a Poster Session, where we invited two UCSD Cognitive Science labs to share their research and answer questions related to their experiences in the field. From the Interactive Cognition Lab, Robert Kaufman discussed his work with AI in Radiology- in particular, how human interactive elements can be added to the results outputted by the technology used to help Radiologists understand and trust the information better. Felix Binder shared his research on goal setting and the cost of planning versus success, using AI to simulate this decision making. Michael Allen shared insight into his work on encoding visual information cognitively, in particular, focusing on the different levels of detail encoded. It was great to hear from graduate students and learn about the practical application of knowledge in the real world.

From the Learning and Instruction in Multimedia Environments Lab, Eric Sandoval shared his project investigating the different forms of cognitive load from video lessons and how this can affect learning and attention. Isabel White and Talia LaTona-Tequida discussed their work on the role of refutation in addressing mathematical misconceptions.

Thank you to those of you who attended this online conference! If you’re interested in watching any of these events asynchronously, feel free to find the Zoom recordings on the CSSA Conference website.