Newsletter Article

NSF Recipient Sees the Big Picture

The National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is highly competitive and provides fellowship support for graduate students (master or doctoral) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Recipients are given a three year award consisting of fellowship stipend and an education allowance, in addition to the powerful networking opportunities and resources afforded by being selected as fellows. 

Photo:  Bjorn Hubert-Wallander

The Department of Psychology has been fortunate to have several NSF fellows in the program each year. Bjorn Hubert-Wallander, a 2nd year Cognition and Perception student with Geoffrey Boynton in the Vision and Cognition Lab, is our most recent recipient of this prestigious fellowship.

Let's start with the basics, where are you from and where did you complete undergraduate and masters degrees?

I'm most recently from the University of Rochester, where I worked as a research assistant for Daphne Bavelier in Brain and Cognitive Sciences, but I got my bachelor's in psychology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I grew up in Alabama, in the deepest of the deep south!

How did you wind up at UW--why did you apply here? What do you think about living in Seattle?

I ended up here because I was very impressed with the Vision and Cognition lab and its researchers. I thought it would be a great environment in which to learn new techniques and explore the lines of research I'm most interested in. Seattle is a beautiful city and I really enjoy how much there is to do here.

What is your research interest and how did you get into it (what inspires/motivates you)?

I'm interested in the general problem of visual perception, and I'm especially interested in how and why our subjective visual experience isn't a veridical representation of the real world. In particular, I do research on visual attention's large role in this process, trying to learn more about how we direct attention, and how it directs us.

How did you learn about your funding opportunity and tell us about the application and waiting process?

The NSF GRFP is widely known in my field, so nothing in particular tipped me off to it. The application process was invigorating more than anything else, and the end result was a plan I was proud of and plan to execute. Waiting isn't fun, but once it's all submitted that's all there is to do!

How did you feel when you learned that your application was accepted and that you will receive two to three years of funding?

It was great!

Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for others who may apply to this opportunity? About graduate study in general?

I highly highly recommend developing the proposal together with advisors, past and present. They know what reviewers are looking for and can add a lot of oomph to your application. I also recommend getting as many examples of successful applications as you can, since it gives you a strong base to start from. Finally, I always recommend trying to show your genuine enthusiasm and curiosity for your field and for your specific research questions. 

What do you hope to accomplish with the funding and/or while in the UW Psychology graduate program?

I plan to use it to devote as much time to productive research as possible!

What do you like doing in your spare time?

Honestly? Eating and playing video games.

The last book and/or movie you saw and enjoyed?

"The Name of the Wind," by Patrick Rothfuss.

What you plan to do once you complete your PhD?

I'd like to eventually go on to a faculty position and contribute what I can to our knowledge of human perception. The idea of working in academia for the rest of my life is incredibly appealing to me!

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