Greetings, visitor! Please note that this site is a work in progress and we are scientists, not web designers; hopefully it will get prettier soon. [TO DO: Insert ironic 1990s-style "under construction" animated GIF.]
Sept 2016: Good news, everyone! In collaboration with the lab of Mike Dodd at UNL and some fantastic colleagues at the University of Delaware and the University of Nevada, Reno, the lab will be sharing in a new $6 million grant to do some cool research projects and help build up the infrastructure of cognitive neuroscience research at UNL. In related news, effective immediately, lab meeting refreshments will consist of champagne and caviar. Monocles will be provided.
IMPORTANT: The RAP lab is hoping to recruit 1-2 awesome new Ph.D. students to begin their studies in fall 2017. If you think that might be you, please feel free to email Matt to discuss your research interests. Folks with prior experience in fMRI or EEG research, and/or with computer programming expertise (in any language[s]), are particularly encouraged to apply. However, such experience is not strictly necessary -- all bright, motivated students who are interested in our research topics should get in touch!
And of course, the RAP lab is always seeking talented undergraduates to assist with our research as well. Again, just email Matt to discuss opportunities to get involved.
We are not specifically advertising any postdoc jobs at the moment, but if you are a current Ph.D. student or postdoc who may be interested in doing a(nother) postdoc in the RAP lab sometime in the next year or two, please get in touch! Likewise for lab manager/full-time research assistant jobs -- we are not advertising any more positions right now, but if you are a current undergrad or recent graduate who might be looking for such a job in the future, feel free to contact Matt so we can talk about those options.
There may also be an opening for a part- or full-time computer programmer to assist with code for experiments and data analysis. Nothing official yet. As Yoda said, difficult to see -- always in motion is the future. But if you think you might be interested in such a thing, please get in touch.
(If you are here because you are interested in volunteering as a research participant, please see the Contact page for details on that.)
Our group has many interests, but most of our research is broadly organized around the theme of studying the interplay between two aspects of cognition: The internal world of thoughts and memories that come from inside our heads (encompassed by the umbrella term of "reflection") and the way that we process sensory (mostly visual) information from the external environment ("perception").
After reading the previous paragraph, you may find yourself saying, "Wait a second -- so your research focuses on 'seeing stuff' and 'thinking about stuff'? Doesn't that cover just about EVERYTHING in psychology?" Well, not everything -- but you'd be correct in noting that these research themes have deep and wide-ranging connections to many different topics in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience (notably working memory, executive function, long-term memory, visual processing, and mental imagery), and have potential applications in the study of aging, mental illness, childhood development, and so on.
So within these broad themes, there are numerous interesting questions we can ask, but one of the specific areas we focus on is attention. You're probably aware that perceptual (e.g. visual) attention is used to select a subset of incoming sensory information for deeper processing, while the rest of the information flooding our senses at any given moment is mostly ignored. The same is true in the reflective domain -- when focused internally, attention is a mechanism for focusing on and shifting between thoughts and memory items, and as such attention plays an important role in guiding and shaping the so-called "stream of consciousness." One of the main interests in our lab is how attention operates similarly or differently in perception versus reflection. Are perceptual attention and reflective attention basically the same thing, just focused in different directions (outward versus inward)? To what extent do their neural mechanisms overlap? Do they have similar consequences for behavior?
To address these questions, we use a number of different techniques. Sometimes we use functional MRI (fMRI), sometimes we use electroencephalography (EEG), sometimes we use good old-fashioned behavior (i.e., pressing buttons on a keyboard in response to a computer-based task). Occasionally, we incorporate measures such as eyetracking as well. Sometimes, we employ fancy statistical techniques and heroic feats of computer programming, but other questions can be answered with more straightforward designs and relatively basic statistics. There's something for everyone!
To make things a bit more concrete, here are some of our published findings so far (see Publications page for references and PDFs of papers):
The above are just a few examples of projects for which we are currently collecting or analyzing data, but we have many more projects in various stages of development or planned for the future. Once more, if you'd like to play a role in making these projects successful, please get in touch to discuss opportunities for working in the lab!