In Fall 2018 Cognitive & Information Sciences welcomes new faculty member, Dr. Kristina Backer. We asked Kristina about her background, research interests, and what she’s excited to teach at UC Merced. See her responses below. Welcome, Kristina!

Dr. Kristina Backer

1) What is your background?

I am a cognitive neuroscientist. I completed my undergraduate education in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at UC Davis. After working as a Research Assistant at UC Davis, I pursued graduate studies in Psychology at the University of Toronto and Rotman Research Institute in Canada, and completed my PhD in 2014. Before arriving at UC Merced, I also completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Washington in Seattle and at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain.

2) What are your research / scholarship interests?

During my undergraduate years, I became fascinated by how the brain works, and specifically how sound is processed in the brain. And I have been working on this topic ever since! Currently, I study how auditory perception interacts with cognitive processes, like attention and memory — especially in complex acoustic situations with multiple sounds happening at the same time, such as a busy restaurant. I am also interested in how aging and hearing loss may affect listening and speech understanding in these challenging, multi-talker auditory situations. I use both behavioral methods and electroencephalography (EEG – the recording of brain waves) to address these research questions.

3) What are you excited to teach?

I am very excited to teach Cognitive Neuroscience to both undergraduate and graduate students this Spring semester! I am also planning to develop a course on Audition for undergraduate students and a course on EEG Methodology for graduate students. In addition to classroom teaching, I look forward to mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students on research projects in the lab.

4) What drew you to CIS at UC Merced?

I actually grew up in the Central Valley, so I feel incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to give back to my local community.  I was also drawn by the interdisciplinary nature of the CIS department and the numerous opportunities to form cool collaborations across disciplines.  The more time I spend at UC Merced and CIS, the more I realize how unique, innovative, and special this place is and how lucky I am to be a part of it.

 

See prior welcomes:

Dr. Colin Holbrook

Drs. Paul Smaldino and David Jennings

Drs. Carolyn Jennings and Ramesh Balasubramaniam