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.
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.
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.
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.
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.