Who?

We are currently looking for Wash U undergrads with experience or interest in programming and computer science to join the lab. You don't need to be a computer science major, but you will need to have  programming skills. Ideally we will have a fairly small and committed team of 2-5 people working on this.

Why?

A lot of psychology and human neuroscience experiments are best done in the lab. Others, however, benefit immensely from broader data collection. We plan to use internet-based testing to collect data from large numbers of people in relatively less time (and hopefully less expense) than it would take if we were to bring these people in the lab one at a time.

For you, this will provide a real-world way to use programming skills. Of course you will be able to be involved in the cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging projects in the lab, which is also a lot of fun.

What?

To start with, we will probably collect some simple data sets that will be useful in various lab experiments using MTurk. This might include:

  • Having people read or listen to a sentence, and write down the words they could understand or rate how clear it was
  • Given one word, write down the 4 words that come most readily to mind
  • For a list of words, rate on a scale of 1-7 how easy it is to form a visual image of the word in your mind

But, once we have down some basics and a good framework, I would love to see these projects scale to immense sizes, generating new opportunities. A few examples of things other people have done in the past using web-based data collection are:

The ultimate goal is to come up with unique, kick-ass datasets and stunning visualization (think something like the d3 javascript library) that would really be impossible without large-scale data collection, and then make them publicly available.

How?

The first steps will be to plan out a roadmap of where we want to go and organize a development plan. I haven't done this before so I will be relying on you to help me implement this in a sensible way.

Although the specifics are open for discussion, I am imagining that this will involve web technologies (HTML, CSS, Javascript) for presentation and maybe some python or ruby to manage the backend(s) (which involve both collecting data on a webserver and pulling it down locally to back up and work with), coordinated through github. (We also use Matlab for a lot of data analysis in the lab, but our initial focus will be on designing software for the actual collection.)

A few examples:

  • psiTurk is a python library for running experiments on a website, but coordinating getting participants through MTurk. Using this code (or forking it) would be a definite possibility.
  • The Word Association Study is another great example—I'd actually like to do essentially the same thing. Ideally it could either be distributed to MTurk workers or accessed directly (like this site is).
  • Lots of labs at MIT/Harvard have online studies, like this one on simple clicking that predicts your age (and others from "lab in the wild").

What most have in common is that they're pretty short and at least moderately interesting to complete (the shorter and more fun, the better).

When?

Volunteer positions are available over the summer if you will be around, and also in the fall. There is also a possibility of a paid position for someone with sufficient experience.

Now what?

If you are interested in joining the lab to work on these projects, or in discussing things in more detail, please get in touch with me. As with all undergrads joining the lab, please include a CV and a little bit of experience. Examples of code you have written will be especially helpful but are not required.

Unfortunately, space and time constraints mean that I will not be able to accept everyone who is interested.