3rd Annual Doctoral Conference - VDS CoBeNe PhD Academy

 Pre-conference activities: Two lab-tours and a third mission activity

Lab tours

To promote exchange and cohort-building across the different disciplines, PhD candidates had the opportunity to sign up for two lab tours on the day before the main conference: A tour of the Haidlhof corvid research station, guided by Daria Nagel, the PhD representative for Biology (see photo), and a tour of the different labs at the Faculty of Psychology, such as an EEG lab and a machine learning lab. The Faculty of Psychology offers a range of physiological and neuropsychological methods for describing and examining the foundations of human experience and behaviour. 

The Haidlhof research station, located in Lower Austria just outside Vienna, is home to multiple outdoor facilities housing corvids (that is, raven-like birds such as ravens and crows) and parrot-like birds (such as parrots, canaries, keas, and so on). A number of CoBeNe PhD students are regularly stationed at the Haidlhof, performing behavioural studies and experiments with the animals.

Third mission activity

While some of the PhD candidates were off to the lab tours to network and learn about the other CoBeNe disciplines, others were working together in a local community outreach activity. A team of PhD students, together with Univ.-Prof. Dr. Barbara Schober, organized and carried out a project day with the tenth grade (3 classes, 56 students aged around 16, and 4 teachers) from a local highschool (GRG 10 Ettenreichgymnasium). 

The project day, entitled "Uni Vienna and you", aimed at introducing the students to the scientific process, to give them an impression of what research is conducted at the University of Vienna and what it is like to study here, and to motivate them to consider going on to university after high school. To this end, they had the opportunity to ask current Bachelor and Master students from psychology and biology questions about their experience and to quiz some of our professors (Claus Lamm, Stefanie Höhl, Robert Böhm, Didone Frigerio, Martina Zemp, and a special external guest, Niki Popper) about their research. Other activities over the course of the project day included learning about the research going on at the environmental psychology work group on how to support the fight against climate change using psychology, learning about the psychology of conspiracy theories and how to discuss them with firm believers, getting to try out the children's studies lab's mobile EEG, using the scientific method to find a solution to the internet-famous mystery of "The Dress" (is it black and blue or white and gold? how could science be used to answer this question?), and discovering the numerous areas in their everyday lives that are dependent on and tied to science. 

The organizational team during the duration of the semester-long preparatory seminar and on the day of the workshop consisted of: 

Christian Haider, Julia Reiter, Barbara Schober, Arabella Mühl, Julia Jankowski, Olena Vitkovska, Ludwig Grillich, Anna Bànki, Verena Schäfer, Victoria Nuculovic as student-assistant support throughout the seminar

Additionally, the following people joined for support on the day of the workshop: 

Bence Szaskò, Regina Stöck, Lisa Triebenbacher, Anna Matyk, Astrid Karner, Franziska Schilling, Selina Platzer, Sabrina Forst, Sarah Neumaier, Nadja De Nicolo, Katharina Sandberger, Martina Zani

Thanks to Karl Pani for photos of this day! 

 Impressions from the 3rd annual CoBeNe PhD Academy

Welcome Address by the DSPLs

The third rendition of the annual PhD conference was opened by the current head of the VDS CoBeNe, Univ.-Prof. Mag. Mag. Dr. Dr. Dr. Martin Voracek (Psychological Science). The conference is designed as an opportunity for networking, exchange, and cohort building between PhD candidates across the different disciplines wihtin the doctoral school. His commencement speech was followed by welcoming words from the other DSPLs, Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Thomas Bugnyar (Behavioural and Cognitive Biology), Univ.-Prof. Dr. Thomas Hummel (Neuroscience), and Univ.-Prof. Dr. Jutta Müller (Cognitive Humanities), as well as the head coordinator of the doctoral school, Dipl.-Biol. Dr. Katja Hellekes

68 PhD candidate presentations

Spread across parallel sessions taking place in the prestigious Großer Festsaal, the Erika-Weinzierl-Saal and the Elise-Richter-Saal in the University's main building, 68 PhD candidates from Psychological Science, Behavioral & Cognitive Biology, Neurosciences, and Cognitive Humanities presented their ongoing research. With topics ranging from how humans perceive the level of healthiness of tasty foods to how monkeys perceive sounds and pigs perceive their environments, from cheetah chirps to cognitive abilities, the conference spanned a broad spectrum of study in the areas of cognition, behavior, and neuroscience. 

The award for the best presentation given by a PhD candidate went to Jeroen Stephan Zewald (pictured right), for his talk "Cockatoo's kitchen: Goffin's cockatoos innovate two new foraging techniques with different function to prepare their food". Congratulations!


The second place was closely taken by another biologist, Daria Nagel, with her talk "How to define social competence in adult corvid pairs".


Following in third place was a new member of the VDS CoBeNe, Lukas Nemesthothy, with "Phonaesthetics - between Imposed Norm and Inherent Value".

21 posters submitted by Master students

The VDS CoBeNe supports interested Master students by covering the costs for poster printing, making the poster session accessible to all students.

21 Master students from all CoBeNe research disciplines submitted posters on their ongoing and completed thesis research, and had the opportunity to mingle with and present their research to an interested crowd of PhD candidates and professors alike. 

The award for the best poster went to Lisa Zach (pictured left), a Master student in Psychological Science, for her poster "Gender Minority Stress and protective factors of trans*, inter* and non-binary* youth: Coping, Social Support and Resilience". Congratulations!

The runners-up were, in second place:

Lisa Triebenbacher ("Cardio-Ocular Coupling in Infancy")

And in third place:

Anna Elisa Kempf ("Testing the Waters: Comparing weight perception in Kea (Nestor notabilies) and two related Corvids (Corvus corax and Corvus cornix)".

Keynotes 2024

As per tradition, keynote lectures were provided by four alumni of the four disciplines of the VDS CoBeNe. 

Hannah Brinkmann of the Donau-Universität Krems spoke on "The potential effect of cultural objects - aesthetic experiences, enjoyment, and visual literacy".

 Vedrana Slipogor of the University of South Bohemia's Department of Zoology gave her talk "Unique, just like everyone else? Integrative approach to personality and learning in common marmosets (callithrix jacchus) and naked mole-rats (heterocephalus glaber)".

Rashmit Kaur, joining us from the University of Zürich's brain research institute, presented "Insights into evolutionary and adaptive neural circuits: From developmental mechanisms in bilateral brain assembly to target-specific rewiring in mature neurons".
And to conclude, Oswald Kothgassner joined from the Medical University Vienna to talk about "The stress of a virtual life: Transitioning from digital stressors to virtual reality therapy".

Coffee Breaks and Conference Dinner

Delicious, meat-free and mostly vegan food sourced from local ingredients was provided to us by the socially responsible local company Habibi & Hawara

The coffee breaks provided ample opportunity for socializing and networking among the current cohort of PhD candidates, their seniors, post docs and professors. The social highlight of the conference came in the form of Thursday evening's conference dinner, taking place in the ante-room to the Kleiner Festsaal and followed by a relaxed evening with music and drinks.

Concluding panel discussion

To conclude the conference, the keynote speakers and Ass.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Petra Sumasgutner, replacing the Biology keynote speaker who had to leave before the discussion due to a prior time commitment, gathered for a panel discussion and Q&A session involving lessons learned and adivce they could pass on to the current PhD candidates. 

All PhD Presentations: