Research Assistant Position Open in the Spelke Lab (Harvard), Summer 2016


Seeking interested and motivated students to assist with research this summer in Prof. Elizabeth Spelke’s cognitive development lab, under the aegis of the Laboratory for Developmental Studies and the Harvard-MIT Center for Brains, Minds, and Machines. Most of the research in the lab uses behavioral methods, focused on infants’ spontaneous actions of looking at, reaching for, or smiling to objects and people, to investigate the basic cognitive capacities of infants, toddlers, and children, with an emphasis on the development of perception and knowledge of objects and their mechanical interactions, agents and their instrumental actions, people and their social interactions, number, and geometry. Current research projects in the infant lab focus on topics including infants’ attribution to objects of abstract properties such as mass, infants' attributions of goals and intentions to agents, infants' attributions of perceptions, beliefs, and emotions to people, and infants' inferences about the geometrical properties of visual forms. Experimental research on these topics is conducted in collaboration with investigators developing computational models of human cognition and its development, and with investigators exploring the brain systems underlying these capacities. Current projects in the child lab aim to connect the basic cognitive abilities that emerge in infants to children's developing mastery of symbols and school mathematics. Some of this research is conducted in collaboration with economists conducting randomized field experiments assessing the effectiveness of such interventions at scale.
We have positions for both full-time and part-time research assistants, and we generally accept students to work in the lab as part of the college work-study program or as volunteers. We are especially welcoming of students who may want to develop independent research, such as an honors thesis project, addressed to these or related topics. Throughout the summer, students have the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of research topics within cognitive science. Additionally, each student is paired with a grad student or postdoc in the lab so as to focus on one topic in depth. This position is open to students of all concentrations and there are no prerequisites, though preference is given to students whose academic interests dovetail with those of the lab's investigators and students.
Research assistants in the lab help with numerous tasks such as coding for studies (most of our baby studies follow a looking time paradigm and require live coding), helping grad students run subjects in studies, recruiting babies to participate in studies, scheduling families for visits to the lab, interacting with families when they come to the lab, and working with grad students to complete tasks specific to their research.
 If interested, please contact lab manager Natasha Kalra at

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