Barbara Shinn-Cunningham

Research Stay at RWTH Aachen 2012: Guest Professor in the Program ERS International
Information about our Alumnus Prof. Dr. Barbara Shinn-Cunningham is Professor for Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neural Technology at Boston University, USA. Her research interests are in the areas of auditory neuroscience, from acoustics to perception. She currently serves as PI /Director of CELEST Science of Learning Center and as director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory. She is also active as member of the Boston University Hearing Research Center and the Harvard University/MIT Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology Program. Shinn-Cunningham received her Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA.


Interview with Barbara Shinn-Cunningham

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham Copyright: Janina Fels Barbara Shinn-Cunningham

What is your main research field all about and its importance in a wider context?

I study auditory attention, exploring the neural substrates that support auditory attention as well as the behavioral limits imposed by the need to direct attention to one sound source and the costs of focusing, sustaining, and switching attention. I have a particular interest in the role that spatial cues play in helping to direct attention.

What led to your research stay at RWTH Aachen? Is there a specific reason why you chose Germany and why our university for your research visit?

There are a number of world-class researchers at Aachen whose work is directly related to my own. These include Profs. Iring Koch, Michael Vorländer, Hermann Wagner, as well as others in their research groups.

How do you remember the interaction with students and fellow researchers at the Institute of Technical Acoustics, ITA, and the Institute of Psychology at RWTH Aachen University?

I had a very stimulating stay in Aachen, with many detailed discussions about research both in ITA and the Institute of Psychology. I learned a great deal from my stay, and was very impressed by the quality of the students and the research projects underway. Many of the paradigms that I learned about gave me new insight into my own research.

During your stay at our university you have shared your scientific expertise and research results in the International Symposium on Noise, which took place in Aachen. In retrospect, how do you rate this possibility to discuss your research topic with fellow scientists from different institutions?

I found the International Symposium to be top rate. The speakers were all exceptional, presenting very interesting work that spanned a range of disciplines. I became familiar with work that I had not run across, but now cite all the time. The attendees of the conference were also fantastic, allowing for wonderful discussions during the breaks and throughout the symposium.

After your experience as a visiting scholar in Germany: Is there something you think German academia could learn from academia in the US or vice-versa?

Exchange between different researchers is always important. The facilities at Aachen are exceptional, and the organizational structure very good for supporting research.

Looking back on your stay at RWTH Aachen University: What was your most rewarding experience? Which tangible outcomes of your stay are most important?

The best part of my interactions was becoming familiar with the work of Iring Koch and Vera Lawo. I was much more aware of the work of the other researchers at Aachen before my visit, because they attend the same conferences as I do. However, the work of Prof. Koch and Ms. Lawo is very close to my own, but from a psychological perspective. As a result, the conferences they attend do not overlap with those I typically attend, so I knew less about their work before visiting. I am enjoying building new collaborative ties with them, which would not have been possible without my trip to Aachen.

Is there anything else you would like to say or do you have any further comments?

It was a real pleasure to visit Aachen and to get to know the exceptional work going on there. Thank you for the opportunity!