Student Profile: Alex Clain

Background: Physics
Research: Perceptual learning and psychophysics

What were your previous program(s) of study or experiences?

I was an undergraduate physics major at Union College in Schenectady, NY. There I researched mathematical voting theory and nanoscale phase transitions. After college, I did research in the electrical engineering department at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Israel. There I helped to develop and test a novel acousto-optic sensor.

What are your research interests?

My research interests revolve around understanding the laws that govern psychophysics and perceptual learning. I am particularly interested in discovering general principles that apply across tasks and timescales.

What is a project that are you working on now?

A current project of mine is investigating the nature of a refractory period in perceptual learning. It turns out that there is some amount of training in a day needed to produce any learning on perceptual tasks. But additional training beyond this produces no additional learning. The question is, what is preventing this additional training from producing additional learning?

What made you choose Northwestern’s CSD department?

Northwestern CSD is filled with researchers who really care about their projects and are also interested in what everyone else is doing. This combination makes for a department where people are focused, engaged, and friendly; it also makes for a supportive community. I chose to work with Dr. Bev Wright because of her focus on hypothesis-driven psychological research and her skill in writing. I am repeatedly impressed by how deeply she cares about every student and how committed she is to our success.

What are your professional goals?

I plan to eventually run a small lab as a partnership with a few dedicated researchers where we would conduct mix of independent and joint projects. In this lab, I also plan to mentor students in the scientific research process. In the classroom, I hope to teach a variety of topics ranging from physics to psychophysics to learning.