By Malin: Working from home has its drawbacks, mainly in the form of tiny distractors. But it is also so extremely gratifying when these little distractors take liking to my work. I am currently finishing up a manuscript that will be the final chapter to my PhD thesis and that might not sound extremely alluring to the young audience. But my youngest daughter is extremely fascinated by the mere existence of screens at the moment and I happen to have 2 of them. It feeds the soul to see the jaw dropping awe when she looks over at my work station. Now my oldest daughter can't be bought by just the existence of a computer any more but I have maybe the coolest screen saver of all times (a hovering Eristalis I made a wile back in the 3D animation software Blender) and she'll sometimes come over and ask to see the fly. Otherwise there is always one of my cats who seems to have taken a liking to my work station itself.
I try to borrow their awe and fascination (and appreciation of my desk) when I run low. My work place might not alway fill me with an immense sense of joy but apparently it allures all the small people and creatures of my home.
One by-product of the ridiculous model of scientific publishing that we are currently held to is the emergence of predatory publishers. Predatory publishers are organisations who create "fake" scientific journals with the goal of publishing articles from real scientists, in order to claim publication fees. The difference between these journals and "real" journals is that there is next to no peer review involved, and the journals will publish almost anything as long as someone is willing to pay the fees (although some "real" journals are not that different).
Of course since these journals are just made up, they tend to advertise themselves directly to scientists, sending professional looking emails inviting you to submit an article to one of their upcoming emails. In attempt to avoid looking like spam they have bots which find your recent publications, and they work these into their automated emails to grab your attention. Over the years I have had a few ridiculous invitations to submit papers in completely irrelevant journals, such as my offer to join the editorial board of the American Journal of Traffic Engineering. But I got a new offer this week that sparked my interest.
The "editor" wrote me asking:
"I wonder if you could submit a short review or a short commentary (or any type of article) based on your previous article “Author Correction: Spike bursting in a dragonfly target-detecting neuron”."
This was a very brief correction to fix a typo in the reference section of a recent paper of mine. I decided to respond to their offer by asking the editor for clarification on which part of our reference typo correction I should focus my article on, in order to make sure my article was enticing to their journals readership.
Curious to see how far this fake editor will go to get their hands on this exciting and impactful article.
I ran tutorials for a lecture series on sensory motor systems this semester. Students and I studied how our eyes and brains receive and process information from our surroundings in Karin's lectures. We ultimately learned that visual perception depends on background, surroundings, context, experience, perceptual awareness, etc. It is why we see various visual illusions such as the Kanizsa triangle or square by forming illusory contours on neurons of V1 (primary visual cortex) and V2 (secondary visual cortex) in our brain.
When prepared tutorial materials, I came across a fascinating study entitled 'If I fits I sits: A citizen science investigation into illusory contour susceptibility in domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus)'. This study investigated whether cats are susceptible to sitting in illusory enclosures, utilizing cats' attraction to box-like spaces to assess their perception of the Kanizsa square visual illusion. This study revealed that cats selected the Kanizsa illusion just as often as the square and more often than the control, indicating that domestic cats may treat the subjective Kanizsa contours as they do actual contours.
I was firstly impressed by the innovative idea to use cats as subjects and their well-known phenomenon, loving square, for the fundamental neuroscience research. Secondly, this study was carried out together with citizen science participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 500 pet cats and cat owners conducted the six daily trials. Thirty cats completed all tests, and nine cats selected at least one stimulus by sitting within the contours (illusory or actual) with all limbs for at least three seconds. I found these successful nine cats are outstanding, and those three seconds are incredibly long and worth as hours after I tried the trials with my cat.
My cat loves sitting in a box and on piles of paper on my desk like other cats. But on Day 1, she could not stop walking towards me and did not notice the existence of the stimuli at all. It may be because she loves me more than squares; or needs cuddles after being lonely for a day. Thus, I tried the trials over the weekends, when she usually wants to have a little more privacy. She eventually has started to sit on the mat and come closer to the stimuli, but very randomly. She has NEVER sat in the Kanizsa square, even in an actual square. The result of my cat indicates that the success rate of this study (9/ 30/ 500) is super accurate. Anyway, working with my cat is really enjoyable and I just want to share how adorable my cat is.
This week was my first time presenting at journal club. While I was nervous, I was mainly concerned about how interested the other lab members would be in hearing about my honours project. Luckily, the presentation seemed to go smoothly, and I received a lot of thoughtful questions and useful feedback.
Since joining the Hoverfly Vision Lab several months ago, it has been great getting to know everyone within and outside the lab, as well as experience the enthusiasm they have for their work. The consistent appearance of new and exciting challenges has made the months feel like weeks, it has also made me thankful for the work done by previous lab members like Richard, which has helped to make these challenges manageable. I am also thankful for the constant support by current lab members who are always willing to help and explain the complexity of hoverfly vision and behaviour.
As I come to the end of a long but valuable honours degree in computer science, I am mostly looking forward to being able to further develop my skills as a software engineer by solving real world problems. However, I never imagined that this would lead me to a closed-loop VR system for hoverflies, an amazing project that I hope to share more about in the future.
Hi, I am Chris
I’m currently working as a software engineer helping to develop a real-time closed-loop VR system for hoverflies using Machine Learning to estimate pose positions of the most forward facing edge of the wings and extrapolate how they want to move in a 3 dimensional space.
As for who I am as a person, I’m a Geek at heart with a love for video games and science fiction. I recently graduated University with an Honours Degree in information Technology (Digital Media), I was also awarded the University Medal for outstanding academic achievement. I’m also a 3D artist, I'm currently working with a developer group based in France to develop mods and games based around my all time favourite franchise Stargate. For developing our games we strictly use Unreal engine as our engine of choice due to the ease of use, trove of information and tutorials available along with what everyone is familiar with.
Yesterday, I ventured up to the Wittunga Botanic Gardens, in search of a few Eristalis tenax to replace our ageing breeders. Even though it was not ideal conditions being slightly overcast, windy and cool, and not all of the most popular daisy bushes were flowering, I still managed to catch 3 males. These lucky boys have now taken up residence with a group of laboratory bred females, hopefully we will see lots of fertile egg clutches in the coming weeks and months!!
I have included some pictures I took yesterday, including some of the recent new additions to Wittunga It is truely a beautiful spot to visit and only 5-10 minutes drive from Flinders.
Last Friday we went to an afternoon session organized by Southern Cultural Immersion. It was an extremely confronting, but educational session about the history of South Australia, and how the aboriginal people were treated by the colonizers.
Last week I was asked to review a paper for the first time. It is an interesting experience which I have wanted to try for a while. The paper itself is a bit of a tricky one with a lot of maths, but I am starting to get my head around it and hopefully I can do a decent job.
There has been some ongoing debate lately about the importance of professional development. The reasons I have heard for not doing professional development activities include;
Like most reasons for not doing something, there is some validity to all of these excuses. Very few people have spare time for professional development, not all courses will suit every individual and certainly some individuals are told to complete professional development activities to address a deficiency in their performance. However, professional development is about so much more than simply addressing deficits and attending a few courses. Professional development done in the right way is about enhancing your strengths as much as it is about improving on your weaknesses and when planned for correctly it doesn’t need to be a huge time burden. Given the multitude of arguments for and against professional development I thought I would compile a few lists of why I think professional development is vitally important.
What does encouraging staff to do professional development activities achieve?
How can professional development activities improve at the bench research?
What constitutes professional development?
What has professional development done for me personally in the last 2-3 years?
I am sure I have not mentioned every benefit or even every excuse, for or against professional development, but hopefully I have demonstrated that time invested in professional development is not time lost to research. That gains in efficiency, interpersonal skills, networking opportunities etc. outweigh any time expenditure afforded to professional development.
This week the lab has been joined by two new software development engineers, who will help with implementing our virtual reality arena for flies. It is very exciting to have new people on board (welcome Raymond and Chris!), and get some much needed software expertise after Rickard left.
The hoverfly vision group can be found at 2 locations: At Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and at Uppsala University in Sweden.