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‘In the Last 20 Years, Computer Modelling Has Become an Important Part of Cognitive Science’

Ivan Ivanchei

Ivan Ivanchei
Photo courtesy of Ivan Ivanchei

As part of its Digital Professors programme, HSE University invites international lecturers to work with students remotely. One of the participants of the programme is Dr Ivan Ivanchei, Research Assistant of the Department of Experimental Psychology at Ghent University (Belgium). He conducted an elective course at HSE University entitled ‘Introduction to Computer Modeling of Cognitive Processes.’

— What drew you to psychology? Why did you choose this field in particular?

— I studied in the Faculty of Psychology at St Petersburg State University. I was drawn to cognitive psychology due to lectures on experimental psychology—something I previously knew nothing about. I defended my doctoral thesis at the university in 2016. It was devoted to ‘implicit learning’—how people learn subconsciously. I am currently investigating the role of emotions in subconscious processes.

I was also drawn to psychology in high school. I found it an interesting topic and I had some ability in it. But at the time, I had a poor understanding of what research psychology was really like.

My first years at the Faculty of Psychology at St Petersburg State University included lectures on experimental psychology. They were conducted by Dr Viktor Allakhverdov and the staff of the general psychology department. Through these, I learned that psychology can be an experimental science. I found this much more interesting than personality psychology, which is what I was interested in when I joined the faculty.

— You ran the course ‘Introduction to Computer Modeling of Cognitive Processes’ at HSE University. What is the course about?

— Students on this course learn methods of formal modelling of cognitive processes. Given the proliferation of powerful computers in the last 20 years, computer modelling has become an important part of cognitive science. It allows psychologists and neuroscientists to formalise their hypotheses and accurately test them. I believe that this method will become essential to serious studies in the near future. The course gives students an understanding of why computational modelling is needed and how it works. My goal is that by the end of the course, they will have tools at their disposal that will allow them to work independently.

— You have taught HSE University students. What can you say about them?

— Students of HSE University are at a very high level—perhaps the highest in Russia. The selection process for students is very thorough, even on bachelor’s programmes.

Most of them know what they want and know what they need from the course. This puts pressure on lecturers, because students are particular and are interested in applying methods.

But, on the other hand, the classes become much more thoughtful.       

— How did the online format affect students’ engagement?

— I do not think that the online format created any problems for my course specifically. This is because, for example, seminar activities require students to do something together with me on their computers. In that sense, it is quite convenient.

My course has an applied focus and is based on a large amount of manual work. We learn methods that can be applied in our work. Accordingly, students do things independently, manually, and programme models themselves. This, rather than lectures, is the most useful part of the course.

— What advice would you give your students in terms of studying psychology?

— Psychology is extremely diverse. That is why I believe it is important to determine what your interests are, understand how interesting something is to you, and start immersing yourself in this field as early as possible. It is important to clarify something that I think is underappreciated at the moment.

As a teacher of a more technical field, I naturally think that psychologists need to be attentive of mathematical methods.

Whatever field you are studying, they are always very useful and competitive skills to have. Even if you decide to change your field, with statistical data processing skills, you will find a lot of other things to do after your studies.

HSE University’s Digital Professors programme invites international experts to teach online classes at the university. The programme includes online lectures for undergraduate and doctoral students, as well as the supervision of term papers and theses.

To date, 130 people from 110 universities and other organisations in 30 countries have participated in the programme. All HSE University campuses can invite lecturers as part of the programme. Among the invited specialists are scientists from leading world universities, as well as practitioners working in business and state bodies.

For more information, please contact the Department of Internationalisation at digitalprofessors@hse.ru or submit an application (in Russian) here.

See also:

Former French Ambassador Shares His Experience with HSE Students as a Digital Professor

As part of the ‘Digital Professors’ programme, HSE University invites international lecturers to work with students remotely. One of the programme’s participants is Dr Pierre Andrieu, lecturer at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po). At HSE University, he taught the elective courses ‘EU in the World’ and ‘New Challenges and Threats’ in 2021–2022. In his interview with the HSE News Service, Dr Andrieu talked about his diplomatic career, research interests, and interactive teaching.

‘Students Have Broadened Their Horizons and Made the First Steps in Financial Mathematics’

Cedric Bernardin from Université Côte d’Azur collaborated with HSE University as a Digital Professor in the second semester of the 2021/2022 academic year. He taught a course on MDP theory with finance applications at the Faculty of Mathematics. Prof. Bernardin shared his impressions of this experience with the HSE News Service.

‘I Admire HSE Students’ Eagerness to Learn, to Discuss, to Broaden Their Perspectives’

Robert Romanowski was a ‘Digital Professor’ at HSE University in November 2021. In his interview for the HSE News Service, he talked about the specifics of online teaching, his course on Strategic Branding, and the skills that are essential for marketing professionals today.