• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

‘I Want to See Studies Emanating from Africa Contributing Substantially to Cognitive Science’

‘I Want to See Studies Emanating from Africa Contributing Substantially to Cognitive Science’

© iStock

Abdul-Raheem Mohammed from Ghana has recently defended a PhD dissertation in cognitive psychology at HSE University via remote procedure. Abdul-Raheem and his academic supervisor, Dmitry Lyusin, talked to the HSE News Service about their cooperation, the advantages and complications of remote PhD defence at HSE University, and the prospects of cognitive science in African countries.

Abdul-Raheem Mohammed defended his dissertation on ‘The Role of Executive Functions in Emotion Regulation’ for a PhD degree in Psychology at HSE University in April 2022. His academic supervisor was Dmitry Lyusin, Associate Professor at the HSE School of Psychology and Leading Research Fellow at the HSE Laboratory for Cognitive Research.

Abdul-Raheem Mohammed, lecturer, University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana

Abdul-Raheem Mohammed, 32, comes from Savelugu in the Northern Region of Ghana. He is currently a lecturer at the University for Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana. In 2013, He completed a bachelor's degree in Psychology with Sociology with First-Class Honours from the University of Ghana.

In 2016, he was admitted to the HSE University Master’s programme in Cognitive Sciences and Technologies: From Neuron to Cognition, from which he graduated with honours. He proceeded onto a doctoral programme in Psychology at HSE University and successfully completed it in October 2021. 

Research Opportunities at HSE University

I had a wonderful experience at HSE University during my master’s and doctoral studies. The university is well-equipped with modern scientific laboratories for experiments in psychology. I had the opportunity to prepare my thesis at the HSE Laboratory for Cognitive Research.

This laboratory has leading researchers who are available to support students. I received valuable mentorship from my supervisor during the process

Moreover, I had several opportunities to present my findings during laboratory meetings for discussions and feedback, which helped to fine-tune my work. 

At HSE University, a dissertation can be prepared based on two tracks: a collection of publications or a traditional dissertation made up of several chapters. Although I was qualified to go with the first option at the time of writing my thesis, I decided to go with the second option because I wanted to describe the main ideas of my thesis in a very detailed way to my readers. The process did not go as smoothly as initially expected, but, with the support of my supervisor, I was able to surmount this hurdle. He was constantly available to read my work and provide useful feedback. When the dissertation was finally ready, I had a pre-defence at the Laboratory for Cognitive Research with two external reviewers. I got unanimous positive feedback on the dissertation, which then allowed me to submit it to the dissertation council. As for the defence, the preparation went smoothly. After receiving feedback from the reviewers, I had enough time to prepare my responses. 

Executive Functions: The Ability to Regulate Emotions

My dissertation was devoted to the concept of emotion regulation and how mental skills influence our ability to regulate emotions. The ability to influence when and how we experience emotions has many benefits, such as overall improvement of mental health, psychosocial wellbeing, and attainment of goals. Since this ability is considered desirable, then what are some of the factors that could facilitate the ability to regulate one’s emotions? I focused on a special group of mental skills called ‘executive functions’. Executive functions are an advanced form of mental skills which includes working memory, flexibility in thinking, and self-control. I was interested in investigating how these functions could help harness the ability to regulate one’s emotions.

The results from a series of experiments suggest that our ability to update information in our working memory (a time-limited memory system) is positively associated with the ability to reappraise negative emotional information. This means that individuals who are able to quickly update information in their working memory are also more likely to reappraise negative information in order to have a reduced emotional impact. Again, the ability to inhibit automatic responses when necessary was positively associated with the ability to suppress a negative emotional experience.

The practical implication of the research is a potential application of the findings in clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience as well.

Clinicians, in their efforts to help people with inabilities to regulate their emotions, could utilise training programs aimed at improving executive functions

Science without Borders: Defending a Dissertation Remotely 

Before the day of my defence, I was quite anxious about two major issues: a stable internet connection and the laptop for the defence. I tried several locations and different internet service providers in Ghana to determine which would offer me the best internet connection. After settling on the location and internet service provider, I also prayed that there wouldn’t be any disruptions on that day. I had backup internet and a laptop available just in case. Fortunately, on the day of the defence, everything went smoothly. The presentation of my dissertation went well; I was able to answer all the questions and address the comments. In the end, the feedback was quite positive.  I was also encouraged to continue to explore unanswered questions in the topic under investigation.

Using HSE University’s Expertise to Advance Cognitive Science in Sub-Saharan Africa

My immediate plans are to continue researching cognitive processes and emotions. I have just been appointed as a lecturer responsible for teaching psychology-related courses and conducting research. I also look forward to getting a postdoctoral research opportunity where I can improve my research skills.

Cognitive Science is a relatively young field, and thus it is uncommon in Ghana and sub-Saharan Africa

It is my ultimate aim to introduce this field of study to Ghana and to promote research in cognitive processes. Presently, research on cognitive processes is mainly conducted outside the African continent. I therefore want to see studies emanating from Africa contributing substantially to cognitive science.

I am quite hopeful that I can get the opportunity to partner with leading universities like HSE University in the near future on joint projects in cognitive processes  

Dmitry Lyusin

Dmitry Lyusin, Leading Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Cognitive Research, Abdul-Raheem Mohammed’s Academic Supervisor

I am interested in working with international graduate and postgraduate students, since they have a different cultural and educational background. This means that they have a slightly different perspective on the material we study, and sometimes suggest quite unexpected interpretations and ideas. In addition, as we often work in research teams. Such communication enriches the experiences of Russian graduate and postgraduate students.

When Abdul-Raheem started studying on the master’s programme, he asked me to be his academic supervisor. He proved to be a very good student and proceeded onto his doctoral studies, where I was happy to continue supervising his research.

The defence process went well; we had a fruitful discussion with the reviewers, and their overall evaluation of the work was positive. We had some complications as we were preparing the defence process, since following our rules, at least one member of the Dissertation Committee should be a foreigner. But after the start of the military operation, some of our international colleagues were unable to participate, and we had to urgently look for a replacement.

Such cooperation is useful for HSE University—it is becoming more visible internationally. Our graduates, including our PhD degree holders, work in different countries and continue collaborating with HSE University. For example, Abdul-Raheem and I are planning to write another paper together and are thinking about further cooperation.

See also:

‘I Hope to Make Meaningful Contributions to the Academic Community’

Why do international students at HSE University decide to pursue a career in academia? What fields in economics are relevant to PhD students? Richard Asiamah from Ghana and Alesya Bukreeva from Uzbekistan are current master’s students at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, but have already received scholarships from the faculty to continue their studies as doctoral students at the university. Below, they share their experiences, while Denis Melnik, Academic Director of the Doctoral School of Economics, suggests some tips for the application process.

‘It’s a Very Small Area of Political Science, and Working to Redress That Is Very Satisfying’

On March 15, Judas Everett defended his doctoral dissertation ‘The Effect of the Patterns in the Dissolution of Communism on the Transition to New Systems in Eastern Europe’, which investigates the relationship between the demise of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe and the quality of democracy in the post-communist regime. The defence took place remotely. His academic supervisor was Professor Andrey Akhremenko of the HSE University School of Politics and Governance at the Faculty of Social Sciences. In his interview, Judas talks about the topic of his research and explains why political science is more important than ever.

1,700 International Participants Named Winners of Open Doors International Olympiad

On March 16, the results of the Open Doors International Olympiad for master’s and doctoral applicants were announced. The competition is organised by the Association of Global Universities with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia and the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo). HSE University is one of the Olympiad’s organisers and the site of its distributed project office.

‘My PhD Taught Me about Life, Professionalism, Research, and Controlling My Emotions’

Wai Yan Phyo Naing first came to HSE University from Myanmar to enrol in a master’s programme at the Faculty of World Economy and World Affairs in 2015. After graduation, he decided to pursue a PhD at the Doctoral School of International and Regional Studies. On February 16, 2023, he successfully defended his dissertation on ‘Evolution of Myanmar’s Policy Towards China (1988–2020)’.

‘Working in Academia Is My Lifelong Desire’

Majid Sohrabi is a 28 year-old student from Iran currently enrolled in a doctoral programme at the HSE University Faculty of Computer Science. Before starting his PhD, he graduated with honours from the university’s Master of Data Science programme. In addition to studying, he also works as an assistant at the School of Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence and a research assistant at the Laboratory for Models and Methods of Computational Pragmatics.

‘HSE University Gives You Everything You Need to Manage the Research Process’

Ion Frecautan chose to pursue his doctoral studies at HSE University because of its reputation as a leading research university and its extensive academic infrastructure. With the latest enrolment campaign for doctoral schools now underway, we spoke to Ion about his green finance research at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, his activities as a lecturer, and more.

Graduate Admissions Webinars: PhD Programme in Economics

On February 1, 2023, HSE University will open admissions to its doctoral schools. The Doctoral School of Economics has held a webinar for prospective students, which attracted participants from various parts of the world. Materials and feedback from the webinar, as well as information on applications, are now available on the Faculty of Economic Sciences website.

Over 56,000 Participants from 196 Countries Registered for Open Doors: Russian Scholarship Project

The first stage of the Open Doors: Russian Scholarship Project for prospective master’s and doctoral students has concluded. The winners of the competition get an opportunity to study at Russian universities for free. HSE University is among the most popular universities on the project.

Pursuing a PhD in Russia: ‘Attractive and Exotic’

After getting his Master’s degree in Computer Science in Rome, Julio Carrasquel decided not to pursue a corporate career in IT, but to move to Moscow to get a PhD at HSE University. As a result, he received a scholarship on the Advanced Doctoral Programme, successfully defended his thesis, and was named one of the university’s Best Teachers. Julio talked with the HSE News Service about his path in academia and life in Russia.

'I Believe That at HSE University, You Can Grow Bigger'

Tharaa Ali, from Syria, got her Master’s in Moscow and is now a first-year PhD student in informatics and computer engineering at HSE University. Below, she talks about the use of AI in learning, winning scholarships, and doing research at HSE University.