Student Spotlight Profile- Natalie Ulrich

  1. Who are you? Tell us a little bit about your background and your current position (e.g., Which year of graduate school? Whose lab?) My name is Natalie Ulrich, I studied psychology at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany and have received my diploma in 2012. I then spent the next years in the lab of Johannes Hewig (also University of Wuerzburg) as a graduate student and finished my PhD in October 2016 (3-5 years is the average time for a PhD with a psychophysiological research project in Germany). After my PhD I changed universities and am now working as a postdoc in the lab of Roman Osinsky at the University of Osnabrueck.
  2. What are your research interests? Why does this interest you? In my dissertation project I investigated the processing of near outcomes in gambling games and whether people with and without problematic gambling behavior differ in the processing of these outcomes. To give an example for a near outcome: Imagine you are gambling on a three-reel slot machine. The first two reels have stopped on the same symbol, however, on the third reel this symbol stopped just short of the payline. Thus, you’ve lost, however this kind of outcome (called a “near miss”) creates the feeling of having almost won. In my research, I’ve chosen a multi-method approach, collecting EEG- , fMRI- and peripheral physiology data regarding the reactions to these outcomes. Getting a better understanding of how we process near outcomes can eventually help us to better understand their behavioral and motivational properties (e.g.: near misses compared to other misses motivate people to continue gambling). I have recently started working on another line of projects regarding the biopsychological basis of a personality trait called “need for cognitive closure” (NFCC). People high in NFCC seek to quickly close any open decisions (in a broad sense) in order to avoid the ambiguity associated with such situations. So far, very little research on neuronal correlates has been done in this area and I have always been interested in neuronal correlates of personality traits. Regarding the choice of this particular trait: a good friend of mine once said “Research is me-search” J I certainly have a higher need for closure in some situations than other people.
  3. What are you most looking forward to in the coming year regarding your work? Starting a new line of research is always exciting. I’m curious about the outcome of our first experiments and where this will lead us. I also enjoy teaching very much and am very fortunate to be able to work with some really motivated students on new projects. Finally, I am currently planning a seminar on the analysis of event-related potentials and am learning a lot myself while preparing the materials.
  4. What are your plans for the next stage in your career? The current stage in my career is the postdoc phase. In Germany, this typically takes 5-6 years. My overall plan for this stage is to further my research and explore new, interesting research questions, while at the same time involving motivated students in this process to get them in touch with research early on.
  5. What are your long term goals related to psychophysiological research? Other long term goals? While I’ve so far focused on several psychophysiological measures, my long term goal is to focus on one or two measures (one of them very likely being EEG) and developing a deep understanding of the various information contained in the different approaches to analyzing your data. For example, I would like to learn a lot more about time-frequency analysis in EEG. My long term career goal, of course, is a permanent position in academia (preferably at a university, since I like both research and working with students)
  6. When did you become a member of SPR? I’ve been an SPR member since 2013, when I attended my first SPR conference.
  7. What has your experience been like as a member of SPR? Being a member of SPR and attending the annual conference is a great experience and I would highly recommend it to any student doing psychophysiological research. The SPR really values its student members, and presenting your research at the SPR enables you to get a lot of really good feedback on your work. Furthermore, you get to know a lot of great people! In a way, SPR is like a big family J Also, SPR offers a lot of special interest events at its annual conference, a lot of which are very interesting for students (e.g. Early Career Conversation Hour, Women in Science Luncheon, Roundtable Discussions on specific topics).
  8. Have you been involved with any SPR committees? If so, what was your experience like with these? Yes, I’ve been involved in SPR committees and this is actually one of the things I really love about this society. It’s super easy to get involved and there is a really welcoming atmosphere, especially in the Committee to Promote Student Interests, where I’ve done most of my committee work so far. Through my committee work I’ve gotten to know quite a few people within SPR, both junior and senior. If you’re reading this and thinking about getting involved I can only encourage you to do so! Within the Committee to Promote Student Interests, we’ve got a variety of different subcommittees, each dealing with different kinds of tasks. You like writing? Then the Newsletter Subcommittee might be for you. You like organizing events? Consider joining the Early-Career Subcommittee which is in charge of organizing the Early Career Conversation Hour. Got a new idea to implement? We’re excited to hear about it! As you might have noticed, I really enjoy working on this committee
  9. What is your best memory of SPR? There is no single best memory of the SPR, but what I’ve always kept in good memory so far, are the Saturday night socials with the SPR Blues Band playing. That’s always been a great finish for a great conference. (For those who haven’t been to SPR yet or have somehow missed the SPR Blues Band: it consists of SPR members from various levels and covers classic songs; on the dance floor you can meet everyone – from new graduate students to senior researchers. Simply a great experience)