Diar: MSc Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics

Diar, an alumnus of the MSc Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics programme, describes his experiences of the course and of life in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham.


Hi. So my name is Diar, and I'm currently working as a research associate for the University of Birmingham, and I'm based in the Hills Building – part of the School of Psychology. 

The course is called the Computational Neurosciences and Cognitive Robotics, and I completed the Masters last year in this course, and it’s an interdisciplinary course between the School of Psychology and the Computer Sciences building. And what they’ve put together, a course that can offer students modules from both schools, so they can choose whichever ones they want to put emphasis on either psychology side of things or the – more the computational side, programming side of things. And I think the University of Birmingham has done a great job in doing that. 

The course delivery is structured in a way that students have access to the lectures as well as a lab after the lectures based on that lecture. So you have practical experience on the theoretical side of things which I find very useful and, you know, doing the applicable side of things is always very useful – you learn the most that way. Basically also about the lab work, we have access to the labs here which is great because we can just book the lab using the University of Birmingham site that the School has provided. 

As you see we can also use the Falcon here which is a haptic device that the University has provided via the School of Psychology, and we can come and book this device and play around with it, programme it and learn from it basically. We can also book students to test on so we can just use the RPS system which I mentioned before – Research Participation Scheme, and students can just book a session and come in for testing and we can test them basically either for pilot or full blown tests. So practical experience and involvement in industries is quite a big side of the School of Psychology and the Computer Science building, and also a big side of the computation neuroscience course that I did – the CNCR course. So what they try to do is get students involved in bigger projects that are greater than just a master project, and it’s so that the students get involved, get to know the people, get networking. We also have industry partners come and visit and we can speak to them about potential projects, potential work that we can do for them, and they're happy also to fund us and to help us further our scientific research. 

One big side of the practical experience is also that the industry gets involved with us. So we have industrial partners like Procter and Gamble and Gillette that come in and they want us to do some scientific work on something that they want to develop; it could be a product – a future product, or it could just be scientific so that it can back up what products that they have currently.  And we get even students involved in this work – I've been working on a project like that myself with Procter and Gamble where we try to develop the next generation of bottles they use, using participants to use the bottle and motion tracking to track the movement of the bottle and the way they use it. 

So I believe that this is one of the most unique courses that is offered in the University of Birmingham and I haven't seen this course anywhere else in the world or in the places that I looked in the world. So in that way it’s quite unique and special.