Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Meron Vermaas

Date of news: 4 April 2017

Meron_VermaasFor this month's The Life Of…, we Interviewed Meron Vermaas, who is a PhD student at the DCN Neuroinformatics department and is working on modeling electrode data.

What's your name, nationality, current function, and department?

Meron Vermaas, Dutch, PhD student, DCN, Neuroinformatics

What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?

My project involves modeling electrodes for efficient and selective extracellular recordings of nervous tissue. Which means I spend most of my time working together with my computer ;p We want to develop a way to predict what kind of intracranial EEG electrode properties are key to measuring typical activation patterns. This way we can explore what information can be found in actual data.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A garbageman, or waste collector if you want to go fancy. It seemed an appealing job to me when I was young for two reasons. First, you get to check out all the wonderful stuff people throw away. Second (most important) you can stand behind the truck all badass. I am not sure where I went wrong in my career not to end up there.

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?

I did a Bachelor's in Psychology with a lot of biology and physics courses on the side. During my master Neuroscience and Cognition I mostly focused on MRI methods and the visual system. Then, before finishing my final thesis on local field potentials, I started a job at a small IT company where I did database programming. At some point this did not seem fulfilling anymore, neuroscience kept calling me. So I answered and finally finished the thesis, after which I did a small research project on modeling electrodes. Next I did a short programming job developing software that can be used by locked-in patients to be able to have a brain-computer interface at home, which is described in this short_video Then, finally, I started with my current PhD project and now I’m here, writing about my life.

Who are you working with and what do these collaborations look like?

My project is part of the NeuroCIMT programme which consists of eight different projects and so it inherently has a collaborative nature. The project I am part of “invasive sensing” has the overall goal to study the closed-loop system involved in motion of the hand using novel electrode grids. It is divided into three parts that will need to be combined. One project consists of data acquisition and analysis, one project (mine) models the data and the final project investigates a biomechanical model of the hand.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

For my perfect weekend I like to start to make an elaborate breakfast with my girlfriend. Think scones, gallo pinto, shakshuka, huevos rancheros. The rest of the day doesn’t need too much for me, most time is spent reading a fictional book, catch up on a few TV series and a lot of trombone practice. In the evening I ideally play a concert myself (for example me playing here or  here) or listen to a concert or opera. On Sunday I like to read some articles to get my day started, try some things that I just did not get to work during the week and make a fantastic dinner with my girlfriend for all friends and family members that want to show up.

What is your favorite book and why?

Quite an impossible question to answer, since there are so many favorites! I’ll just choose one then, I think it is only available in Dutch though… So for those who won’t be able to read it I’ll describe briefly what it is about. The book is called “De maagd Marino” (the virgin Marino) by Yves Petry and the premise of the story is how one man asks another to kill him and eat parts of him (which really happened in Germany ). As horrific as it may sound, I would not describe the book as horror or gore. Rather philosophical, in search of reasons that motivated those men to have done this act.

Do you have any handy PhD project-related tips and tricks to share?

It is a time management classic, but hard to actually live by: ‘Don’t spend more than half an hour on something that is not important or urgent’. Before starting on something really ask yourself how much time you are willing to invest in it!