Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Ying Zhou

Date of news: 24 October 2017

Ying Zhou is a PhD student working on perceptualYing Zhou decision making project under supervision of Dr. Floris de Lange in Donders Institute for brain,  cognition and behavior.

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

My name is Joey (Ying Zhou), and I'm from China. I'm now working at the Donders Institute of Cognitive Neuroimaging as a 1st-year PhD student.

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

My PhD project is about perceptual decision making under uncertainty. Imagine you are a trying to estimate the speed and direction of a car when crossing the street. When the weather is fine, you see the car clearly - the sensory information your brain receives is accurate or in other words, of low uncertainty. Yet when it's rainy or foggy, you barely see the contour of the car and the sensory information is ambiguous (of high uncertainty). How the brain decides the sensory characteristics (e.g., the speed of a car) under different uncertainty levels is of particular interest for my phd study.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I actually wanted to become a psychotherapist when I was in high school.

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

Before I came to the Donders as a PhD student, I've stayed in New York City studying at NYU towards my MA degree in psychology for 2 years. I guess I'm just the type of person who really wish to see the world by staying and studying in different countries, so I decided to apply for a phd studentship in the EU. Floris' lab at the Donders is one of the dream labs on my list when I did the searching. I'm very grateful that Floris, after many back-and-forth emails and a few Skype interviews, provided the opportunity for me to work here in this amazing place!

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

Like I mentioned before, I'm working mainly with Dr. Floris de Lange. Working with Floris is very enjoyable. He's very supportive in both research and career development. I remembered how relaxed I've been since our first conversation. He's just a very good friend that you will never hesitate to approach for suggestions/feedbacks.

What does the Donders Institute mean to you?

The place I work and get my PhD degree I guess.

What aspect of your job do you excel at?

I would say.. ummmm... debugging at matlab probably?

What aspect of your job is or has been a challenge for you?

Understanding all the math behind the models has been a challenge for me.

Who inspires you the most and why?

My current advisors and pre-advisors in college and NYU all have great impacts on me. It's their endless passion and curiosity about the world that have driven me to investigate the world even further.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Staying with someone I love. Not a very creative answer but, as long as it's sweet.

What is your favorite book and why?

Harry Potter, perhaps. I like it cause it always reminds me about love, friendship, and personal growth.

What is an important life lesson you have learned in the past?

Be brave and be straightforward, that's an important lesson I learned during my stay in the States. Given that I'm born and bred in mainland China and has been taught to be silent and to always follow the crowds, being straightforward and speaking out loud for my own is really a huge step in self development.

What is the most important advice you want to share with Donders PhD


Be brave and reach out for more opportunities.

If you could go back and do one thing differently about your PhD project, what would it be?

To start with an easier 1st-year project I guess.

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

We can always borrow a soft ruler from Uriel whenever we need it. It's for free.

What are you looking forward to in life?

A long and stable relationship..

What is the worst work-related mistake you made and how did you rebound from that?

I mistyped one parameter in my experimental code and that led to extraordinary increase in processing time.

Is there a project or anything you're involved with that you'd like to promote?

Nope.. not for now cause I'm technically new at the Donders. Yet I will be more than happy to share when I find one.