Hi. My name is Kate. I study people.
Years ago, I began my journey of education at Indiana University with every intention of becoming a geologist. I was interested in rocks and minerals, and the idea of having a career outdoors seemed like a dream.
My whole plan changed when my IU route crashed unexpectedly into the Cognitive Science Program.
The natural next step was to jump into research.
I went searching for one research lab to call home and stumbled upon countless opportunities. Fortunately, the research community at IU welcomes young scientists with open arms. Mistake-making is perceived as part of the learning process.
I gained my science sea legs in Rich Shiffrin’s Memory and Perception Lab, where I first witnessed how cognitive science happens. I learned to analyze decisions while studying food choice and mate choice in Peter Todd’s Adaptive Behavior and Cognition Lab. I became familiar with the intricacy of empirical design when I took on an investigation of taste and sound perception in Jim Sherman’s Social Brain & Cognition Lab.
Later, I learned about the use of space in problem solving when I got involved in David Landy’s mathematical thought projects. I was motivated by the seemingly limitless scope of possible research questions. The cognitive science community helped me learn how to think, and further, taught me how to think about thinking — a skill essential for my future.
Near the end of my time at IU, I met Kylie Peppler, director of The Creativity Labs. Her work is a blend of all things I am a magnet to: cognition, art, education, creativity. She introduced me to the world of learning science, but even more importantly, she taught me how to relentlessly pursue creative research goals.
When I met Kylie, she informed me that a new research project was about to start: Re-Crafting Mathematics, an exploration of emergent mathematics in traditionally female crafts. This project, which would be funded by the National Science Foundation, was unlike any other research I had done in the past. She shared that the two key goals of the work were to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics learning environments and to draw more young women to STEM fields. I was so excited about the opportunity that I told Kylie I needed to work for her during that first meeting. Luckily, Kylie was looking to add to her team.
“Do you knit?” she asked.
The answer was no, but Kylie gave me the opportunity to learn to knit during the first phase of Re-Crafting Mathematics. Phase one comprised a detailed ethnography of women’s crafting groups. I became the embedded knitter by quite literally embedding myself in knitting circles.
Through careful observation and hands-on learning experiences, I made friends with knits and purls, and began to understand the inherently mathematical nature of the craft. The idea that fiber art may be used as a creative medium through which to teach computational notions now seems possible. These are ideas I would not have entertained, had it not been for the Kylie’s research.
It is important to me to communicate the quality of educational nutrients I received at IU.
I was given the opportunity to explore multiple avenues of interest, so I added a degree in philosophy. I learned that one cannot understand people without peering at culture, so I picked up a minor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology.
I was introduced to the music of Frank Zappa and later became the teaching assistant for Andy Hollinden’s rock ‘n’ roll history courses. I was passed by many bikes, so I started to ride one. I was exposed to a truly outstanding music community, so I tacked on a music minor. Perry Hodges insisted all of her students keep a journal, so I did and as such, I learned the art of reflection. I was asked to make decisions and was allowed to change my mind. I spent a lot of time talking to people and even more time listening to them. I was required to read and read and read. I was encouraged to be inquisitive, so I started to ask questions and never really stopped. This is what happens when you plant a seed of curiosity and let it grow.
Now I am swept up in a fantastic job. I am a research associate for Disney Research in Pittsburgh, Penn.
What does a researcher do? We ask questions. Lots of them. Every day.
We use science to look for the answers to those inquiries. I would not be in the spot I am now if I had not been equipped with the skills to carve the path here. My education at Indiana University was complex, challenging, and multi-faceted, yet it gifted me with a very simple morsel of thought to carry in my pocket each day: Find something you are genuinely interested in, and care about it wholeheartedly. Open up to things unfamiliar. Climb up out of the box and think out there. It is such a joy!