UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Marie Mueller, The Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain

“The Ecological Brain Doctoral Training Programme follows a highly interdisciplinary approach, bringing together experts from a range of disciplines."

Marie Mueller, The Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain

Marie Mueller is a first year student studying The Leverhulme Doctoral Training Programme for the Ecological Study of the Brain within Division of Psychology and Language Sciences. 

1. What is your educational background?

I have a background in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I studied my Bachelor of Science in psychology at University of Luebeck and University of Zurich in Germany and Switzerland. I continued my studies with a Master of Research in cognitive neuroscience at UCL. After a year as a research assistant in Switzerland, I returned to UCL and am now a PhD student in the Ecological Brain Doctoral Training Programme.

2. What are your motivations for pursuing a PGR?

My motivations for pursuing a PhD are to develop expertise and associated skills in my areas of interest that are psychology, neuroscience, and the built environment. I enjoy working in research a lot and can see myself pursuing a career in academia and making important contributions to my field. Nevertheless, I am also open to a non-academic career and believe that probably all of the skills I will acquire during my PhD will be transferrable to a job outside of academia.

3. Why did you apply to UCL Brain Sciences?

The Ecological Brain Doctoral Training Programme seemed to fit my interests and skills perfectly. When I found out about the programme, I knew I wanted to apply (even though that meant I had to give up my previous position). The Ecological Brain DTP follows a highly interdisciplinary approach and brings together experts from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, architecture, and engineering. The list of experts involved in the programme, the great research facilities, and UCL’s very good reputation all played an important role in my decision to apply to the programme.

4. What is the best thing about your course?

One of the best things about my course is that it is highly interdisciplinary and concentrates knowledge and expertise from many different disciplines. It gives me the chance to be open for new perspectives and learn from other fields. Another great thing is the rotation year that precedes the actual three years of my PhD project. It gives me the opportunity to explore three different laboratories or workgroups for three months each to make an informed decision about my own PhD project.

5. What do you find interesting about your field of study and what inspires you?

I am interested in the intersection of psychology and neuroscience and the built environment. How can we use our knowledge about human brain and behaviour to build places that support human health and well-being, human navigation, human social interactions, human productivity, and so on? I find this question interesting and relevant because a human lives her whole life in a kind of space, be it on the streets of her city, in her home, or in her office. Everything happens in "space". So why don’t we design this space for people's needs and satisfaction?

6. What are your career plans once you’ve completed your current programme of study at UCL?

I am still at the beginning of my PhD, so I am not 100 per cent sure what career I want to follow afterwards. However, I will either pursue a career in academia to make scientific contributions to my field or a non-academic career in, for instance, industry to apply my knowledge to the real world.

7. Do you think studying at UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences is a good investment?

Yes, definitely.

8. Have you undertaken any networking opportunities either as part of your degree or outside of your studies?

I have attended a couple of conferences, meetings, and talks, and I am also active on Twitter to build a relevant work-related network.

9. What is it like studying in London and how do you think it has benefited your studies?

Studying in London is amazing. I love the great diversity of people in this city, and I have never been as open to new things and perspectives as I am now. Also, London has a lot to offer and makes it quite easy to keep a balance between work and life.

10.  Has there been an element of your degree programme that has impressed you or been particularly valuable?

I am impressed by the very long list of supervisors and the amazing research facilities that are associated to my programme and that will be very valuable throughout the course of my PhD. I am also very happy with the rotation-year that gives me the opportunity to explore different laboratories and develop my own research question. Finally, I am excited about the potential connections to industry that the programme offers me, too.

11. If you received funding either through a scholarship, award, studentship or bursary, how has it helped you achieve your aspirations and what impact has it had on your studies?

The Ecological Brain Doctoral Training Programme offers five fully funded PhD positions every year. Thanks to the funding, I do not have to worry about tuition fees and I also receive a small extra that covers my basic living costs. The funding helps me to fully concentrate on my studies (without getting into debt).