Francisca Diaz Riquelme

Francisca Diaz Riquelme, PhD student, psychological and brain sciences

Seeks origins of human cognition

“Although having research experience in different countries and labs, as well as having a fruitful background of research papers, Fran was always humble about her competence and was always grounded in sharing her knowledge with others.” -Hanlong Fan, clinical trial research coordinator

Santiago, Chile

Faculty mentor/advisor:
Ed Wasserman, PhD, Dewy B. Stuit Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

What is your degree program and anticipated graduation date?
Psychology PhD, 2024

Please describe your research:
My research focuses on the comparison of how human and non-human animals learn, organize, and store information. Specifically, I’m interested in the cognitive mechanisms underlying the comprehension of abstract concepts like numerosity. I’m studying the effect that the perceptual features of stimuli have on approximate numerical discriminations for humans and pigeons.

In simple terms, why does this research matter?
Most humans interact with non-human animals on a daily basis. From these interactions we can intuitively recognize that animals share many cognitive abilities with us. The scientific study of such abilities expands our knowledge of how other species organize and understand their experience in this world. Additionally, by comparing other species’ cognitive abilities to our own, we can better comprehend the origins of our own cognition.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research?
I began my research work at Dr. Wasserman’s lab as soon as I started at the University of Iowa

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?
Doing research, I have gained technical and scientific skills that have been vital for my success as a graduate student. Additionally, learning about animals’ cognitive abilities has changed the way I see them as well as it has strengthened my appreciation and love for them.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation?
After I graduate I plan to pursue a career in academia and continue doing research on comparative cognition and animal behavior.

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