INTERVIEW: Mathis Kaiser on being a Lab Manager at SCIoI
Mathis Kaiser had a talk with Solveig Steinhardt
Mathis, what does it mean to be a lab manager at SCIoI?
As lab managers, we facilitate researchers’ access to the equipment and services they need to successfully carry out their experiments. We coordinate and manage lab usage, purchase and document equipment, and support researchers by developing and implementing technical solutions for specific problems.
Describe your day at SCIoI
The day usually starts by resolving researchers’ requests that came in via our ticket system – classic examples would include somebody asking for an introduction to one of the labs, or for a new piece of equipment. We usually have a few bigger purchasing projects going on at a time, so I often work on one of these by clarifying specifications with involved researchers or preparing a call for tenders.
I might then meet up with a scientist to discuss setting up a new experiment and how to best meet their technical and temporal requirements. When I have time, I like taking a walk through the labs, getting in touch with researchers and hearing about their current work and challenges they may be facing.
You’ve been at SCIoI since the very beginning, so you’ve really witnessed the birth and growth of a Cluster of Excellence. How have things changed in this time?
When I arrived in late 2019, the coordination office consisted of three people, and about 15 research projects had just started. We only had a few offices and a temporary lab, and had to bootstrap the rest of the infrastructure. Now, the coordination office consists of almost 15 people, and there are about 45 research projects. Starting with a big construction site, we set up two large open space labs (housing a motion capture system, humanoid and swarm robots as well as robot arms), an EEG- and an eye-tracking lab, as well as electrical and mechanical workshops. It’s great seeing these efforts come to fruition with researchers actively using the facilities.
You have a background in psychology, neuroscience, and audiovisual perception. That sounds perfectly fitting for SCIoI. In what ways are you able to use this knowledge and experience in our cluster?
These disciplines represent the analytical side of SCIoI, so there are a lot of researchers sharing a similar background, which facilitates our conversations. My PhD research in audiovisual perception has equipped me with an appreciation for the importance of integrating different sensory signals to successfully navigate one’s environment – an aspect I also recognized in the robotic systems developed on the synthetic side of SCIoI.
Can you define Open Science? Why is it important? And how are you promoting Open Science within Science of Intelligence?
Open Science is a set of practices aiming to increase the transparency, reproducibility, reusability, and accessibility of the research process and its results. These include sharing data and code, publishing in open access journals, and engaging the general public in scientific knowledge production.
This is important for reasons of quality assurance, and there is evidence that adopting these practices brings benefits to the researchers as well. Most importantly, I think that complex research questions concerning intelligent behavior can only be answered collaboratively.
The research data committee at SCIoI, which I’m a member of, has recently developed a research data policy guided by Open Science principles. One outcome of this will be a public register of datasets and software produced by the SCIoI projects.
What is the best part about working at Science of Intelligence?
I would say the interaction with colleagues and researchers from such a huge variety of fields, and the learning opportunities that come with that.