Reach the full potential


Which interventions help to reduce the consequences of negative prejudices against certain student groups and thus increase their chances of success? CATALPA junior researcher Nathalie Bick is currently investigating this question at an Ivy League college.


Photo: Privat

As part of her research visit to the Future of Learning Lab at Cornell University, the PhD student is preparing materials for an experiment that will be conducted in Hagen in April. Thereby, she is working on a central component of the Stereotype Threat junior research group led by PD Dr. Laura Froehlich. Science Communicator Sandra Kirschbaum interviewed Nathalie Bick on her research stay.

Sandra Kirschbaum: What was the reason for the research visit?

Nathalie Bick: During my stay, I’m currently preparing materials for an intervention to be launched at the FernUniversität in Hagen starting in the summer semester. The reason for the stay was, on the one hand, the excellent fit between the Future of Learning Lab and CATALPA and my research interests and, on the other hand, the desire to establish an international cooperation and benefit from the impressions of a reserach visit abroad.

Sandra Kirschbaum: How are things going so far?

Nathalie Bick: I am happy with my decision to come here. Every day is a new experience and I can learn so much, both professionally and structurally as well as personally. I try to incorporate the expertise that I am confronted with into my own work. Although I've only been here for a few weeks, I can already see the benefits and progress for my research. I'm making good progress with the projects unrelated to the intervention and have already been able to develop some ideas for the intervention in discussions with Prof. Rene Kizilcec, who leads the working group. In the next days, we will meet again with my supervisor Laura Froehlich to continue working on the project in an even more targeted way. I am very optimistic that my stay here will enable the study to reach its full potential.

Sandra Kirschbaum: Why did you choose Cornell University and the Future of Learning Lab?

Nathalie Bick: The head of the Future of Learning Lab has done a great deal of research on various social psychological interventions in the online context. The aim is to benefit from his expertise in the field for the implementation of an intervention as part of our research at CATALPA. In addition, the Future of Learning Lab, just as CATALPA, works in a very intersectional way. It is in the College of Computing and Information Science, works a lot with student data and examines numerous education-related issues. As an Ivy League University, Cornell is of course also interesting to me for other activities. For example, I attend lectures in social psychology and learning analytics.

Sandra Kirschbaum: What have been your highlights so far?

Nathalie Bick: There is a lot of water here. Lakes, waterfalls and rivers are really everywhere. Last weekend I saw frozen waterfalls for the first time, very impressive. A work-related highlight was Prof. Kizilcec's idea of writing and submitting a paper within a few weeks and getting me on board. The experience of working so efficiently with a team from different disciplines in such a short time was fascinating.

Sandra Kirschbaum: Now you're not traveling alone, but have your little daughter with you. How do you manage to reconcile the two?

Nathalie Bick: In the end, everything worked out great. CATALPA and Laura Froehlich's junior research group are supporting the trip financially and I booked accommodation in a family community on campus relatively early on. This turned out to be a real stroke of luck. My mother is there to look after my daughter and it works unexpectedly well for me to focus on my job because the two of them get along so well. I can only recommend asking someone to take care of the child who is looking forward to spending every second with the child. In my case, that makes work even more enjoyable.

Sandra Kirschbaum: What will happen when you are back in Hagen? Will there be further exchanges?

Nathalie Bick: Last week at the lab meeting I asked if I could also sign up for things that take place after my stay and Prof. Kizilcec said that my affiliation to the lab is not limited to my physical presence. So yes, I think there will be further exchange. The study doesn't start until April and I think there will be other overlap with the members of the lab.