Eight legs and a mind for numbers

We are seeking a motivated undergraduate student to work on a project related to invertebrate visual cognition. 

Our lab primarily investigates visual perception and behavior in jumping spiders. These charismatic spiders have eight eyes and see the world very differently than we do. To study this, we use specialized technology such as an eye tracker, with which we can show jumping spiders everything from cartoons of their prey to nature documentaries on YouTube and see what interests them. Our work was featured in the New York Times and PBS! Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000006182460/how-to-give-a-spider-an-eye-test.html and here: https://youtu.be/GyUlaHxsZqA?feature=shared 

The advertised project borrows looking time and expectancy violation paradigms from human psychology to help us uncover how jumping spiders might use working memory to categorize and count objects. 

To apply, include:

  1. Your résumé
  2. A copy of your transcript
  3. A description of relevant background and interests, including courses in animal behavior, psychology, neuroscience, or computer-intensive work (about 200 words)
  4. Contact information for two references, with at least one of them an academic (a TA who knows you well is fine)

This position is offered through research credits or work-study. Preference will be given to sophomores and juniors, but seniors are also encouraged to apply. Applicants from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply. You must commit to a minimum of 6 hours per week (2 credit hours), 4 hours of which need to be consecutive for research (one remaining hour is for lab meetings, the other lab maintenance tasks). We provide opportunities to develop experiments into honors thesis projects. If you have questions, please email Alex (amwinsor@umass.edu) and cc Professor Jakob (ejakob@umass.edu). 

Name of research group, project, or lab
Jakob Lab (Biology), in collaboration with Park Lab (PBS)
Why participate in this opportunity?

Are you passionate about animals? We are offering an opportunity to train an enthusiastic student interested in learning how to think like a scientist and conduct novel research.

Logistics Information:
Subject Category
Animal Behavior
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

We are looking for someone reliable and independent. Comfort with computer use and data entry is preferred; training on specific programs will be provided. Fine motor skills and attentiveness to detail are also very helpful (jumping spiders are tiny and need to be given eye exams)! 

Time commitment
5-7 h/wk
8-10 h/wk
11-14 h/wk
Position Types and Compensation
Research - Ind. Study Credit
Research - Paid, Work-Study Req.
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Designing experiments, collecting data using specialized optics equipment, data analysis, Processing or R (if desired), and combining methods from human psychology and animal behavior.

Project start
September 3, 2024
Contact Information:
Alex Winsor
PhD Candidate
Name of project director or principal investigator
Elizabeth Jakob
Email address of project director or principal investigator
1 sp. | 15 appl.
5-7 h/wk (+2)
5-7 h/wk8-10 h/wk11-14 h/wk
Project categories
Animal Behavior