Undergraduate Research Opportunities
Independent Research Course: Psychology 83.1The BioMimetic and Cognitive Robotics (BCR) lab is dedicated to understanding the control and organization of behavior in animals. We use robots and computer simulation to test ideas of behavioral organization and control. Study and analysis of animal behavioral with real biological systems is an important part of our robot and simulation projects. Undergraduate psychology majors are encouraged to participate in robot, computer simulation or animal behavior projects that contribute to the BCR Lab mission. Independent Research (PSYCH 83.1) allows students to obtain research experience for college credit.
Project AreasNote: This list is intended as a guide. Students may propose projects within the aims of the BCR lab.
RoboticsRug Warrior Pro Robots: The BCR lab has five of Rug Warrior pro robots available for student projects. These are robots that are equipped with light, sound and proximity sensors and are programmable in C. Writing software for these robots is a way to explore theories of brain function. In a task environment of the studentís choosing the student can study models of spatial learning and memory, sensory-motor integration, or decision making processes.
Computer SimulationEnvironmental Olfaction & Fluid Mechanics/LIF data analysis: In the study of olfaction the ways in which the odor moves from its source to the nose (or antennae) of an animal is a very important and poorly understood area of knowledge. The use of Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF) allows one to visualize how odor moves through space and capture it in movies. The BCR lab has large databases of LIF data and exploration of this database using quantitative methods is something that independent study students could undertake. Odor Plume Tracking: in the LIF environment: The LIF databases can also be used as a "simulation environment" in which it is possible to study the consequences of different brain architectures and behavioral strategies in dealing with real-world turbulent signals. The aim of this type of project would be to test and develop ideas of chemo-orientation that might ultimately end up in one of the odor tracking robots. The projects require computer programming in the C or C++. Learning Models: Computational models allow us to study learning with artificial systems like computers and robots. In the BCR lab we study classical, operant, Bayesian or implicit (self organized) paradigms inspired by animal and human learning mechanisms. Simulation studies may be combined with Rug Warrior Pro robots for implementation.
Animal BehaviorSlipper Lobsters: These clawless lobsters are common around the world and we keep two Caribbean species on the BC campus. They live almost exclusively on clams, mussels and oysters. They have evolved a set of very interesting behaviors which allow them to open the shells of their food that uses acute dexterity rather than the brute force of their clawed cousins. They manipulate and pry at the shell using powerful yet surprisingly delicate specialized legs. When they find a weakness they "shuck" their prey by reaching inside the shell and cutting the abductor muscle with one of their legs. The sensory and motor control issues in this system are largely unknown and this is also an interesting area for study. Many observational and experimental studies are possible to explore this behavior.
Spiny Lobsters: These clawless cousins of the slipper lobster have long delicate antennules with which they sample their odor world. These paired antennules are the "nose" of the lobster. Much is known about how the brain of these lobsters processes chemical information but little is known about how they use these movable "noses" to gather information from a complex world dominated by turbulent flows. Students can study how these animals move and use their antennules and contribute to an ongoing program of studies on olfactory learning in these animals.
Monk Parrots: BC has a stable resident population of Argentinean Monk Parrots. They build large communal nests and live in communities with complex social structure. The BCR lab has been building a database on the behavior and activity of this population for the past two years. Students in the BCR lab can contribute to this effort with observational projects.
Qualifications: To be eligible to participate in Independent Research (Psych 83.1) a student must:
If you are interested in independent research in the BCR lab contact Professor Frank W. Grasso for details:
By email at fgrasso @ brooklyn.cuny.edu;
or by phone at (718) 951 - 5966