Can taking up a new activity help our thinking skills as we age?
That’s a key question for researchers interested in cognitive ageing, the field that explores how thinking skills change over the life course, and what factors might be associated with those changes.
The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt University’s Department of Psychology have made it their mission to find out how new activities could affect our thinking skills as we age.
As we age, we are more likely to experience changes in our thinking and memory skills (these are referred to as our mental or cognitive abilities). Some people experience declines in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain their abilities into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence the likelihood of mental decline. Keeping engaged in intellectual, social or physical activities have all been proposed as potentially beneficial.
In our major study in The Ageing Lab, we are asking people take up new and challenging activities to see how those might have benefits for their thinking skills, as well as their health and wellbeing more broadly. We’re on target to have over 300 people in that study, and the results will be reported later this year. But there’s still time for people to take part. To find out what that might involve, here are what some of our current participants think about their experiences.
Don’t just take our word for it; it regularly tops the polls for best place to live, work and study in Europe.
This week it reached the top spot of the Arcadis poll – read the full article here
This city knows how to put on a good show, we are constantly struck by the way both residents and visitors alike embrace a party, and this year’s holiday celebrations wont let us down. There’s so much to see and do, so if you are sticking around our campus this year, please get out into the city and take in some of the many fun filled events going on.
Here are some of our highlights:
The Edinburgh Torchlight Procession
Join in with the thousands of people that take to the streets on the 30th December to say goodbye to 2018; There will be Bagpipers, Drummers and its all to celebrate the end of the Year of Young People here in Scotland. The money raised goes goes to One City Trust, fighting inequality and exclusion in the City of Edinburgh. Buy your tickets here
The Loony Dook
Its the first day of the year and one of our newer traditions here in Edinburgh is to start the year with a refreshing dip in the North sea..! Well why not, they started this in the 1980s and it seems to have stuck You can ‘dook’ in the safety of numbers both in South Queensferry under the Forth Rail Bridge or at Edinburgh’s beach resort Portabello – Portie to the locals. Or those of you less partial to freezing cold waters can just grab a hot chocolate and watch the rest of the fancy dressed brigade do it instead.
The Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Ceilidh
Well who doesn’t love a Ceilidh right? We love them here at SoSS and have our own Postgraduate one in January to celebrate Burns Night, so if you want to practice your moves then go along and join this one in the street to see in the new year. This will be big and bold and has some of Scotlands leading Ceilidh bands at it too – Jimi Shandrix Experience, Hugh MacDiarmid’s Haircut, and Ceilidhdonia.
SoSS met with Carina Gerards; 2018’s successful Array Marketing Intern
Carina had just completed her internship in the Toronto head office of Array. She was one of two students who successfully applied and took part in a dissertation project for the global cosmetic visual merchandiser. Carina is originally from Germany, and travelled to Edinburgh to study her MSc with us – she graduates this November.
How are you Carina, now that you have completed your Internship and your MSc with us?
“I am feeling relaxed, I love research so the dissertation part of my degree was fascinating for me. I hope to do a PhD in the future as research projects are where my interests lie. I am heading back to Germany where I hope to apply for a PhD.”
Carina popped into the SoSS Marketing office this summer to give us the low down on the Array internship. During our discussions she described Array as a ‘social and warm cosmetic company’. Carina had previously worked in for several cosmetic companies in Germany; with one in particular proving a negative experience. This made her question if she ever wanted to work in that specific industry again. Thankfully Array – and Honorary Professor Tom Hendren changed her mind. Her first encounter with Array was Professor Hendren’s pitch’ to the International Marketing Management masters cohort to invite them to apply for the once in a lifetime internship with his company.
“Professor Hendren’s presentation to my class was relaxed and open, I could tell from this that Array were a great company to work with. Tom had such a natural approach and seemed so rooted – this was incredibly important to me”.
How did you apply for the Array internship?
“I had to submit my CV, create a written cover letter in support of the opportunity and then interview. As I had worked in the beauty industry previously (for a German company which operates in 53 countries globally), I knew that my experience was relevant. I was not however taking it easy.”
Carina described how she was so nervous she went into the interview shaking with fear! Tom Hendren, Elaine Collinson (a leading academic on the Business Management programme) recognised this and tried their best to relax her. Carina, came armed with a wide range of industry questions which when they were answered, also helped to put her at ease.
Tell us about your experience of transitioning to Toronto.
Carina described how she feels culturally open-minded; her partner is not German, she grew up many nationalities in her family and she studies in Scotland; multicultural is completely normal to Carina. She is very open and relaxed about cultural differences and found the transition to Canada relatively smooth. She discussed how the lack of additional language barrier was a major bonus! Carina did prepare for life in Canada’s capital, spending loads of time reading up about the culture of Canadians (magazines, corporate journals and cultural references on social media) and city life in Toronto but stressed that her 10 months here in Edinburgh helped as the transition to Scotland had been an easy one too.
How long were you there for?
“We completed our final exam packed our bags and headed out! Nora Holmen (the other SoSS intern) was already there (she headed out a day ahead of Carina) and knowing that she would be there was a blessing.”
The two student colleagues had a few days to explore the locality – Scarborough, the eastern part of the city a young and vibrant district. Fortunately, members of the Array Research and Development team also lived in the area, and offered helpful advice and a welcoming tour of the area to socialise.
What’s Array like to work for?
Carina noted that Array was a really busy work place, where the culture is supportive but hard working. Carina said the culture was one of
“striving to do your very best but you are not worked to the grind; you won’t end up ill working there”
The Array project entailed working with several different departments across the Array business, holding interviews with key staff and getting to know several different functions of the business. As Carina had a damaged view of the corporate world due to her negative previous experience she was keen to work with a company that had heart and passion; not creating robots – this is what she found at Array.
What was the hardest thing you did during the internship?
The board presentation; Carina and Nora Holmen had to present their project to the full board and the HR department. Carina described how this was such a challenge, after working so hard over the 5 weeks for it, they were understandably extremely nervous.
“We went overboard and were delighted when Elaine Collinson arrived in the presentation/grading week and helped us trim the presentation; down from 140 slides to 40! We had got tangled up in the perspective, and had forgotten to view ourselves as consultants providing Array with a business prospect, rather than an essay!”
After the presentation, there was a Q & A session, where several members of the board asked about specifics and how Array could implement the suggestions into the business. Carina felt that the project gave Array something tangible,
“We had the customer insights and raw data tied up in some useable solutions, which if implemented could give Array a technological edge.”
Carina, whilst she found the end pitch challenging, also found it extremely inspiring, delivering data and insights to key staff members who could appreciate the value of their work. It was very rewarding for her.
What was the best thing about the Internship for you Carina?
Carina was keen to make her parents proud; confirm to them that she had left her highly paid and skilled job in Germany for something worthwhile.
“I wanted to prove to them (parents) that my MSc was taking me somewhere worthwhile. Studying at Heriot-Watt has allowed me to show them this; choosing this programme and being successfully chosen to do the Array internship has done this. I am super proud of this experience and I loved the challenge.”
“Working with Array has given me the confidence to work for large corporates again in the future. I loved it, it was a brilliantly refreshing experience. The culture in the office was enlightening and vibrant, welcoming and friendly, everyone knew everyone’s names, and you were allowed to be you in the workplace – there were people with tattoos and colourful hair, this is not what I expected from a corporate.”
Carina is passionate about technology with a specific interest in AI and her potential PhD is based around this. Carina also spoke at length about how the culture of Array greatly impressed her.
For any students thinking about applying for the Array Internship or an MSc with Heriot Watt – do you have any advice?
“Go for it, you should never stop learning. I really think that’s very important. It’s hard but so worth it. This internship allowed me to travel and to work at the same time, getting paid, food and a home in Toronto, it’s a benefit from every point of view. Heriot Watt University is such a great place to study, and this internship is a practical experience – you are not just making the coffee. It’s your own project so be and show who you are throughout it; as an authentic presentation is incredibly valuable”.
Carina Gerards will graduate with a Distinction in the MSc in International Marketing Management with Consumer Psychology last week. She is now working back home in Germany in a company operating in the same field as Array; and they are supporting her through her PhD.
An exciting new application has been launched by our Languages and Intercultural Studies department, enabling new migrants to learn the language of their host country and familiarise themselves with culture-specific vocabulary and concepts; thereby potentially removing some barriers to integration. The Moving Languages app is the result of an EU-funded project led by Finnish organisation Learnmera Oy, with LINCS at Heriot-Watt as one of the partners.
Free to download on iOS and Android, the app is user-friendly, versatile and comprehensive, providing a gamified language- and culture-learning tool. It contains 4000+ illustrated vocabulary items for easy concept recognition, grammar exercises, flashcards, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, culture, administration, health and immigration tabs, dialogues with audio, audio spelling and comprehension tests and many other features. The app covers topics that are essential during the first steps of living in the host country.
Following the broadcast of Blue Planet 2, there has been an increasing interest amongst the general public on how to reduce ocean plastics. Images of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in his or her nostril, a seahorse carrying a cotton bud and marine mammals caught in fishing nets have understandably upset viewers. We can see increased efforts on behalf of communities to clear up their beaches, and charities such as Surfers against Sewage have seen increased interest in their work. Emma Shepherd reported in The Guardian that school children have been so moved by images of marine life in distress that they are putting pressure on their parents to change their use single use plastics.
Our Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies recently hosted the 2018 AGM of CIUTI (Conférence internationale permanente d’instituts universitaires de traducteurs et interprètes), the oldest and most prestigious international association of university institutes with translation and interpretation programmes in the world. Delegates attended from 49 member institutions and interpreting was provided in English, French and German. The AGM was followed by the first ever CIUTI academic conference which was centred around the theme of translation and interpreting in an era of demographic and technological change. There were a total of 30 papers on the programme, covering topics as diverse as cognitive processes in translating; neural machine translation and tech training, as well as panels and a workshop. All were very well received, with the President of FIT, the International Federation of Translators, describing Heriot-Watt as a “true centre of excellence for training translators and interpreters for the future”.
The CIUTI event coincided with a visit from the Head of the Directorate General for Interpretation (SCIC) at the European Commission, Mrs Florika Fink-Hooijer, and Ms Cathy Pearson, also from SCIC. They met with staff members in LINCS and toured the excellent interpreting facilities in the Henry Prais Building. Discussions focused on possibilities for enhanced cooperation between Heriot-Watt and the European Commission; one strand of this will be Pedagogical Assistance where Cathy Pearson will return to Heriot-Watt in September to deliver interpreting classes to the new cohort of MSc interpreting students.
We are thrilled to announce that our Accountancy, Finance and Economics programmes are soon to have their learning experience enhanced with the opening of our very own Bloomberg Trading Simulation room. Championed by the department’s Deputy Head, Associate Professor of Finance Dr. Mo Sherif, the Trading Room will allow our students to put theory into practice in a real-time environment.
Bloomberg is widely acknowledged as the largest interactive trading platform available in the market and is used by the majority of prominent global finance companies. SoSS Students using our platform will, therefore, replicate the Bloomberg trading rooms of financiers worldwide. Working with a simulated market environment using actual, real-time data, and a variety of functions simulating both trading and non-trading workflows. With these state-of-the-art tools, our students will enrich their research and classwork, with hands-on knowledge of analysing financial markets, assessing economic scenarios and interpreting key news developments that impact the global economy.
Introducing the Trading Room has immense potential for the School and its students.
“Our Bloomberg Trading room is going to be brilliant, we will be able to show and not just tell; it will give us as lecturers the opportunity to bring our textbook theory to life! Moreover, we will be able to provide our excellent students a safe environment to take risks and grow their confidence, and this experience will give them a competitive edge for a career in the financial services.” Dr Mo Sherif