We welcome Prof. Nina Kazanina into our NCCR!
In October of 2023, Nina Kazanina will join the University of Geneva and the NCCR Evolving Language as a full professor in the Department of Basic Neurosciences. She is currently an associate professor in psychology and cognitive neuroscience of language at the School of Psychological Science, University of Bristol, and studies how we can understand oral and written language in real-time, with little effort. “More precisely, I’m interested in the memory representation and neural mechanisms supporting language,” she adds.
Nina’s first encounter with language was just before university: “I loved mathematics and wanted to study in this field. That’s when I heard about cryptology: a field mixing math and language to create codes”. From there, she turned to linguistics, and later, language processing.
In 2007, she joined the ranks of the University of Bristol as a lecturer in the Department of Experimental Psychology. An amazing experience for her because it is home to many renowned scholars in the field of psychology. “There were huge pioneers of the field that were part of this department, and though they themselves were never my active colleagues, they built amazing groups around them,” she recounts. “I had the chance to work with the “apostles”, their first generation of students.”
This is something she will greatly miss – along with the hills, flowers, and people of Great Britain – when she comes to Switzerland for her new position at the University of Geneva. Nevertheless, she is excited to reach this new – and unexpected – milestone in her career. “It wasn’t immediately obvious that I would fit the position, as I am not originally a neuroscientist, but I tried, and it worked out!”
In the NCCR, she will pursue her effort to discover and map brain regions involved in the long-term organization of knowledge – e.g., the representation of words and grammatical information. “I think it will be interesting to collaborate with neuroscientists, to mix psychology and biology and obtain knowledge of a higher precision on the topic.” In the future, her research will be part of a bigger project studying linear and hierarchical order in language.