Akshita Srinivasan, a student of UoH has been selected for the prestigious PhD programme at Harvard. Akshita did her Integrated Master’s in Health Psychology (2012-17 batch) at the University of Hyderabad. She was also the gold medalist of her batch.

Akshita will join the Harvard’s PhD program in Psychology to begin in August 2018 and is among the 15 students who have been accepted from all around the world. The competition was very tough with Harvard having only a 5% acceptance rate. Within the Psychology program, she will be working in the area of Developmental Psychology with Dr. Elizabeth Spelke. Her lab in general focuses on uniquely human cognitive capacities like our understanding of objects, actions, people, places, number, and geometry. It gets at this using behavioral research with infants and children. In collaboration with computational cognitive scientists, Dr. Spelke aims to test computational models of infants’ cognitive capacities. She also collaborates with economists, taking research from the lab to the field, where interventions are guided by cognitive science in order to enhance children’s learning.

The work that Akshita will be doing during her PhD is related to children’s understanding of number. Humans share an approximate system of number with other species like fish, where the humans can differentiate between two sets of objects, given they differ in terms of a certain ratio. For example, humans can easily differentiate between a set of 4 dots from a set of 12 dots by just looking at them, and so can fish. However, capacities do not just stop here. Humans are also capable of abstract mathematics. How do these capacities develop?

Children who sell fruits and vegetables in Indian markets are so good and quick at arithmetic, but the same children do not do well when tested in school based arithmetic. Akshita’s research tries to examine this discrepancy and aims at creating interventions that can be used to help improve mathematics education.

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