Course Syllabus

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Term & Location:

Summer 2024 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Lab & Research Session - 6 credits

Major Disciplines:

Psychology - Affective Neuroscience 

Research Mentor:

Hannaneh Yazdi -

Senior Research Manager: Polina Smiragina-Ingelström 
DIS Research Director:

Susana Dietrich -

Academic Support: 


6-Credit Summer Research Assistantship 

The 6-credit Research Assistantship for DIS students is an experiential learning opportunity allowing students to gain hands-on research experiences in their area of study. The duration of the student Research Assistantship is a six-week summer term and involves various types of research opportunities.  Research Assistantships in Sweden are designed to create mutually beneficial research partnerships between DIS students and Stockholm-based researchers. The partnerships foster not only international ties but also provide students the chance to be involved in a specific research field and be part of an active research team, thereby developing a research project with achievable parameters. Throughout the summer term, the Research Assistantship enables DIS students to learn techniques and tools in relation to their field of interest. Research Assistants are expected to keep a research journal of their daily involvement with the project, including tasks, outcomes, reflections, and/or other assignments appropriate to the project. At the end of the term, RAs are expected to submit a final research paper. 

Research Project Description

Imagine an early morning after a really bad night's sleep, and you need to attend a meeting at a new location. It will take around 20 minutes to drive, and when you step into the car, you realize your car’s display does not work. You switch the car on and off for a couple of times, and after several attempts, the car turns on normally. You still feel you will make it if the traffic allows you to pass, but in the middle of the way, there is construction on the road, and your navigation system did not plan to realize that the best road, according to the current situation. A couple of minutes later, you are still on a highway with heavy traffic jams, and since it is rush hour, you are kind of blocked in between cars. This story is just one example that can cause drivers to feel frustrated in a negative way, and it is familiar to all of us in different ways. 

Frustration is a complex emotional response related to a number of states, including stress, anger, sadness, irritation, and disappointment. This complex emotion has received a lot of attention in the transportation industry, where frustration can affect cognitive and emotional functioning in driving situations. For example, frustration has been found to cause aggressive behavior and is proposed to be a factor having harmful consequences on driving performance and traffic safety. A better understanding of the factors that build up or predict occurrences of frustration will be central for creating driver assistance and automation systems that can detect early signs of frustration so that they can limit or avoid negative consequences. To either assess the underlying mechanisms or detect the onset of experienced frustration, a that that enables a reliable and valid induction of frustration is needed.  

Learning Objectives

  • The student will learn to carry out a well-controlled experiment using subjective measures.
  • The student will learn important skills related to how to carry out experimental data collection, data interpretation, and article writing.
  • The student will also attend seminars and events (such as Journal clubs, presentations, research lab visits, and relevant events), where the student can discuss the results, experiences, used methods, etc., with other students and scientists in the field of psychology and neuroscience. 
  • Actively participate in scientific discussions with a critical approach to the research. 
  • Write a research paper.
  • Learn ethical standards and academic integrity in a research process.
  • Experience the authenticity of research, including the unpredictabilities, the unexpected challenges, and the unknowns that are a common part of conducting research. 

Research Assistantship Hours 

Research Assistants are expected to spend 180 hours directly engaged in research during the 6-week summer session (30 hours per week). This is expected to be a combination of directly supervised work by the mentor, work supervised by others in the research lab (as appropriate), and independent work conducted by the RAs.  RAs will be invited to a weekly meeting with the research mentor, allowing you to plan for 30 hours per week during the research assistantship period (6 weeks) for experiments, theoretical aspects, group activities, and meetings. Note: There may be peak times in the research process when all research assistants are expected to spend a few more hours - and then possibly a few less - and another week to reflect on the individual research project and process. The total hours may vary, to some extent, according to the research opportunity and expectations of your mentor. 

Research Group Lab Location:

Perception Neuroscience Lab at Karolinska Institutet - Dept. of Clinical Neuroscience(Psychology Division). Visiting address: Nobels väg 9,  171 77, Stockholm 

Research Mentor

Hannaneh Yazdi_1-Edit-1.JPG

Hannaneh Yazdi has been a member of the DIS faculty since the spring of 2023, lecturing and designing courses in the Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience Program throughout the semester and summer. She brings her working experiences in research and development, product creation, leadership, team empowerment, and inclusive community design into her classrooms and supervises her research assistants. With an interdisciplinary background spanning human behavior, management, and engineering, she is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, division of Psychology, finalizing the last year of her research. Aside from her research focus, she has been frequently invited as a guest lecturer and speaker at various universities and companies. She brings a unique blend of experiences, having been immersed in both academic settings and the corporate world for over eight years at Volvo Cars within the Research and Development organization. Beyond her professional pursuits, she has a passion for music, strong yoga practices, and a deep appreciation for the arts, particularly painting and digital arts. For those curious about her previous and current activities, more information can be found on her profile on LinkedIn

Approach to Mentoring

In a rapidly evolving world, providing students with both knowledge and active skills is important. The research assistants need to expect to have a balanced mix of engaging learning and dynamic team activities such as team presentations and journal clubs. This research mentorship will facilitate a space for not only learning about the scientific aspect of the research project but also building essential soft skills for current and future development both at personal and team levels. Therefore, this research assistantships is mentored by a fusion of passive and active learning: 

  • Passive Learning: Passive learning involves receiving information from the instructor or guest lecturers without actively engaging with the knowledge. It's a more traditional form of education where students are listeners and observers rather than active participants. Examples of passive learning include attending lectures, watching educational videos, or reading textbooks. While passive learning can provide foundational knowledge, it often requires additional effort for students to understand and retain information fully.
  • Active Learning: Active learning is a dynamic and participatory approach where students are directly involved in the learning process. This method requires research assistants to engage with the material through discussions, problem-solving, team projects, and hands-on experiences. Active learning promotes critical thinking, collaboration, and a deeper understanding of the subject. It encourages students to apply knowledge in practical situations, fostering a more comprehensive and lasting grasp of the concepts.

Responsibilities and Expectations of the Research Mentor

Your research project will be part of a larger, ongoing research project at the host research institution. Your mentor and/or co-mentors will guide you on methodology and techniques, advise as to ethical considerations, provide feedback throughout the research process, and help you find resources to conduct your research on-site. A gradual transition toward independence is the goal as you gain confidence in transitioning to a more self-directed and self-motivated project under the mentor’s guidance and supervision. It is important that the project reflects your work as the Research Assistant, and not only your mentor’s contribution. It is not expected that you pursue a project where you are able to obtain definitive publishable results. The project chosen and agreed upon between you and your mentor should be focused and designed to produce results within the DIS term calendar. While it is not necessary for the results to be significant (in that the results find a solution to the problem or hypothesis proposed), arguably, any results to the proposed question(s) are significant to the next phase of the research project. Faculty Research Mentors are responsible for assisting, guiding, supporting, and evaluating the DIS undergraduate research student (Research Assistant/RA) in a research experience through the 6-credit Research Assistantship at DIS. The Research Mentor serves as the main contact within the research institution for the student RA(s) (if the research is conducted at a wet lab outside DIS), though DIS students may work closely with post-docs or others in the Mentor’s lab, if applicable. The Research Mentor should provide relevant and necessary resources, direct the student to references and contacts, and discuss ideas and tasks at hand.

Responsibilities and Expectations of the Research Assistant

Your expectations as the Research Assistant are agreed upon with your mentor at the beginning of the semester. However, in general, it requires that you: 

  • The RAs are expected to follow the scheduled meetings and events from the calendar on Canvas. 
  • Spend an average of 35 hours per week on the research project, including 3 hours of Introduction to Sweden each Wednesday. You will need to arrange a schedule with your mentor that will allow you to complete the required hours of performing a combination of theoretical and hands-on research at the external research institution. 
  • Arrange project check-in meetings with your research mentor and/or co-mentor(s) at mutually agreed upon times during the summer. Clear and continuous communication with your research mentor throughout the term is a necessary part of the research project, and you are expected to initiate these meetings. 
  • Submit assignments on time, including a literature review, a written and oral research project outline, a journal club presentation, and a final research paper, as agreed upon with your mentor. 

As part of your theoretical focus, you are expected to read and write relevant scientific literature in relation to your research project and use your newly gained knowledge to critically evaluate the research component, ask relevant questions, and actively participate in research discussions within the field. During the practical work, you are expected to actively engage by planning and performing your own experiments, carefully monitoring the conducted experiments, and analyzing the collected data. You are expected/encouraged to critically evaluate possible issues if experiments do not go as expected and come up with ideas to modify or reflect on potential mistakes.  Overall, it is important to be enthusiastic about the project. Carrying out a research project is neither a straightforward nor predictable process as you are creating new (and, at times, unexpected) knowledge. This is part of what makes research exciting but, at times, also challenging! 

Field Study One- Paradox Museum 

"The Paradox Museum is all about creating engaging, fun, and educational experiences that touch the hearts and minds of our visitors. Everything we do is infused with a unique desire to create thrilling moments of discovery. Our mind-twisting, eye-tricking experiences challenge the mind and leave their mark!"

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Field Study Two - Helen Pynor exhibits at The Cell: Where Art Meets Life Science

From the opening until spring 2025, the exhibition Borderlands will be shown at The Cell with three works by Helen Pynors: "The Body is a Big Place,” "93% Human” and "The End is a Distant Memory.” This is the first time that Helen Pynors' work has been shown in Sweden. Read more:

Exhibition website:

Art work by Helene Paynor.
Photo: Helen Pynor, 93% Human, 2023.

Visiting Lab - Human Product Interaction Lab at the Research Institute of Sweden(RISE)

"Nationally unique and independent perception lab where the sensory experiences are linked to physical properties. HPI Lab is a resource for consumer evaluation of materials and products based on sensory information.

The test bed consists of:

  • Perception Laboratory designed for critical evaluation of materials and products where color and gloss are important factors
  • Control room for recording and observation
  • Usability Laboratory
  • Eye-tracking, grip stiffness, optical properties/product appearance, surface feel (smoothness, roughness)

The testing environment makes it possible to test consumer acceptance and conduct research on bio-based materials and products".


Guest Lecture: Reinforcement Learning and Human Behavior


Dr. David Schultner 's research aims to understand social cognition and social learning using experimental and computational methods. During his PhD research, he investigated how societal biases become internalized as personal prejudice. When political figures spread opinions about a social group, what happens in the mind of the recipient? Once internalized, such stereotype messages can affect an individual's own thoughts and behavior. In a second project, he asked: When naive individuals observe such prejudiced behavior, do they learn to express similar biases themselves? And lastly, he asked if similar learning dynamics may contribute to the widespread animosity common on social media. More recently, his research has focused on the fundamental mechanisms underlying social learning. Although learning from others is generally adaptive, individuals differ substantially in the extent and the way they employ social learning. What explains these differences? In ongoing work, he delves into the question of whether a person's environment may shape the way they learn from others.

In this lecture, we will look under the hood of one of the—currently—most influential frameworks used in Psychology: Reinforcement learning. We will start off by gaining an understanding of basic logic and biological implementation, and subsequently, we will look at some applications and extensions of RL theory. More broadly, and while we’re at it, I will also aim to give you an intuition of how computational modeling can be used to understand human thought and behavior. Lastly, we will hone in on the topic of frustration and examine its link with RL concepts.

Recommended readings. Since reinforcement learning emerged from machine learning, many of the foundational texts (looking at you, Sutton & Barto, 1998) are overly complex for a psychological audience. Thus, Dr. David Schultner recommends you familiarize yourself with the basic Q-learning mechanism online. And then, you could have a look at some applications of RL:


Evaluation and Grading

During the summer research course, you are expected to fulfill various assignments. To be eligible for a passing grade in 6RA, all of the assignments must be completed. It will be your mentor who assesses your work and assigns your final grade.

Assignments and their weights are shown in the following table:

Active Participation (research group meetings, supervision meeting, psychology division seminar etc)  20%
Oral Presentation at Journal Club  10%
Milestone 1: research aim and questions, paper outline 3%
Milestone 2: background & literature review  4%
Milestone 3: methods section  3%
Milestone 4: result and discussion sections  5%
Final Paper  30%
Presentation or Research Project 15%
Total 100%

Participation is a central part of laboratory-based research and the international study experience. Attendance at all classes, research meetings, journal clubs (described below), and lab sessions is mandatory. Students must inform their mentor in advance if they cannot attend a class session. As a Research Assistant, you are expected to be active in discussions and group work. Active participation and engagement include asking questions related to the readings and material presented as part of the RAship and taking part in discussions, including constructive criticism of others' work. Active participation means contributing through your own initiative. 

Of the final participation grade, 20% is based on:

  • Attendance and the level of preparation, planning, and conduction of the experimental research work at the research place as well as your level of self-directed and self-motivated research work
  • Your overall contribution to research discussions with the research group in general, at journal clubs, and at project presentations

Journal Clubs:

Journal clubs are sessions organized by RAs where research presentations are followed by discussions. These sessions aim to delve deeply into specific research areas while developing presentation skills crucial for researchers. Additionally, they foster critical thinking by analyzing research papers and integrating experimental data. When selecting a paper for presentation, ensure it pertains to your research area. If there are multiple students from DIS, they should all engage with the paper and prepare questions for discussion. Presentations within the journal club should be structured logically, covering the work's background, methods, conclusions, and future prospects. Clear presentation and discussion of original data from the chosen paper are essential.


  • Milestone 1: Research Proposal and Paper Outline Present an introduction draft containing your research question, a summary of pertinent literature, and a planned exploration of supporting literature. Provide an outline of your paper and devise a research management plan aligning with milestones and paper outline.
  • Milestone 2: Background and Literature Review Deliver a robust background section situating your study within the existing literature, emphasizing key ideas relevant to your research rather than mere summarization.
  • Milestone 3: Methods Section Present a comprehensive method section detailing sample characteristics, equipment, chosen methods, and measures, along with methodological reflections.
  • Milestone 4: Discussion Present an analysis and discussion alongside previously completed sections. Explain statistical tests and findings, interpret results within a logical sequence, and discuss how they contribute to understanding the research problem, including unexpected findings.

Final Paper: Your final paper should encompass an introduction, literature review, hypothesis/research questions, predicted results, detailed methods including statistical methodology, results section with visual aids, discussion contextualizing results, and conclusive remarks. Submit the manuscript to your assigned group.

Research Presentation: Present the culmination of your summer research in a format agreed upon with your mentor. Ensure the presentation follows a clear structure, covering background, methods, conclusions, and future perspectives while effectively presenting and discussing original data.


Note that many US colleges/universities require their students who are participating in research at home or abroad to acquire Institutional Review Board approval. Examples include:

  • Research involving human subjects
  • If the results of any research conducted during your semester with DIS involving human subjects are to be made public or published in the US

You are responsible for confirming whether home IRB-approval is required and, if so, for seeking the approval of your home schools IRB. In addition, all research conducted in Europe must adhere to GDPR regulations.

Before Arrival in Stockholm 

Please note: some mentors may give you 10 – 15 hours of research literature to read before your term start.

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic RegulationsLinks to an external site. on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:



DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

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