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PhD Students

Eriksholm Research Centre’s team of multi-talented professionals is dedicated to identifying and demonstrating new opportunities within audiology, signal processing and behavioural science. PhD students contributes greatly to our overall scientific advancement. Meet some of them here.

Meet our current PhD students

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Tirdad Seifi Ala

MRC/CSO Institute of Hearing Research – Scottish Section, University of Nottingham, UK

Hi!

My name is Tirdad, and I am one of the six PhD students of the HEAR-ECO project.

The title of my project is "EEG to assess listening effort", and my main focus will be on conducting experiments and analyzing ear (and scalp) EEG. The project is supervised by Carina Graversen and Thomas Lunner at the Eriksholm Research Centre and William Whitmer at the University of Nottingham.

A little about myself: I am from Iran, Tehran. I studied biomedical engineering both as a bachelor and master student. I studied at Sahand University of Technology in Iran before going to Amirkabir University of Tehran to do my master studies. My master thesis was about auditory stimulation of the brain, namely binaural beats and how it can alter the brain signals, evaluated by EEG recordings.

I am a huge NBA (basketball) fan, but also watch and play a lot of football. Having said that, I am up for any sports!


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Hidde Pielage

Section Ear & Hearing, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery and APH Research Institute, VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Hi, I am Hidde!

I studied Psychology at the University of Amsterdam, and now I hold the Brain and Cognition specialization Master’s degree. Currently I am a PhD student in the HEAR-ECO project at the VUmc and Eriksholm Research Centre.

My master thesis was about visual illusions and consciousness. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging and machine learning, I tried to find where in the visual cortex subjective experience is represented, rather than the ‘raw’ visual signal.

Currently I am working on the HEAR-ECO project, which focuses on creating hearing tests that are representative of real-life situations. Existing hearing tests use lab environments which provide unnatural situations. This means that the tests are not representative of hearing aid functionality or listening in real-life situations. Together with five other PhD students I will try to create a test that captures more life-like situations so that hearing-aid technology can be tested using ecologically valid standards.

Specifically, I will be looking at the role of social influences during listening. Is there, for example, a change in listening effort - or maybe even speech intelligibility - when a social component is introduced?  

HEAR-ECO is a collaboration between VUmc (the Netherlands), Oticon A/S (Denmark) and the University of Nottingham (United Kingdom). The project is primarily funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme.

Outside of my career I love to sail and play the bass guitar when I have the time for it. Seeing the beautiful surroundings of Eriksholm, I hope I will be able to pick up sailing some more as well as spending time hiking or cycling through Denmark.


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Bethany Plain

Section Ear & Hearing, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery and APH Research Institute, VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Hello, my name is Bethany.

I am currently a PhD student at the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and neck surgery, Ear & Hearing section at VU Medical Center in Amsterdam.

My background consists of an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience at the University of Bristol. Following this I completed a Master's degree in Clinical Science (Neurosensory Science) at the University of Manchester, specialising in Audiology. I am a UK state registered Clinical Scientist in Audiology and have 4 years of NHS audiology experience prior to starting this PhD.

In my spare time I enjoy playing the saxophone!

The PhD is part of the HEAR-ECO projects. The main goal of the projects is to measure listening effort and motivation in ecologically valid conditions. My focus is the psychophysiological measure cardiac pre-ejection period (PEP: a measure of sympathetic nervous system activity). I'm investigating whether PEP can be utilised as an outcome measure relating to effort mobilisation in people with hearing loss.

This project involves collaboration between VUmc, Oticon A/S, Eriksholm Research Centre, University of Nottingham, and Liverpool John Moores University. Funding is provided by the MSCA-ITN European industrial doctorates.

My project is supervised by Sophia Kramer at VUmc in collaboration with Dr Richter at Liverpool John Moores University.


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Defne Alfandari

MRC/CSO Institute of Hearing Research – Scottish Section, University of Nottingham, UK

Hi, my name is Defne Alfandari Menase.

I am an Early Stage Researcher within the H2020 EC Marie-Curie ITN project 'Innovative Hearing Aid Research – Ecological Conditions and Outcome Measures' (HEAR-ECO), and a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research – Scottish Section.

My background is in Psychology (Bachelor of Science, University of Groningen) and in Cognitive Neuropsychology (Master of Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).

In the HEAR-ECO project, I will assess the influence of motivation and fatigue on the pupillometry measures of listening effort. Motivation and fatigue will be manipulated by varying stimulus complexity, reward, and feedback in communication settings. I will also examine the interaction between the effects of motivation, fatigue, and hearing aid settings on listening effort. This will be measured using pupillometry and possibly by EEG indices.

My main supervisor in this project is Dr. Graham Naylor. I will also collaborate with Dr. Michael Richter from the Liverpool John Moores University.


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Patrycja Książek

Section Ear & Hearing, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery and APH Research Institute, VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Hey, my name is Patrycja Ksiazek, and I’m one of six PhD students in the HEAR-ECO project.

My background is in engineering, mostly within acoustics and computer sciences with BEng in Automatic Control and Computer Sciences obtained from the Silesian Technical University in Poland and MSc Eng in Engineering Acoustics obtained from Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

During the past year, I’ve been employed by Eriksholm Research Centre to support the pupillometry research. My research interest is in enhancing health care and cognition with use of engineering solutions and advanced analytics.

In HEAR-ECO, I will focus on developing an ambulatory, ecologically valid method of evaluating listening effort based on the pupil responses. Thus, my contribution to the HEAR-ECO project will be to further explore the possibilities of applying pupillometry in more realistic scenarios as well as to develop an expertise in the various analysis methods for pupillometry.

The project will be supervised by Prof. Sophia E. Kramer and Dr. Adriana A. Zekveld from VUmc Amsterdam as well as Prof. Thomas Lunner and Dr. Dorothea Wendt from Eriksholm Research Centre. During my PhD, I will be affiliated with Section Ear & Hearing, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery and APH Research Institute, VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

HEAR-ECO is an EU Marie Curie European Industrial Doctorate project funded by the European Union, where several partners are involved: Eriksholm Research Centre (Part of Oticon) as the industry partner, VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam and University of Nottingham Glasgow as academic partners as well as Liverpool John Moores University as supporting partner of the project. Thus, contribution of all partners can be reflected in the outcomes of my PhD.

On a personal note, I like growing plants and spices. Even though it’s not always successful, a taste of fresh herbs in a delicious dinner is definitely worth trying!


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Sergio Luiz Aguirre

MRC/CSO Institute of Hearing Research – Scottish Section, University of Nottingham, UK

Hi, my name is Sergio.

I studied Acoustical Engineering in Santa Maria, Brazil. In my Master's studies, I specialised in the assessment of sound localisation using an implementation of virtual sound sources.

Now I am a PhD student at the Institute of Hearing Research, Scottish Section, at the University of Nottingham. I am part of the H2020 EC Marie-Curie ITN project 'Innovative Hearing Aid Research – Ecological Conditions and Outcome Measures' (HEAR-ECO), a collaboration between Eriksholm Research Centre, VUmc Amsterdam, and the University of Nottingham.

HEAR-ECO will assess how task demands, motivation, and invested effort modulate speech understanding and hearing-aid benefit in daily life. The team of six PhDs students will work together to creatively combine three established measures of listening effort and to develop innovative conditions for testing hearing aids. The main objective for my part of this project is to work and develop realistic communication scenarios and estimate the effort benefit of hearing aids using physiological measures to evaluate novel hearing-aid technologies.

My primary supervisors are Dr William Whitmer in Glasgow and Prof. Thomas Lunner here at Eriksholm.

A fun fact about me: Before my engineering studies, I was a professional radio DJ, and my favourite sport is running.


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Benjamin Johansen

Cognitive Systems Section at DTU Compute, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

Hey, I’m Benjamin and hold a MSc. Eng. degree in Design & Innovation from the Technical University of Denmark. I’m currently a PhD student at Cognitive Systems section at DTU Compute. 

During my masters I specialized in User Experience (UX) in health care, cognitive interfaces and Human-Machine Interaction.

In the PhD I’m investigating how hearing care can be personalized using various techniques. These include using wearables, hearing aids and smart phones to investigate the context of a hearing aid user. The project furthermore investigates novel interfaces to hearing aids. This combined with qualitative input and clinical experiment aims to investigate how hearing aids can be better personalized. The outcomes of this project is to investigate which parameters, wether it being related to context, physical environment, or user intents, to improve the user (and sound) experience in hearing aids.

This project is a collaboration between DTU Compute, Copenhagen Center for Health Technology (CACHET), Eriksholm Research Centre, and Oticon A/

S. The project is also sponsored by the Oticon Foundation. The collaboration in reflected by the supervisors, Jakob Eg Larsen (DTU Compute), Michael Kai Petersen (Eriksholm & DTU Compute), Niels Henrik Pontoppidan (Eriksholm) and Per Sandholm (Oticon).

A more detailed description of the project can be found here

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Antoine Favre-Felix

Hearing Systems section of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark

My name is Antoine, and I am a PhD Student at the Hearing Systems section of the department of Electrical Engineering at the Danish Technical University (DTU).

I hold a Master’s degree in general engineering, with a specialization in signal processing from the École Centrale de Nantes in France.

I am part of a Horizon 2020 European project: COCOHA (COgnitive COntrol of a Hearing Aid). COCOHA’s goal is to help steer a hearing aid using brain signals (EEG).

The PhD project, titled “Controlling a Hearing aid by electrically assessed eye-gaze”, specifically focuses on trying to steer a hearing aid using one’s eye-gaze, retrieved thanks to in-ear electrodes that measure electrical signals originating from the eyes (EOG). One of the main obstacles to overcome to obtain an exact eye-gaze using the EOG is the issue of a baseline drift, present in all bio-electrical signals. This eye angle relative to the head will then be combined with a head-tracking system to have an absolute angle of attention. A typical application would be in helping to solve the cocktail party problem: amplifying the voice that comes from the direction the user is looking. The source separation issue is avoided by assuming the sources are obtained using remote microphones.

The project is supervised by Torsten Dau at DTU, and by Thomas Lunner and Carina Graversen at Eriksholm Research Centre

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Niclas Alexander Janssen

Hearing Systems section of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark

Hi, I'm Niclas and before I started my PhD studies at the Hearing Systems Group of Denmark's Technical University, I studied Engineering Physics in Oldenburg, Germany. In my Master studies, I specialized towards biomedical Physics and Acoustics.

My PhD project is concerned with the hearing of patients who use both a cochlear implant and a contralateral hearing aid, so-called bimodal users. Specifically I investigate the question whether they can fuse the sounds from both ears into a central percept. This is also related to the abilities to localize sounds and concentrate on one sound source in difficult listening situations. The differences in the working principles and therefore sounds from hearing aids and cochlear implants might make this rather difficult for bimodal users.
I hope to understand what is necessary for them to fuse sounds and find ways to improve the devices, so that it becomes easier for them.

This project is a collaboration between Oticon, Eriksholm and DTU, reflected by the three supervisors: Dr. Søren Kamaric Riis from Oticon, Dr. Lars Bramsløw from Eriksholm and Adj. Prof. Dr. Jeremy Marozeu from DTU.

A more detailed description of the project can be found here

Meet some of our former PhD students

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Barbara Ohlenforst

Ear and Hearing section of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My name is Barbara, and I was a PhD student at the Ear and Hearing section of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, which is part of the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research at the VU University medical centre in Amsterdam.

I hold a Master’s degree in clinical audiology and I have an engineering education in the field of Hearing Technology and Audiology. Furthermore, I have an extensive experience as a clinical audiologist developed over several years of work.

Recently, I achieved a M.Sc. in Engineering Acoustics at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). My studies at DTU included a research project with the focus on the relationship between working memory, compressor speed and background noise characteristics. The project was carried out at the Northwestern University in Chicago (USA).

I was enrolled in a EU Marie Curie European Industrial Doctorate project based on the collaboration between VUmc Amsterdam and OTICON-Eriksholm Research Centre in Denmark. The project was called "LISTening Effort in the European Population: a New innovative program of research and training" or LISTEN607373.

LISTEN607373 intended to investigate which current and new hearing aid technologies can successfully decrease listening effort required during speech perception. Several aspects of the pupil response in relation to hearing loss and hearing aid technologies will be assessed together with OTICON A/S, a leading hearing aid manufacturer. This project will be advised by Prof. Sophia Kramer and Dr. Adriana Zekveld from the Audiology department at VUmc Amsterdam and by Dr. Graham Naylor and Adj. Prof. Thomas Lunner from OTICON-Eriksholm
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Yang Wang 

Ear and Hearing section of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

My name is Yang Wang, I am from Beijing China, and I am currently working as an Early Stage Researcher (ESR) under Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) program, and I was also a PhD candidate at the Section Audiology, Dept. of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and EMGO Institute.

I have a background in Electronical Engineering as I finished my undergraduate study from Beijing University of Post & Telecommunication. Then I finished my research Master's degree at University College London majoring in Speech, Language and Cognition.

From April 2014 until April 2017 I was conducting the following research:

"LISTening Effort in the European Population: a New innovative programme of research and training". An European Industrial Doctorate project collaboration between VUmc and OTICON-Eriksholm Research Center. This project was funded by EU, with project number: LISTEN 607373.

The major purpose of our study is to examine which current and new hearing aid technologies can successfully decrease listening effort required during speech perception. Specifically, the following questions are going to be answered in the end of our project:

  • What are the effects of hearing loss on speech intelligibility, the Peak Pupil Dilation response (PPD) and Pupil Light Reflex (PLR)? 
  • What is the relation between the PPD, PLR and (long-term) stress, fatigue, need for recovery from stress, and activities in daily life as assesed by questionnaires
  • What is the influence of different hearing aid technologies on speech perception and the PPD during listening?
  • What is the relation between verbal inference making, working memory, speech perception and the PPD and PLR?

As a group project in collaboration with Barbara Ohlenforst, we plan to divide some of the task mentioned above and I'm going to focus on research relevant to PLR