Research assistant position

History of lucid dreaming research + hands-on neuroscience experience 

We are looking for a bachelor or master’s student in history (or a cognate discipline in the humanities and social sciences) with a strong interest in the history of neuroscience and motivation to gain deep hands-on experience in a sleep laboratory

In the 1970s researchers at Stanford University and Liverpool University successfully demonstrated that during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep a so-called lucid dreamer could execute specific eye movements in their dream which could be objectively measured in the sleep laboratory. Through the electrodes attached to the dreamer’s body, it was confirmed that the individual was both asleep and communicating with their eyes. Yet it was another 2-3 decades until the idea of studying lucid dreamers in the lab started to gain more mainstream scientific acceptance. Despite popular interest in lucid dreams as techniques for self-discovery, improvement and therapeutic gain, the acceptance of lucid dreaming within the scientific community has been fraught with controversy. As we enter an era in which lucid dreaming research has gone mainstream and cognitive neuroscience promises to transform lucid dreaming into an acquirable skill with applications in basic dream research, therapy and personal development, it is vital to understand how we arrived where we are today. Lucid dreaming research offers an exemplary case to study how the validity of a contested phenomenon and the methods of sleep research have been debated and negotiated. 

The ‘History of Lucid Dreaming Research’ project will be the first historical examination of the emergence of the lucid dream as an object of scientific research. As part of a Junge Akademie collaboration between researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, this project brings together an interdisciplinary group of advisors who will support a master’s student to develop their own investigation of lucid dreaming research. Applicants should have a background in history, philosophy, anthropology or STS, and an interest in combining critical scholarship with participatory research. It is envisaged that the project will involve an oral history research programme, supervised by Dr. Lara Keuck, who leads the Biomedical Sciences Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and who will provide advice and expertise in oral historical method and mentorship in the history and philosophy of science. The project will be coordinated in liaison with Dr. Martin Dresler at the Donders Institute, who will provide hands-on experience in empirical lucid dreaming research and will help organize interviews with significant members of the scientific community.

In the first phase of the project, we are looking for a master’s student in history (or a cognate discipline in the humanities and social sciences) to take up an initial eight month research assistant position (0.5 FTE) at the Donders Institute in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The insights of this project can be used for a master’s thesis. The position will allow the candidate to gain deep hands-on experience in a sleep laboratory, from wearable sleep EEG in home settings to high-density EEG in the sleep laboratory to sleep imaging studies using combined EEG/fMRI. The project also includes a collaborative workshop with medievalist Prof Racha Kirakosian (Freiburg University and currently at the Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study). Additional travel funding for conducting oral history interviews is available. Preference will be given to candidates who are interested in developing a doctoral research proposal for the next phase of the project. 

The position will be filled as soon as a suitable candidate is found, but starting date is flexible within the first half of 2022. Please send your application, including your CV and brief letter of motivation, to martin.dresler [at] donders.ru.nl. 

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