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Research study abroad – an interview with Sarah Bro Pedersen

Sarah Bro Pedersen, ph.d. student member of CHI, recently returned from a year and a half academic journey around the world. Among others she visited Per Linell in Sweden (professor of Linguistics, Göteborg University), David Kirsh in the US (professor of Cognitive Science, University of California San Diego) and Mark Bishop in the UK (professor of Cognitive Computing, University of London).

Sarah is studying distributed cognition, linguistics and interactivity in relation to collaboration on the medical ward[1]. The aim of her journey was: “To visit scholars who were similar to where I come from, yet dissimilar enough to be challenging” within her field of interest.

Becoming an academic researcher

Danish ph.d. students have a 3 month stay abroad as a mandatory part of their ph.d. In 2012 Sarah got the Danish Elite Research Scholarship for DKK 300.000, which made her able to extend her journey. According to Sarah, what you gain on a journey like this is an education as academic researcher: “One of the main things I learned was good research practice.” “A journey like this gives an opportunity to experience what makes the talented scientists good and you try to adopt their practice of research.

Tips from the top

Different scholars accentuate different parts of scholarship: “In accordance to Kirsh, the good hypothesis is what drives good research and that taught me a lot.” Bishop emphasizes writing down ideas, sharing and discussing them with others and having a publishing strategy to go by. Kirsh and they way he worked with his laboratory staff fascinated Sarah: “What he does is very interesting. The best of analysis is in opinion based on a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods

Network culture

The culture of British universities is described as “Very special” with an advanced knowledge and network sharing culture. Meetings were arranged, to meet new people within her field of interest every week, which brings Pedersen to the other main gain of her journey: “Of course this has given me an enormous network.

The level was always a little above you no matter where you were. It was always a little hard and you had to run fast. You were always challenged and I find that enormously inspiring.


[1] Pedersen 2010, Pedersen 2012, Pedersen & Steffensen 2014

Editing was completed: 14.11.2014