Q&A with recent Cognitive Science graduate Rollin Poe

May 06, 2021
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Congratulations to recent Cognitive Science graduate, Rollin Poe, who convocated this past October!

During his time at SFU, Rollin was the director of the Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Cognitive Science, volunteered in Dr. Blair's Cognitive Science lab and was heavily involved in the Cognitive Science Student Society, holding several positions.

In this Q&A, Poe shares why he decided to study Cognitive Science and some advice to share for future and current students!

1. Why did you decide to study Cognitive Science?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been the type to ask “Why? Why? Why?” I’d read books about the history of the periodic table, watch mini-docs on construction projects, or any number of other things. Extending from that comes some of the biggest questions, all of which centre around humans: “How do people work?”, “Why do we do X, Y, or Z?”, “What can be done to improve or change our lives?”, and more beyond that. I chose Cognitive Science because I wanted to explore the intersection between humans and technology. Studying just a single facet may have left me feeling unfulfilled. Cognitive Science allowed me to explore a vast body of information and ideas, giving me the tools to take it where I wanted to go. Furthermore, I knew having the exposure to so many different fields and disciplines would give me the opportunity to dig deeper and then augment if something caught my eye. I did that very thing with my minor in Interactive Arts and Technology.

2. Could you tell us a bit about your involvement on campus at a student? (ie. research labs, volunteer, etc)

I started volunteering in Dr. Blair’s Cognitive Science lab the second semester of my first year. I started out feeling like I was very much out of my depth and would struggle to contribute, but quickly became more confident as I gained skills both in the lab and from my coursework. Eventually I reached the point where I became a key figure in some of our research into virtual reality and user interfaces.

In that second semester of my freshman year, I helped to revive the Cognitive Science Student Society after it had fallen dormant. I held several positions, including Treasurer, President, SFSS representative, and steering committee representative. CS3 is a resource for cognitive science students and all students in each of the subdisciplines where we advocate for our interests and rights, organize academic events such as study nights, and promote connections between everyone in the cognitive sciences (peers, faculty, industry representatives, etc.)

By far my biggest undertaking was my tenure as the director for the Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Cognitive Science. Speaking with the student body and my fellow executives in CS3, it was clear that there was enough interest and passion to pursue the project. I had a direct role in every every aspect - from administration to art, editing, design and production. It was an immensely fulfilling undertaking to foster and showcase the work of undergraduates not just in Canada, but around the world as well. 

Of course all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so I should also say that I was on SFU’s intermural water polo team as well as keeping some fun side projects and hobbies for myself.

3. What are your plans after graduation?

I’m very fortunate to have taken a position with Ubisoft Montréal as a UX Designer for Rainbow Six Siege, specifically working on toxicity and anti-cheat. User Experience, Human Factors, HCI, etc. is what I explored during my education and is where I plan to continue exploring. What that means for me in the future, I’m not entirely sure. I am open to returning to school for a post graduate degree, to pursing opportunities abroad, or even to finding myself doing something somewhere I could never have imagined. I’ve always tried to be easygoing to the random winds of life, and I think 2020 has taught us all that we need to accept and embrace the unknown and be prepared to walk through the fog to wherever it may lead.

4. What has been the key to your success? Can you offer any advice or words of wisdom and encouragement to new undergraduate students who want to study Cognitive Science?

I feel like success comes from a lot of places, two of the biggest being the work you put in and the random happenstances of life. I don’t want to get too philosophical breaking down what success is or means, so I’ll focus on the advice and words of wisdom (if I'm even qualified to give them). Cognitive Science’s strength is its interdisciplinary nature; it is up to us to show our value and find the places that we are uniquely suited for. It is perfectly okay to not know where you’re going or what you want to do, but I’d caution against becoming passive.

Other bits of advice I can give? You will almost certainly have courses that you’ll have to take that you really don’t want to, be that a pesky lower division pre-requisite, or annoying upper division requirement. I can guarantee there is something to be taken from that class not only because so much of Cognitive Science is interrelated, but because every course has something to teach you and connections to give you. Also, I would encourage you to start thinking about your CV and how you want to grow it, for example working in labs, side projects, outside experience, academic work, etc. Not only will that be a great asset to you when applying for jobs or grad school, but I’d argue it also will have you more fulfilled in your academic and personal life as you think deeply and pursue new opportunities. Above all, remember to take care of yourself and enjoy the process.