AVA Awards Recipients Report - Ailbhe Mc Kinney - 2018

Tom Troscianko Memorial Award

AVA Awards Recipients Report – Ailbhe McKinney – 2018 Runner-up Prize

Tom Troscianko Memorial Award

This trip around Italy began for me just a few days after handing in my research master’s thesis and could not have come at a better time. Flying from Dublin to Trieste, I arrived at my hostel located along the sea front as the sun was setting. Eager to see the city, I dropped off my bags and went to meet my former UCD colleague and friend Sarah Cooney for dinner in a local restaurant which had handwritten menus and delicious mussels. She recounted stories of the conferences she attended and told me I was lucky that such a friendly, fun conference as ECVP was my first one.

The next morning, I set out to find the James Joyce statue along the canal. James Joyce, the beloved Irish writer whom UCD library is named after, lived in Trieste and it was there he began his masterpiece Ulysses. I met Sarah in the afternoon and she introduced me to her lab, the Trinity Multisensory Lab. They kindly let me practise my talk for them.


On Wednesday morning, I took the bus up the hill out of of the city to the Università degli Studi di Trieste. I was amazed when the bus pulled around the corner and I saw the beautiful campus. Highlights from the conference included listening to a wide range of talks from statistical learning in honeybees to visuo-motor adaptation in congenitally blind children whose sight had been restored and having the opportunity to share my own research. In my talk session, Faces, I presented my study Eye gaze and pointing gestures are precise social cues.


I first met Prof. Nicola Bruno at the festschrift for Michael Kubovy. Having attended Prof. Bruno’s talk on how selfies are a new form of communication rather than a new form of art, I was thrilled to discuss his research with him further.


I then made my way to Bologna. On the train to Bologna my ECVP bag sparked conversation with another student who attended the conference and we chatted all the way to Venice. In Bologna you will find beautiful galleries and cathedrals but what's particularly special about the city is that every laneway, corner and backstreet has a gorgeous authentic restaurant or food market. The spaghetti bolognese and pasta carbonara are not overrated.


Next on the trip was Parma. When I arrived at the Università di Parma Prof. Bruno, a friend of my supervisor, Nuala Brady, showed me a series of classic perceptual tricks such as changing the visual orientation of a 3D Necker cube while holding it (a very strange sensation!). Later, I met Prof. Bruno’s students Stefano and Veronica who were investigating the sensorimotor processes underlying grasping. When I returned to my hostel I had a picnic of the famous parma ham, parmesan and bread.


The University of Parma is home to some impressive labs reminding me of the range of methodologies psychology employs around the world. Carolina, a PhD student, showed me around the Bonini Lab where the famous mirror neuron research on macaque monkeys is conducted. Giuseppe Luppino, head of the Neuroanatomy Lab showed me how neurotracers can be used to stain neural pathways. Later in the afternoon, Prof. Bruno gave me a tour of Parma stopping in the Baptistery which holds colourful medieval art and the Cathedral which houses a collection of Renaissance pieces.


My trip to Italy ended in Milan. I dashed to see the Milan Cathedral. It was spectacular but the real treat for me was the fabulous fashion and people.


I plan to take Tom’s life philosophy forward with me in my academic career and personal life endeavouring to mix fun, research and travel. Upon reading this blog and the blogs of previous winners, I hope you will be inspired to do the same.


  • Ailbhe McKinney