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Professor Zoe Kourtzi

Zoe Kourtzi is Professor of Experimental Psychology at the Department of Psychology and a Principal Investigator in the Adaptive Brain Lab. Before moving to Cambridge in 2013, Zoe was Chair in Brain Imaging at Birmingham University, a position which she had held since 2005. Zoe has extensive research experience, which was built up across a range of elite institutions, including Rutgers University, Harvard University, MIT, and the Max Planck Institute. She has also worked as a scientist in industry.

Having completed her BSc in Psychology at the University of Crete, Zoe moved to the United States, where she undertook a PhD in Cognitive Psychology at Rutgers University. This was in the early ninghties, when the new developments in human magnetic resonance imaging revolutionarised the field of cognitive psychology. Zoe was fascinated by the new filed of cognitive neuroscience and moved to Boston and then Tuebingen, Germany to learn about cutting-edge techniques in brain imaging.

Through her research, Zoe seeks to understand the links between brain structure, neural function and behaviour. Her work focuses on the role of learning and experience in enabling humans of all ages to translate sensory experience into adaptive behaviours. Her work combines multimodal brain imaging techniques such as structural and functional MRI, EEG, and MEG, established behavioural paradigms from cognitive psychology, and mathematical algorithms.

Zoe says: ‘I owe my career to three amazing women who inspired me and looked after me throughout my personal development to an independent scientist. Theoni Velli my undergraduate mentor, Maggie Shiffrar my PhD supervisor, and Nancy Kanwisher, my postdoctoral advisor. They taught me to keep an open mind, take risks and walk the extra mile. I learned from them not only how to do rigorous experimental work, but also how to present and publish my work. Most importantly, I learned to keep up my enthusiasm for science and persevere even when experiments don’t work out!’

Zoe is a proud Greek mother of two boys. ‘Having a family and an academic career has been an exhausting but wonderful challenge.’ Zoe says. ‘The key to success is team effort not only in the lab but also at home’ ‘I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s hands-on support and the understanding of my boys.’

The awards Zoe has received in recognition of her outstanding work include:

Vision Science Society Young Investigator Award, May 2007

Attempto-Preis, University of Tuebingen, May 2003

Best Dissertation Award, New Jersey Psychological Association, 1998

Rutgers University Excellence Doctoral Fellowship in Psychology, 1994-1998

Zoe is on the editorial board of the Journal of Vision, and she is an associate editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology, and Frontiers. She has served on numerous committees, including the Vision Sciences Society Board of Directors (2008-2012), and the BBSRC Animal Sciences Committee (Review Panel Member from 2008).

The journals in which Zoe has published her research findings include Current Biology, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron and Science. She has also contributed a number of chapters to edited book collections.

Read More

Zoe's profile on the Department website

The Adaptive Brain Group

Lifelong learning and the plastic brain (Research Horizons)