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Brilliant Minds

Dr. Tricia Striano, USA

Tricia Striano was born in the United States. She studied Psychology, and since 2000, she is living in Germany. In 2004 she received the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

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She used the money to build up the infant lab at the Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of Leipzig

In her research, she is trying to get at the early origins of social cognition in infants, between birth and 12 months, trying to understand how they learn. And she has been able to demonstrate, that in the very early months of infancy, well before the end of the first year, infants are attending to others, sensiting to the type of cues that others provide them, using these cues to learn about others and language and the world around them in general.

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Tricia Striano in Tomorrow Today's interview:

It must be fascinating, working with little children every day.
Yes, they are great. Even coming to work in a bad mood: when you see the babies, it's wounderful. And the parents, they really enjoy coming in and learning about the infant's development.

What made you move to Germany?
I came here in June of 2000, immediately after my PhD - it was my first real job. I came to Leipzig because of the opportunity to do my research. Particularly, I was at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
At that time I thought I would stay in Germany 2 or 3 years and then go back to the United States. But then, with the money of the Sofja Kovalevskaja Award, I was able to build up my own lab. You know, when I came to Leipzig, there was no infant laboratory. It was interesting to build that up, from scratch. We have seen 5.000 to 10.000 infants over the past 5 years. That is really great.

Your name sounds Italian...
Yes, I am in third generation American, but my name is Italian, from the south of Italy, and I have some Greek roots as well.

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In Germany, as a women in a leading science position, you are still someone special. Is it different in the US?
If we look at the number of women in top science positions, here versus the United States, there is a much greater proportion in the US than in Germany. And the question should be, why.

... yes, why?
If you don't see, that it is possible, and you encounter at difficult times, you are going to change your career and to try something else.
I think we need additional support for female scientists in Germany, to show that it is possible. I can honestly say, if I did not have a role model in Germany, I also would not have made it here. I was lucky to find one who could understand when I would explain, you know, this is happening and that is hard, and this person would say, yes, it's hard, keep going!

You are living in Leipzig since 2005 and have probably met many Germans. How do you get on with them?
That is happening often, that many of the Germans who I know and who are of my age, leave, to the United States, to London. Of course, I have many Germans around, and generally they are not people from academia, which is also fine.
What I like about the Germans is the straight forewardness. You know where you stand with the Germans, they are very honest and open people, who are really great to work with.

Leipzig is the town of Johann Sebastian Bach, it is the town of music. Do you make use of this?
I like all types of music, everything from rap music to classical music. I am especially fond of jazz music. But in a given day, I could listen to 5 different sorts, it just depends on my mood. I sometimes go and hear classical music. Leipzig is full of Bach. But I am bad in planning, I often go and look what's on, and then I find something.

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How do you feel living in Leipzig?
I love Leipzig. It is really a wounderful place to be, and you have everything you need: It is very central, you can get to where you want to go. I love the center, we have good places to go shoping, there are many historical buildings and several museum, we will have the world cup here - its is very exciting, there is plenty to do.
My first impression when I came to Leipzig was that I would never stay. It was very gloomy at that time, and I did not know any German, or anybody here. But over the years that has changed, and 5 years later, it's hard to image to be anywhere else.

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