IFB scientist honored with Young Investigator Award

For the third time in a row the Young Investigator Award 2014 for particular contribution to research in medicine and life sciences goes to a junior scientist of the IFB.

Natascha-Alexandra Weinberger (2. row 1. left) and the team of the Parent Child Study of the IFB

Natascha-Alexandra Weinberger received the award on December 18, 2014 at the Max-Bürger-Research-Centre, which hosted the Leipzig Research Festival of the Faculties of Medicine and Biosciences of the University of Leipzig. The best posters of junior scientists about specific scientific questions are being awarded at this festival.

The winner of a poster award, Ms Weinberger, works in the area of childhood obesity at the IFB center. Reason enough to ask the young scientists some questions:

How long you are at the IFB and what project you are working for?

Besides my studies in psychology I have worked since January 2011 as research assistant in the IFB research project “Obese parents - obese children.  Psychological-psychiatric risk factors of parental behaviour and experience for the development of obesity in children aged 0-3”.

In general, what is the research of your team about?

The parent -child study examines whether and how the parental behaviors towards their children in the first three years of life may enhance the emergence of obesity. Therefore, the families participating were filmed while having meals and interviewed in the course of three years. They also filled out a comprehensive survey e.g. about stress experience, eating behaviors and nutrition. The results of the investigations and observations may help to develop a prevention program for high-risk children.

What is the title and content of your scientific presentation as a poster?

The title is: “Exploring adult attachment-related behaviour in a virtual social environment: weight-group differences and Reflective Functioning in Simoland”. I examined the behaviors of obese and normal-weight mothers in Simoland within the parent-child study. Simoland is a computer game in which one can inter alia interact with a virtual partner (e. g. snuggling, chatting, dancing). The possible influence of mentalization of those playing the game on how they were acting with the digital toy was of particular interest. Mentalization means to have an imagination which mental reasons could exist for a person’s behavior. The popular methods to examine commitment and mentalization in adults are either questionnaires or interviews that are very costly and time-consuming in execution and evaluation. A 15-minute computer game could therefore be helpful with kids and it’s more fun than filling out a questionnaire.

How you got around applying for the Research Festival?

My colleagues who participated last year in the Research Festival told me about it and encouraged me to present the results of my master thesis. Since it seemed to be a good opportunity for me to present my research work to a broader audience and to discuss it with other young scientists I finally decided to submit an abstract.

What does the award mean for you?

For me, the award means that the topic attracted interest outside of my team and thus my work has been appreciated. I’m very grateful for that and I’m still very happy about it.

What are your future plans?

Initially, the master degree at the end of this semester has priority. Afterwards I would like to do further research and begin my qualification training as psychotherapist.

Thank you very much for your answers.

More Informations about the parent-child study on: http://kinderps.uniklinikum-leipzig.de/kjpsy.site,postext,ifb_en.html

Martin Liborak