Dear members and associates of Mind & Brain,
We are very saddened by the news of the untimely death of our M&B alumna Dr. rer. nat. Uta Sassenberg on 20 November.
Uta was a delightful person to have had in our first M&B student group, and she was a very loyal and dedicated M&B member. In many conversations over the past years, Uta had told us how much she had enjoyed the interdisciplinary community at M&B and, though time-consuming, how much she had profited from the teaching weeks and the wide range of courses offered by the School.
Uta joined M&B in 2007 and was supervised by Elke van der Meer and Isabell Wartenburger. In late 2009, Uta completed her thesis on “Thinking hands: how co-speech gestures reflect cognitive processes” and was awarded a Dr. rer. nat. by the Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät II at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
Uta, whose doctoral research had been funded mainly by “Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes”, was interested in the relationship between gestures that are produced while speaking and thinking. In her empirical work she asked several questions: (1) how task demand affects gesture production, (2) vice versa: how gesture production affects the performance in a task, and (3) what the relationship is between cognitive skills, brain structure, and gesture production (individual differences).
Before joining M&B, Uta had earned a B.Sc. in Psychology and Criminology at the University of Lincoln, and an M.Sc. in Psycholinguistics at the University of Edinburgh.
Soon after completing her doctoral thesis, Uta fell ill. For more than two years she struggled with her illness, but she made a point of joining M&B events when she felt strong enough. Sadly for her and all of us, her visits became less and less frequent. Some months ago, she and her partner relocated to Bremen where she was born and where both their families live, for additional support.
Uta’s death is a great loss to all who knew her. We will pay tribute to Uta during our degrees ceremony on 16 December.