"  In truth, I’m addicted to those “aha” moments, and knowing that there will always be more questions than answers is the major reason why I chose to study in this field. "

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Nadja Jankovic

January 09, 2024

Psychology doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

My passion to explore the human mind and its underlying brain mechanisms is driven by an entrenched curiosity and a desire to explore unknowns, of which our field has an endless supply. What I find most rewarding is the learning process itself, and the excitement that comes with gaining a new understanding of something that I could not grasp previously. In truth, I’m addicted to those “aha” moments, and knowing that there will always be more questions than answers is the major reason why I chose to study in this field.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

My decision was influenced by a variety of factors. Firstly, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I feel a deep attachment to the region, and I was happy to have the option to stay here for graduate school. Secondly, during my time as an undergraduate research assistant, I developed strong, collaborative relationships with lab members, fostering a supportive and enriching work environment. Lastly, the opportunity and encouragement I received from my supervisors to delve into my specific research interests played a significant role. Their support was instrumental in enabling me to focus on my passions.

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

Imagine the following scenario: It's the middle of the night and you get up to use the washroom. As you're making your way, the front entrance to the house enters your line of sight. For a brief, terrifying moment, you believe there is an intruder inside the front door! As you focus you attention, you realize that your intruder is not a person at all, rather it's just your raincoat, hung up to dry on the coat hanger. You relax, as you now perceive only a harmless coat. But for a brief moment, you perceived an intruder inside your home - indeed a frightening mistake of the brain. However, such "mistakes" are common and are not a bug of the perceptual system, but rather a feature of it. How your brain makes these "mistakes" is the overarching research question that I'm aiming to answer.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

perception, network dynamics, transcranial magnetic stimulation

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

Each of these factors played important roles. Coursework laid the foundational knowledge and critical thinking skills essential in my field and instilled in me strong self-directed learning abilities. RA-ships provided critical hands-on experience in translating theoretical concepts to empirical work and training in various research techniques, enhancing my research skills and technical expertise. A great test of one's own knowledge is whether it can be transferred successfully to another person, which TA-ships provided ample opportunities for while also refining my communication abilities, as I learned to convey difficult concepts clearly to students of various academic backgrounds. Additionally, non-academic school experiences introduced me to new people and lasting friendships, provided an opportunity to organize events and build tools to help fellow students in my program, and helped me build strong communities at SFU.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

I was fortunate to be awarded the NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarships-Doctoral (CGSD) in 2023. Receiving this award has validated and supported my work and has alleviated financial pressures, allowing me to dedicate more time and resources to my research.

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

1) Don't be afraid to ask questions, no matter how simple or foolish the question may seem to you. Misunderstanding or not knowing something is nothing to be ashamed of. Any mentor worth their salt will enjoy engaging with you and your questions and will be eager to expand your understanding.

2) Follow your interests. Grad school is a massive time and energy investment, and being interested genuinely in your work will make the entire process more enjoyable and it will improve the quality of your work. Creativity plays a large role in both theoretical and empirical work, and the more time you spend thinking about a topic (even in the "back of your mind", so to speak) the more opportunities you afford yourself for creative insights.

3) There's nothing wrong with being wrong. It's important to get comfortable being wrong and being corrected, and moving forward with a more developed understanding of a topic. Sometimes you will be right, and if you are arguing in good faith with a fellow academic then you should defend your position. If the argument ceases to be in good faith, do not waste your time and the time of others, and exit gracefully.

How do you approach networking and building connections in and outside of your academic community?

Networking can be awkward but it doesn't have to be. Treat each other like human beings with varied interests and histories, and not just as opportunities for career advancement. People like working with people that they get along with, not just those who have the longest CVs.