Interview with Mirela Dubravac, a SGS-CLM member working on her project “Developmental aspects of cognitive control – Behavioural adjustment and memorial consequences of cognitive conflict: A developmental approach”
Briefly describe what your research topic is about.
I am analysing cognitive functions (alertness, concentration, cognitive flexibility, prospective and retrospective memory) from a developmental psychological perspective. I want to examine how individual brain functions change with age. In order to do so I test children aged 8, 10, and 12, as well as adults. There are 20 people of both sexes within each age group. I apply approved methods for my research, which I adapted according to my research question. As I result, I came up with an overall exam for my PhD that I can now apply to every age group.
What is the nicest thing and what is the worst when doing a PhD?
There are two things that I like most: First of all, I like to reflect on experiments, read existing research literature, and figure out where there might be gaps. Consequently, I see the whole picture and I can come to grips with the topic – even small changes in an approved method can lead to completely different results! Secondly, I am extremely fond of analysing my data – I always feel as if I were in a crime novel! There are always new, exciting results, which I then have to interpret accordingly. Everything concerned with organising stuff is more of a drawback: computer reservations, contacting and convincing teachers, testing a new experiment for days on end until it is perfect, et cetera – these administrative and organisational activities are rather exhausting.
Where would you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Up until now I always let things take their course – and that turned out pretty well. I am not focussing too much on future arrangements, however, I like to imagine different scenarios for my future. I could imagine living elsewhere in the world, e.g. in America, being part of a university, and spend my time researching. I am also interested in becoming a professor. However, I can imagine being self-employed and work in the private sector of economy after my PhD, too. These things are within reach for the next 10 years. But everything depends on general, economical, and personal situations. Anyways, research will certainly play an important role in my future life.
What kind of courses did you take and what courses do you plan to take in the future?
In 2017, I attended the Summer School in Weggis, and in the fall term, I am going to participate in the seminar «Control of Cognition” – I am really looking forward to doing so! Moreover, I am also attending a course outside the graduate school in order to acquire a deeper knowledge of the coding language python, which I will use for my test procedures. In the following years I will also participate in numerous conferences.
Do you have any advice you would like to give to future PhD students?
There are certain requirements: One has to be able to work precisely in order to feel comfortable with doing a PhD; one also has to be able to combine this with ease. It is of utmost importance to plan ahead, work precisely, constantly control yourself, et cetera. If something goes wrong – which can happen – one nevertheless has to stay calm, life goes on! It is also important to keep the balance: Some days are busy and I spend 10 hours in my office; on other days I have less to do and can work more quiet. One has to be aware of the fact that during the three years of your PhD, there are always numerous things to no. However, it is important to keep a certain distance, otherwise one might lose the enjoyment of work. Personally, I never take my work home, and this allows me to really enjoy my end of the work day.