Journey Through Academia with Dr. Milica Miočević 

Journey Through Academia with Dr. Milica Miočević 

Doctor Miocevic is a quantitative psychologist. She has worked at McGill for two years now, and her lab studies optimal statistical methods for the psychological sciences, more specifically methods for data synthesis and mediation analysis. Miocevic studies this because it’s fairly useful, but also, it’s a really neat area of quantitative psychology where optimal practice is still unknown. Her research is important because when we would like to use data to make decisions, it would be really useful to have access to all available studies, hence the need for verifying which methods for data synthesis would lead to the most accurate results

“I like learning new things regularly and I think it’s very rewarding to be able to contribute to knowledge. So in my field, you could serve as a statistical consultant, so there you’re helping other psychologists advance their research lines.”

Describe your educational background

I majored in psychology. I went to Arizona State University and my initial plan was to be a therapist, so I was really interested in clinical psychology. However, in my first statistics course, I had a really phenomenal professor, and she’s the one who told me about this field. That’s a hybrid between psychology and statistics. I changed career plans when I met her and I did a minor in statistics as well after that and then I did my Masters and PhD in quantitative psychology at Arizona State University. 

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m proud of a paper that recently came out where a collaborator and friend and I proposed a method to use existing studies and the analysis of the current study, but in a very principled and objective way. I’m proud of running a lab. This is my second academic job and I was in the Netherlands for the first one, and it’s a very different academic system so I didn’t get to have my own PhD students. So I’m really excited that I have two now. I’m proud of my grants. I’m just really proud to be part of a community that’s doing cool work, so I’m really grateful for my collaborations and projects and students and colleagues that I have.

“I started at the undergraduate level, I was volunteering in a social psychology lab that studied emotion in a clinical psychology lab. Working in a neuroscience lab was also very helpful, because now I actually know how data collection happens. So if I’m consulting somebody and they tell me what kind of experiment or what kind of study they’re running, I can actually understand what that looks like on the ground. So my first research experiences were as a volunteer at the data collection level. I didn’t analyze any data at that stage, rather gained experience.” 

What is the best piece of advice you’d give a young student who wants to get involved in research?

I would advise them to not try to know what they’re interested in before they’ve tried research in a few different areas: don’t try to commit to a field until you’ve tried a few different things. You might be surprised by what type of research you’re interested in, or you might think you like a field until you’ve volunteered in a lab for two years and you realize that it’s not that rewarding to you. 

I know it is difficult to get research and volunteering opportunities, so I would also advise undergraduates to really try to learn as much as you can from the lab. Additionally, if there’s a journal Club… join the journal club. Talk to grad students and ask them what their experience in graduate School is like. They should also talk to other undergraduates and try to get as much information about the field that you’re volunteering in while you have that research opportunity.

This is a personal bias, but learn about stats, because it will serve you down the line. So any research area you plan on going into, chances are you will need to analyze data. So, the sooner you know how to do that, the more you can contribute to the lab setting. 

What are some obstacles you have faced and how have they shaped your research career? 

I think not being a native English speaker was a bit of a challenge. At the grad school application level, my language barrier probably weakened my essay, and it probably wasn’t helpful while taking the GRE either. How did I overcome that? As a non native speaker, public speaking is a bit more challenging and not a bit more intimidating, but I think just practice and repeated exposure to the activity. That’s intimidating. That ends up getting resolved. 

Describe your support system when going to school and entering research. So like who are you most thankful for? Or who is your greatest influence?

It’s the statistics professor I had in my very first statistics course. Her name is Doctor Leona Aiken, so I’m very grateful for her because she really redirected my career path. 

In terms of a support system, I was an international student so my family was pretty far away, but we kept in touch pretty closely. They have been a support system for forever. 

In graduate school, I would say it was fellow labmates. We were a very cohesive and supportive group. However, it’s always family that’s got your back in the end. This last year was probably more stressful than usual too for most, because people couldn’t go home. Depending on the COVID situation in their country, they may have been worried about family members.

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