Not Enough Time in the World

danai_dima-200pxThe term is moving fast. Deadlines are piling up this month, and we all can’t wait for the festive season to begin and term to finish so we can hibernate until the new term. However, amongst all the class tests and deadlines, I was excited to do my first interview with a lecturer at City. We turn up to lectures on a daily basis (well, most of us do) and we hear about the research that our lecturers have conducted in the past. However, we don’t always have the chance to find out what it was like for our lecturers to study at university. 

As a fairly new lecturer to City and my current Biological Psychology lecturer in year 2, Dr Danai Dima has made my Wednesday 9am’s (sigh) much more enjoyable with her enthusiastic teaching. Dr. Danai Dima is currently a Cognitive Neuroscience lecturer at City, and has been interested in Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience from a young age as she enjoyed maths. Her main interests in Psychology developed from her love of reading Oliver Sacks books on neuroscience. She obtained her Bachelors from her home country Greece, and completed a Masters in Integrative Neuroscience and a PhD in Germany and London. It’s safe to say that she’s an expert in her field with the world class training she has received.

After travelling all over Europe studying and conducting research, Danai reminisced on her Bachelor’s Degree in Greece when I asked which was her favourite place to study. ‘I’m going to be a bit cheeky here. I did my first degree in Greece and there are some pros and cons’. Danai explained that her first degree involved a high demand for good memory as she described that studying involved learning a lot of models. ‘University is free in Greece for your first Bachelor’s Degree, but you don’t do any research like you can do in the UK. So here, you have a lot of people who do world class research and your projects can be much better’. Danai further agreed that in the UK we get what we pay for when it comes to university: ‘world class research and world class lecturers’. Even though university rates are known to be high in the UK, we can sometimes forget that high amounts of money are spent on funding research that enables us know more about how we function and how we can resolve issues in fields such as Mental Health.

‘Psychology changes all the time. It’s still an infant. Every day in a baby’s life is like a year in psychology. So if you’re not up to date, then you don’t get the correct world view of psychology.’

As you could imagine it was very difficult for Danai to choose a favourite research project out of the 30+ published research papers she has been involved in. ‘You end up thinking that your favourite project is the one you’re currently working on’. She is currently working on machine learning (i.e. using brain scans) in differentiating between disorders such as Bipolar patients with Depressive patients, as it can take up to 8 years to get an accurate diagnosis. On working with ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics Through Meta-Analysis), a consortium involving a network of research establishments, her work involves investigating how the brain ages and how structures change as we develop throughout our lives. 

‘I can never publish a paper on my own because we never have all the expertise. It’s not only a time limit but also a capacity limit because there’s not enough time in your lifetime in years to study.’

Danai has worked at City in the Psychology department for the last 6 months so she describes herself as a ‘newbie to City’. She describes that having a nice work environment is vital in her work, and City students are ‘nice and polite’ which makes the job easier. Working with her colleagues is a ‘lot of fun’ and the work ethic of students makes her enjoy being a lecturer. ‘Ask me again next year, who knows?’

At university, people often ask us what we want to do after completing our degrees, but it’s not often as straightforward for everyone. Danai confessed that the first role or job you try may not necessarily be the career you want. After spending time on becoming a clinical neuropsychologist, she didn’t enjoy the year in training. ‘Sometimes our ideas become romanticised and you can always make mistakes. But usually life is not as strict and you can always change what you want to do’.

Danai’s advice to students:

‘Support your peers. I know it sounds silly, but you will get the best advice usually from your peers. Like the ones that are one or two years above you. There should be a lot of love between you because you are all in the same boat. You are a big cohort and it’s really difficult to become friends with all of you. But help each other with notetaking. Don’t suck up to the big ones. It doesn’t matter so much. Be nice to each other. Sounds a bit cheesy, I know.’ 

What is your favourite TV show/series? Crime series (currently watching ‘The Missing’)

What is the first thing you notice when you first meet people? Their voice

What’s your favourite day of the year? My birthday (it’s in December)

Written by Sandra Ku

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