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Student Q&A: Vivek Sagar, NUIN

Vivek Sagar

Vivek Sagar, student in the Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) program, studies olfactory processing in the laboratory of Thorsten Kahnt, PhD, adjunct associate professor of Neurology in the Division of Behavioral Neurology.

Read a Q&A with Sagar below.

Where is your hometown?

I am from Chandigarh, India. It’s a pretty little city north of Delhi, near Punjab. Occasionally one can see the foothills of Himalayas above the sparse city lights — this vista is my most vivid memory of the city.

What sparked your interest in science or medicine?

Reading “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking while I was in high school had a significant impact on my perspective about the universe. Math, in all of her various forms, delighted me. I have been lucky to have people who coaxed out of me a genuine sense of wonder about the laws of nature and a curious appreciation of the complexity of conscious life.

What are your research interests?

I work at the interface of computational and human cognitive neuroscience. I enjoy constructing computational models of specific mental processes such as olfactory perception. 

What are you currently working on?

My thesis project is focused on understanding the neural basis of subjective olfactory perception. We found that distinct brain regions encode odor percepts with different degrees of complexity and subjectivity.

Please tell us about a defining moment in your education at Feinberg thus far.

I treasure moments with that subtle sense of being present and content while sitting in silence with a cup of coffee, in the backdrop of sunshine or snow and pondering upon a scientific problem. Those moments definitely find their meaning when added up over days, months and years.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

For now, I wish to continue this learning experience and gain some postdoctoral training. I am leaning towards understanding how our brains create hedonic value. But mostly, I am just curious about what comes next.