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LabTV: Curious About the Nervous System

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

Maja PetkovicAs a child growing up in Croatia, Maja Petkovic dreamed of a future in archeology, medicine, law, and then architecture. But, as she explains in today’s LabTV video, after taking a class in molecular biology, it was love at first sight.

Her passion for biological research landed her in Paris at the Université Denis Diderot, where she pursued a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Now she’s continuing her studies in the United States, working as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute postdoctoral researcher in the NIH-supported lab of Lily and Yuh Nung Jan at the University of California, San Francisco.

Petkovic’s work in the Jan Lab is focused on the basic mechanisms underlying the formation of neural connections and on understanding what happens when those connections go awry. A thorough understanding of neural circuitry has important medical implications, of course, but Petkovic is equally driven by the desire to understand “how stuff works.”

She challenges the frequent misconception that scientists are people who prefer to keep to themselves, and it’s clear that doesn’t describe Petkovic. Indeed, as readers of this blog have surely come to realize, the highly collaborative nature of scientific discovery depends more now than ever on scientists working together in highly effective teams, sharing their expertise, ideas, and findings.

If there’s any one trait that her colleagues do tend to share, Petkovic says, it’s this: “They’re extremely curious, very persistent, and people who just really want to feel like they are doing something that matters.”



Jan Lab (University of California, San Francisco)

Science Careers (National Institute of General Medical Sciences/NIH)

Careers Blog (Office of Intramural Training/NIH)

Scientific Careers at NIH


  • creativebiolabs says:

    I believe every scientist no matter those who had made great achievement to the world or those who have not is doing something that matters.

  • D. A. says:

    I developed Transverse Myelitis and I would be so Thankful if some one could figure out why my body went awry. Please Maja keep up with your perseverance as people with this chronic disability disorder can maybe get a grip as what happened to them. These answers may even bring light to a medication or procedure to help.

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