Madison Elliott

Understanding Limits and Behavior in Feature Based Visual Attention
Faculty of Arts
Ronald Rensink
United States
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

This is actually my second graduate degree. I hold an MA in Clinical Psychology from Towson University, and spent a short time working in industry as a usability engineer. I decided to go back to school because I felt there were still so many unanswered questions in my field of work, and because I am endlessly fascinated by human cognition and visual perception. I also wanted to pursue more of my second passion: teaching and mentoring.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

First and foremost, I came to UBC to work with my amazing supervisor, Dr. Ronald A. Rensink. His mentorship and support are unparalleled, and his guidance has been completely integral to my studies. My lab has employed some insanely gifted and creative undergraduates, which has taught me to value the power of learning and inquisitiveness over age or experience. I've also found some unusual and amazing opportunities to collaborate across departments at UBC, and to extend my work beyond the lab with tech companies here in Vancouver.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

The full package of top-tier research, teaching and mentoring opportunities, and departmental engagement.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I am an avid back-country skier, fly fisher, and rock climber- so I pretty much couldn't ask for a better place to live. The outdoors community here is supportive and amazing. My work/life balance keeps me sane!

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

My favorite thing ever is getting new data. Opening that .csv or Excel file might as well be unwrapping presents on Christmas morning! Aggregating, wrangling, analyzing, and discovering new effects is what makes me tick. I look forward to furthering my understanding of the human visual system, and how we use it to interact with information visualizations. I am striving to make an impact in both worlds.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

Managing my time, prioritizing research projects (there are so many that I want to do!), and becoming a real "expert" in my research program.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

In so many ways, through course work, lab work, and my collaborations with companies. I am learning many different styles of productivity and project engagement.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I think that completing my first graduate degree taught me a lot about how I wanted to change and do better in this degree. I try really hard to maintain a healthy work/life balance now, and to focus my efforts where I think they matter most. I made lots and lots of mistakes during my first graduate degree, and in subsequent lab experiences at Johns Hopkins. I know that I have learned a lot from those mistakes; I really want to do good, impactful research here at UBC.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Ski, fish, rock climb, dance, soccer, softball, hike, read, explore, and drink bourbon.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Work hard, stay inquisitive, keep up with your extracurriculars, and remember that your degree is a marathon, not a sprint.


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