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Q&A with Dr. Nadia Al-Dajani, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology

Nadia Al-Dajani, who came to Miami in Fall 2022, answers questions about her research, teaching philosophy, and career.

Q&A with Dr. Nadia Al-Dajani, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology

Photo of Assistant Professor, Nadia Al-Dajani
Nadia Al-Dajani

Assistant Professor Nadia Al-Dajani in the Department of Psychology began her role at Miami University in Fall 2022, but her achievements and extensive knowledge began far before that. 

Al-Dajani received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Master’s in Experimental Psychology, Master’s in Clinical Psychology, and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Toronto and completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Michigan. She has then dedicated her career to advancing research related to risk and protective factors related to suicide. She recently participated in a Q&A discussing her journey and philosophy related to research and teaching.

Editor’s Note: Sadly, Al-Dajani left Miami University at the end of this academic year. We wish her well in her new position close to home!

Q: Why did you choose to pursue psychology as a career?

A: That's a really good question that I wish I had a very exciting answer for! I was always very interested in psychology. I remember when I was in middle school we had to do a presentation, and I picked the etiology of schizophrenia when I was 12 or something. I was always interested in better understanding mental illness, and then, at a broader level, why we think and do things the way that we think and do them as humans. When I was in undergrad, I was a bit lost, I think like many undergrads, but I came back to psychology because that was always an interest. After talking to a friend, she recommended volunteering in a lab, so I did that. That really solidified my interest in clinical psychology specifically and also really showed me my interest in research in particular.

Q: What is your research focus?

A: My research looks at momentary risk and protective factors of suicidal thoughts, trying to better understand what factors in someone’s day-to-day life might lead them to considering suicide in a specific moment, and then what factors might make it less likely that they would think about suicide. Basically, trying to understand when someone is more likely to be at risk rather than who’s more likely to be at risk.

Q: Who are some of your collaborators?

A: I have a lab here, but I started in the fall, so it's all very new. Currently, I have a graduate research assistant Adrianna Jones who has been a major help in just getting the lab up and running. I co-mentor a student in the clinical program as well, Nikhil Singh. And then I have a number of undergrad RAs. We have many projects we're working on that we're still in the phases of getting going. 

One project is a collaboration with the University of Cincinnati, studying momentary risk and protective factors of suicidal thoughts, in particular focusing on emerging adults. Another project is in collaboration with Dr. Vaishali Raval here at Miami, who focuses on global mental health, which is something I've not done but really interested in doing. We're working together on a project with her collaborators in India looking at day-to-day risk factors of suicidal thoughts in a college sample in Northern India with UPES University there. I’m also working with collaborators at the University of Louisville which will be looking at 13 to 17 year olds who are Black and looking at unique risk and protective factors in Black youth for suicidal thoughts based on more recent, very alarming increases in suicide deaths in the community.

Q: What value do you see in collaboration?

A: I think one thing that science in general is moving towards, I hope, is knowing what the things you're good at are, what you're not an expert in, and how you can bring others with that expertise or with a different lens or point of view in. That's going to make our science a lot richer and more useful to the communities that we're working with. There are practical difficulties that come in that way that make that work a bit harder, but building on those networks I think just serves everyone and is a benefit for everyone.

Q: What do you like the most about teaching?

A: There's a few things. I think there's actually a lot of creativity in teaching, deciding what's the best way to disseminate or make sure that the knowledge sticks, and so I love having some of that creative process. I also think a lot of it is just seeing the questions that students have and how the wheels start turning, and the things that they speak about are things that I maybe didn't think about which I think can be really cool. It teaches me something, which I think is the other side of teaching that I really enjoy. And then I like more of that personal mentorship as well, really just being part of the steps that students take to wherever they land is really exciting.

Q: What do you hope your students take away from your classes?

A: I think specifically, when it comes to my research area and teaching that topic, I want students to feel more comfortable engaging in that topic and asking themselves or loved ones about suicide. More broadly, what I would love for students to grow into is flexibility and critical thinking, and really that comes with knowing that there's no clear right answer. That's a hard thing to sit with for many, including myself, but we just have to be as thoughtful as we can, consult the research and our lived experiences, and then just go with what makes sense for us and adjust and change based on the feedback that we get. It's uncomfortable for sure, but I think it really sets you up for success in a lot of ways, even outside of psychology.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A: The thing I always like to point out is that sometimes when people will read these interviews, it seems like faculty members have all these things going on. But it's so many people that are involved, so I just want to point out that I have many collaborators, the faculty who I'm friends with who help out, my personal relationships, and a big community behind me. So I just want to acknowledge that and thank them too.

[March 2023]