Stellar Mind: University Alumnus Explores Cognitive Impact of Space Travel

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ivkovic imageYou might be surprised to discover that a trip to space has an impact on the human psyche.

Just ask Vladimir Ivković, who has spent his career studying the psychological and physiological effects of extreme environments and began his career at Webster Vienna Private University (WVPU).

Ivković has studied all over the world, but first came to Vienna in 1997 to study psychology. He graduated from WVPU in 1999 with honors in psychology and philosophy.

Ivković parlayed his childhood passions of sci-fi and mythical creatures into expertise about science, psychology and the field of space travel. Today he is a world-class professional in neuroimaging and integrative physiology in clinical and extreme environments, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“Space travel represents one of the most complex, extreme conditions for humans, which makes it so interesting in the field of psychology. I am from Croatia, which did not have its own space agency when I was starting my studies, so a logical path for me was to start with a bachelor's degree in Psychology at Webster Vienna and later a master's degree at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg,” Ivković said.

He predicts that the world will see the first human crew on the surface of Mars within 15 years. The alumnus’ neuroscience and psychology research are contributing to the future of space travel. For example, he is a co-investigator working to support the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to characterize the baselines of sleep quality, cognitive and operational performance and immune function for deep space expeditions.

In other words, how well can astronauts function while sleep deprived and in space?

"Studying at WVPU was personally and professionally a transformative experience," he said. "The interdisciplinary nature of studies at WVPU provided the breadth of my intellectual influences that were further shaped by the unique Viennese milieu."

In addition to his WVPU degree, Ivković has master's degrees in Biology from the University of Zagreb and in Space Studies and Neuroscience from International Space University in France. He earned a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Houston and completed postdoctoral studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

The distinguished WVPU alumnus is also a firefighter and a rescue diver, and has run the Boston Marathon. WVPU was honored that Ivkovic delivered the 2020 commencement address.

Learn more about Webster Vienna at

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