It’s not just a 9 to 5

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This week I interviewed Dr. Katy Tapper, who specialises in Health Psychology. Katy’s PhD research was about aggression in schools, and her Post-Doc was on health eating in schools. Katy reflected that the reason she stayed in the area of Health Psychology was because there were many things about that appealed to her. Health Psychology can be applied, or experimental work can be carried out. Theories can be made and developed, and can also be related to topics such as social inequalities and government policies.

“It is a broad field, and there is lots of interesting literature to get stuck into.”

One of the best parts of the job for Katy is ultimately the research, and being able to study things that she is interested in. Katy articulates that teaching Health Psychology is a nice opportunity for her to read around areas that she wouldn’t directly be researching in. Katy also likes project supervision, as she gets to know her students better. The worst part of the role for Katy is marking exams. Although the Health coursework is interesting to mark as everybody does something a little bit different as they have to invent their own health intervention. Katy admits that marking exams scripts are not as fun, and that generally academics in the field feel they don’t get enough time to do their own research as they have a lot of general admin work at times.

I often worry whether I put enough time into my own studies, so I was interested to see how many hours a week Katy works. Katy replied that the hours she works varies, and it really depends on what deadlines she has that week. Some weeks Katy would work evenings and weekends, if she is trying to meet a particular deadline. There will be other weeks where, maybe it is not so intense and therefore she can work more flexibly.

As I have interviewed a few academics now, naturally I was beginning to wonder if there are common similarities between them in their success in the academic field. I asked Katy for her opinion and she revealed that people who go into academia have a high interest in what they study, and therefore it is not just a 9 to 5 job, it is something they really enjoy doing. She also mentioned that a lot of academics like the freedom to work in what they are interested ini

“I’d say academics don’t tend to like being told what to do very much. I guess it attracts people who like to organise things how they want to.”

Katy’s advice to students:

“My advice would be to read a lot. Something that would definitely improve a student’s writing is to read as they possibly can and I think that would then come out in their writing. Also, try to study things that you enjoy, and perhaps even if it is something that you don’t enjoy so much – try and find something about it that you can relate to your own life. Everyone does so much better if they study something they are interested in and enjoying.”

What is your favourite clothing shop? Hush

Beach Holiday or a city break? Beach holiday, although I do love cities.

Favourite movie genre? Real historical events but dramatized. For example: “Fair Game” and “The insider”.

Written by Dionne St Rose

Make Decisions Early

brenda-toddAs Developmental Psychology was the research area that first made me realise my interest in Psychology; I was excited to interview Dr. Brenda Todd, who specialises in Developmental Psychology. Some of the research areas that Brenda is interested in are parent-infant communication and lateral biases in behaviour, particularly the left cradling bias.

Brenda started University as a Mature Student, and studied Applied Psychology at Sussex University. Although Brenda was not sure what she wanted to do when she was studying. She had two sons and knew she already had an interest in Developmental Psychology. One of the things that attracted Brenda to Developmental Psychology was the potential for helping people when they are young, whether that was by ensuring good systems are in place or on an individual level.

I guessed that there would be some challenges in Developmental Psychology as it can contain sensitive topics. The most challenging aspect of the job for Brenda comes from gently supporting the parents and educators so they can give the best help to the children they are looking after. Sometimes the parents that Brenda works with have very difficult circumstances to deal with. For example, one of the groups that Brenda has worked with most recently were refugee parents, and Brenda helps people to do the best job that they can as parents. The best part of the job for Brenda is when she sees that her help is appreciated and is working.

Another part of her role that Brenda loves is supporting her students and hearing their outcomes. Her PhD student Sarah Tommessen has recently received her award, and now is in employment. Brenda is very proud seeing that after all the work they have achieved together; her student is now ready to take on wonderful work. Brenda also had exciting news about her research topic on gender differences in toy preferences. Brenda has someone from the Disney Company coming to see her to talk about her research. She has also been mentioned in an article in the New York Times, and a German newspaper quite recently.

“The research has had huge media attention, and yet it is quite an easy study to do but it has hit public sensitivities. Everybody is interested whether they are parents or not, they’re curious about where those differences comes from.”

Brenda is incredibly excited about the growing interest in her studies. However, she mentioned that her opportunity to work with mothers that have been trafficked into the countries, and their babies who were under 6 months old is what she is most proud of. As it was wonderful to see their ability to be good mothers in the most difficult circumstances imaginable.

“I think that is my most memorable study. Together with my student Sarah Thompson, we have done the most good.”

At the end of the interview, I asked Brenda if she had the chance would she start she all over again, and choose a different career path. Brenda replied no, as she doesn’t believe she could resist. Brenda used to be a Company Director for a Marine Salvage Company and although she has enjoyed the variety of her working life, the only thing she would change is switching to Psychology a bit earlier.

Brenda’s Advice to Students:

“My advice would be to make decisions early, be confident about what they would like to do with their Psychology degree and not wait until the end as I did. To think about which groups of people they would like to work with, but also be really open about where a psychology degree can take you. The wide range of employment that you can get with a Psychology degree.”

Do you prefer sunrises or sunsets? I like the energy and excitement of a sunrise.

If you could change anything about yourself what would it be? Would like to be taller.

Favourite movie genre? Old fashioned black and white movies.

Written by Dionne St Rose