Small Steps Matter

marie_poirierAny Psychology student who has studied at City, would have been supported and taught by Dr Marie Poirier. Marie specialises in the field of Memory, and has accomplished several publications in Journal Articles and books. So as you can imagine, I was very pleased when Marie accepted our interview invitation! Marie is a charismatic lecturer, so the Psychology Society and I were very interested in what she had to say.

It’s November, and the deadlines are fast approaching. This is often the time where University gets stressful. Only the strongest can survive. I was curious to see if Marie ever felt this way, and what strategies she used to cope to get the most out of university. Marie remembered her first degree being very challenging, as she had to teach herself to be more disciplined and organised. Up until University, Marie explained that she didn’t have to work all that hard in College. However, she gained a place in a University where there were 1000 applicants, and only 55 students were accepted. Marie described herself as a sociable student: she went to all the parties, was part of the Students’ Union, and was a Student Representative. Although she enjoyed all, after her second year she became tired. So her advice to current and future students would be to become more disciplined, but also make sure you have time for yourself, as you have to have the mental health to keep going.

“Small steps matter sometimes just working an hour or two every day, at a specific time can create a habit.”

Marie is originally from Quebec, Canada which is where she obtained her PhD. I thought it would be interesting to ask her thoughts about studying abroad. Personally, I have always liked the idea of it, and I believe that Marie would be a good person to ask her opinion on the topic. Marie agreed that studying abroad is easier said than done. As although it sounds good on the paper, the reality is that you “go to a strange place, you don’t like the cheeses, you don’t have your favourite foods, you don’t know how to take the bus. Everything is new, and everything has to be learnt and you don’t know a soul, so that makes it quite hard”. On a brighter note, Marie explained further that if you are confident, and conduct appropriate research, it can be a fantastic experience and you can reap great rewards. Marie went abroad in the States for a while to work, and she remembered being very worried about how she was going to cope. She believes her experience made a difference in her thinking, in her way of functioning and it still influences her to this day. It had a massive positive impact to her confidence.

Marie moved to City in 2001, and says that City is “the absolute best environment” she has worked in. Her three main reasons are that: her fellow lecturers are great to work with, the administration is great, and the levels of students are high here. Some students also work part-time and can agree that there can often be work politics, but Marie says that within the Psychology department the people are lovely and are all very focused on their work – and this makes it an enjoyable place to work.

“Our facilities here now are great and it’s a very well rounded department. Best kept secret in London.”

Working at City University has also provided Marie with some of her proudest moments of her career. Marie mentioned that her PhD students make her very proud, as they have all graduated and progressed to either academic careers or in employment. The PhD students put an incredible amount of work in, and that being able to help them by giving them an opportunity and supporting them in starting their careers is one of the best parts of the job for Marie.

As a third year student, I often feel pressured into knowing exactly what career I want to do for the next 40 years of my life, which is daunting for anyone in my position. Psychology entails a number of different areas, which does make it harder for me to choose. I wanted to know how Marie chose the research area of Memory. Marie’s PhD was actually in Time Psychophysics, and although it was her first love and she still enjoys learning about it and attending talks. Marie admitted that she wanted to do something that has more scope for applications. Marie was attracted to memory as she already knew a bit about it, and at the time the famous Working Memory Model was really starting to hit its stride. There were also practical reasons that Marie had to consider as in Canada, lecturers had to get grants to fund their research – and therefore Memory was an area where you can collect data fairly quickly. Marie’s final choice “was a choice of heart and reason”.

Marie’s advice to students:

“Go out there and knock on as many doors as you have to. I know it’s hard, but it can make such a difference. If you meet one person that just mentors you even a little bit. It can make a big difference for your own confidence and your opportunities later. The degree is very challenging and it’s hard to make space for that, but people should go for it.”

Favourite Time of Day? Morning

Favourite Leisure? Cycling

If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be? Japan

Written by Dionne St Rose