Dr Libby Orme is the Deputy Head of the Psychology Department, and an Associate Professor of Learning and Teaching
Tell us about your career history?
I did the BSc Psychology at Northumbria from 2002 to 2005 (Lynn McInnes was my personal tutor!), then did my PhD (supervised by Dr Colin Hamilton and Prof Kenny Coventry), and have been a lecturer in the department since 2009. I became a senior lecturer back in 2013, and an Associate Professor in 2020
What got you interested in Psychology?
I used to want to be a maths teacher(!) in further education. My A levels were in Chemistry, Maths and Biology but I chose to also do a 4th A-level in psychology as it sounded interesting. It turned out, statistics was the bit of maths I really enjoyed, and neuroscience was the bit of biology I enjoyed, so I was surprised to learn how much psychology involved both of them (and I got much better grades in psychology!). As such, I decided to pursue psychology as an undergraduate subject, during my degree I discovered that a career in academia was exactly what I wanted as it allowed me to teach and research the subjects I really enjoyed.
What was your PhD about?
My PhD title was: Identifying the Functional Architecture Underlying Multiple Representations in Visual Working Memory. I effectively did a series of experiments to investigate how memory systems operate to allow people to interpret novel visual information and used the findings to argue that many memory tasks don’t actually measure what they claim to be measuring
What are your main research areas now?
I have continued to do research in memory/cognitive psychology, using EEG as well as experimental methods. However, I am an associate professor or learning and teaching and so also research learning and teaching issues, such as student loneliness, employability and different methods of teaching students in psychology
Tell us about one psychology book that you would recommend?
Working Memories: Postmen, Divers and the Cognitive Revolution by Alan Baddeley – it’s an absolutely brilliant book about human memory, told from the personal perspective of Alan Baddeley who is arguably one of the most influential figures in memory. It’s a genuinely entertaining book and I would definitely recommend reading it if you struggle to find cognitive psychology interesting!
I’m going to cheat and give a second recommendation – Statistics as a Principled Argument by Robert Abelson, this was actually the book that got my hooked on teaching research methods, and was recommended by my mentor at the time – Dr Chris Dracup.
One piece of advice to students?
I’d always say that you get out of university what you put into it. There are so many opportunities to get involved in the course, the subject and university life more widely, but it’s up to you to take up the opportunities! Hopefully you are studying psychology because you love it, university is the chance to really geek out and share that passion with people who love it too. We also know that students who get involved in extra-curricular activities do better on their courses, are happier, and more employable when they graduate – so it’s really worth getting involved.
What would you have liked to do if you had not followed the psychology career path?
I was either going to be a maths teacher or an electrician, so teaching research methods and using EEG isn’t far off!
What do you like to do outside of work?
I have a 4 year old daughter and a slightly high maintenance sausage dog, so I spend a lot of time walking and playing with Paw Patrol toys. I enjoy cycling, and spend way too much of my time doing jigsaws!