Dr Michael Smith is an Associate Professor in our Health and Wellbeing Group and the Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange for the Psychology Department

You can follow Michael on Twitter or visit his personal website

Tell us about your career history

I joined Northumbria as a Lecturer in 2010. But, two years earlier, when I was doing my PhD in Australia, I visited Northumbria for three months and absolutely loved the university and the city. After completing my PhD in 2009 and then working as a postdoctoral researcher in Australia for another year, I was delighted to be offered a job at Northumbria!

What got you interested in Psychology?

Embarrassingly, when I applied to study Psychology at university I didn’t actually know what it was! I knew I wanted to go to university but had no idea what I wanted to study, so decided to join one of my good mates who had applied to study Psychology so we could go to the pub after all of our lectures! In the end, my mate decided to transfer onto a different course before first year had started, I stuck with Psychology, and within a few weeks of learning about Bandura, Pavlov and Piaget I was totally hooked on this fascinating subject!

What was your PhD about?

For my PhD I was supposed to be working on a longitudinal study focussing on how cortisol influences adolescent and early adult brain development, but unfortunately the start date of the study had to be delayed due to funding issues. I was keen to get started, so I ended up conducting my PhD research on the influence of glucose ingestion and glucose regulation on cognitive performance in adolescents.

What is / are your main research areas now?

Since my PhD I have worked in a few different research areas, but my main focus has been on investigating the psychobiological causes and consequences of stress – much of this work is in collaboration with Professor Mark Wetherell. I’ve come to realise that it’s only two thirds of the story to research why people get stressed and what will happen to them when they get stressed, but not how to deal with stress. So, recently I’ve been investigating ways that expressive writing can help people to manage stress.

One psychology book that you recommend?

Psychology in Crisis’ by Brian Hughes is an excellent book, and is essential reading for any Psychology student. In order to be a good Psychologist, it’s important to understand all the areas where our discipline needs to do better (there are many, as you’ll discover when you read this book!). Hughes’ writing style is really engaging too – I first read this book on holiday and couldn’t put it down!

One piece of advice to students?

Work hard, play hard! Giving yourself plenty of time to socialise, destress and unwind is just as important to success as putting the hours into university work (but you also need to put the hard work in to be successful). 

What would you have liked to do if you had not followed the psychology career path?

I love cooking and barbecuing, and would love to run my own café or restaurant. The working hours of an academic are much more sociable though!

On a personal note

I was born and raised in Australia, but have always been a bit of a Euro/Anglophile, and love living in the UK! True to my Aussie roots though, I love the beach and over the past couple of years I’ve become a keen paddle boarder. My six year old daughter loves the beach too so we spend loads of time there – I also do a beach boot camp three mornings per week! I can never bring myself to support England in any sport, especially cricket or rugby! But I don’t have to worry about that when it comes to my favourite sport, Aussie Rules Football, which is only really played in Australia. I am a passionate supporter of my beloved team the West Coast Eagles – this often involves getting out of bed at 4am to watch live streams of their matches!

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