Spotlight on: Professor Nick Neave

Nick Neave is a Professor in psychology and the lead of our Hoarding Research Group. Hes also the Faculty Director of Ethics and teaches a range of modules in the psychology, including our very popular Parapsychology module!

How long have you worked at Northumbria?

I have been at Northumbria for 25 years.

What got you interested in psychology?

I became interested at college by taking it as an A/O level, I chose this subject as I did not know what it was and it sounded interesting.

What was your PhD/Masters about?

My PhD was on the Neuroanatomical basis of spatial working memory.

What are your main research areas?

My main research areas are not hoarding and collecting behaviours (especially digital hoarding), conspiracy theory belief, and the home advantage in football.

What advice do you have for students?

Do not be obsessed by career pathways, take courses you are actually interested in

What would you have liked to do if you had not become a psychologist?

I started out as a primary school teacher and so would most likely still be doing that!

Spotlight on: Dr Tom Heffernan

Dr Tom Heffernan is a senior lecturer at Northumbria University. He has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from Manchester Metropolitan University and a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Manchester. Tom’s main teaching is in memory, abnormal psychology and the psychology of crime

Tom is also the author of The Students Guide to Studying Psychology, which is a great book for anyone new to studying the subject

What got you interested in psychology?

I developed a keen interest in abnormal psychology and forensic psychology. Then studied it at pre-degree level, then decided to take it from there, resulting in a PhD in psychology and subsequent career.

What was your PhD/Masters about?

The development of working memory in children. Specifically focused on how the use of internal strategies, such as internal rehearsal, developed across the ages of 5 and 12 and how this helped in memory development.

What are your main research areas now?

The impact of recreational drug use, such as alcohol, ecstasy, cannabis and even smoking upon memory and cognitive abilities. I have recently been focusing on the impact of lockdown upon mental health and happiness.

One psychology book you recommend?

The Social Animal’ by Elliot Aronson

One piece of advice for students?

Just bear in mind that whatever you do after a psychology degree, having studied psychology will always be seen as relevant to that area.

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

A treasure hunter

On a personal note.

I enjoy exercise, such as walking and cycling, I also enjoy films, Motown music and travel (which I feel opens the mind and provides you with perspective). My favourite holiday location is the Island of Skiathos in Greece. I highly recommend for avoiding stag and hen parties, idiots and it is great for swimming, healthy food, and friendly people.

Spotlight on: Dr Andrew McNiell

Dr Andrew McNiell is a senior lecturer in the department. He is a social psychologist the programme leader for BSc (Hons) psychology at Northumbria Universit

Tell us about your career history

I have been working at Northumbria University for 7 years. Arriving in 2013 to do a post-doc with Pam Briggs. After that I also did a couple of other post-doc positions with Lynne Coventry, then taking on a lecturer role at the university.

What got you interested in psychology?

I became interested in psychology to try and understand the strangeness of human behaviour. Specifically, I wanted to understand why such intelligent creatures can also behave irrationally at times.

What was the topic of your PhD?

My PhD was on how groups talked about being victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Exploring how people changed what they said about their experience and victimhood depending on the context of the situation and therefore how this is relevant to understanding why people claim to be victims of violent conflict.

What are your main areas of research now?

I still have a strong interest in intergroup conflict. Due to there being unfortunately so much between-group conflict in the world, this means I never lack any research material. Along with this, I also have a keep interest in how people use social media when communication about pandemics.

What one psychology book would you recommend?

While not in my research area, Oliver Sack’s book, “The man who mistook his wife for a hat” (1986) was a great read.

What advice would you give to students?

Read as much psychology literature as you can, however, be wary of popular psychology books.

What would you have liked to do if you had not followed your career in psychology?

I think I would have become a computer programmer.

Tell us about yourself….

I live in County Durham with my lovely wife, Lauren, and two boys, Ezra and Isaac [since writing this, Andrew and his wife have had a third son!]. I am an active member of my local church where I occasionally preach. I have also acquired a passion for baking since the coronavirus lockdown and you will often find me in the kitchen with my apron on. One of my favourite series of books is Jeeves and Wooster by P G Wodehouse. In terms of TV series, I love the Jack Ryan series.

Want to hear more from the Social Research Group? Head over to the Evolution and Social Interaction Research blog

Spotlight on: Dr Katri Cornelissen

Dr Katri Cornelissen is the Director of Transnational Education and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology. She is a researcher within our psychopathologies research group and teaches our very popular eating disorders option module.

Tell us about your career history

I have been at Northumbria University since 2002. Prior to this I worked at Newcastle University. While at Northumbria University my teaching has been mostly focused on eating disorders which is also my main research topic area and research skills. At my time at Newcastle University, I was mostly involved in clinical education, and a lot of teaching was within neuroscience.

What got you interested in psychology?

Originally, I wanted to understand how the human brain works and how much the brain can be retrained and whether this retraining changes the neural circuity. From there, my interests took me into clinical psychology and particularly I wanted to understand the consequences of brain trauma and infarct and how we can best rehabilitate individuals with severe brain damage. Through personal experience of eating disorders, my interest shifted with time more towards body image and eating disorders and trying to understand what causes eating disorders and how they can be treated.

What was the topic of your Phd?

My PhD was about Anorexia Nervosa and body image distortion in eating dsiorders.

What are your main areas of research currently?

My main research is currently within body image and body distortion. I do not anymore wish to single out eating disorders but am rather interested in investigating and trying to understand body image distortion in both non-clinical samples and various different clinical samples. I am also doing some research on social media impact on body image which is always a popular topic amongst students.

What one psychology book would you recommend?

There is too many to name one. I want to mention Andy Fields’ statistics book as the book still stays by my bedside and has done for years.

What would you have liked to do if you hadn’t followed a career in psychology?

I did not start my career as a psychologist. As a matter of fact my very first degree was in chemistry. Since then, I have visited speech pathology, linguistics, medicine, but I feel most comfortable in psychology. Lesson to learn – you can always change career, it will not harm you to be qualified in multiple areas.

On a personal note…

Most of you will discover sooner or later that I am a dedicated gym goer, and can be seen every morning at the gym (we have a great gym at the campus). However, even more of that, I am a dedicated rock climber and skier, and will take the opportunity to go to the mountains when I can. At those times you will not reach me by any means. I have a family, with one GCSE student and one A level student, so, trust me, I understand what you are going through.

Is there anything else you would like students to know?

At Northumbria we are relaxed and approachable, but we expect professional behaviour. We want to help you on your journey and want to support you. You will not be turned away if you wish to discuss topics in psychology. However, we are not there to give you answers. We are there to help you find the answers.

Sooner or later, you will discover that I have an accent. Please come and tell me your guess where I am originally from. I find that very entertaining. Most people do not guess. Equally most students cannot pronounce my surname. I do not mind if you get it wrong. I may get the pronunciation of your surname wrong which I do apologise for.

Want to hear more about Dr Cornelissens research?

Subscribe to our Health and Wellbeing blog

Spotlight on: Professor Karen McKenzie

Karen McKenzie is a professor in the psychology department, and a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered, Chartered Clinical Psychologist. Karen is the lead of our Research and Practice in Developmental Disabilities (RaPiDD) Group.

Tell us about your career history

I have worked at Northumbria University for almost 7 years. Prior to that, I worked jointly as Head of Speciality (learning disability services) as a clinical psychologist for various NHS trusts in Scotland, as well as on the Clinical Psychology doctorate programme at Edinburgh University. I have been a clinical psychologist for nearly 30 years.

What got you interested in psychology?

I was interested in other people’s life stories and imagined that being a psychologist was a bit like being a psychotherapist. It was a bit of a surprise to discover that it involved a lot of statistics. I became interested in clinical psychology as an undergraduate after hearing a lecture from a psychologist working in prisons. I then obtained summer work as a psychology assistant in a learning disability service and really enjoyed it, so decided to pursue that route. I trained as a forensic clinical psychologist and worked in that area for a few years before returning to work in learning disability services.

Whay are your current research interests?

Most of my current research related to the clinical psychology field, in particular, people with learning disability. My recently funded projects evaluating positive behavioural support (PBS) for this group of people, looking at factors that influence the recruitment and retention of various staff groups, exploring career pathways in mental health and looking at factors which influence student mental health.

What psychology book would you recommend?

A very early book that appealed to me as an undergraduate was called ‘Vaulting Ambition’ by Phillip Kitcher. At the time it struck me as being very well written and I liked that it argued against things such as we are determined and restricted by which sex we are.

What advice would you give to students?

Opportunities often arise in unexpected circumstances, so do not feel that you always have to follow the same path as everyone else, but always try to be honest, kind and authentic.

What would you have liked to do if you have not followed a career in psychology?

I would probably become a nurse, as I was accepted for nurse training but chose clinical psychology training instead. I think I would have liked to have been a full-time author, as I really enjoy writing.

What advice would you give to students who want to study Clinical Psychology?

I know a lot of students are interested in becoming clinical psychologists and my general advice would be:

  • Try to get relevant experience during your time at university – this might be through a placement module, volunteering. or paid work  
  • Try to find ways to show you use/disseminate research – this might be by presenting at the student conference or working with your supervisor to try to get an article published from your dissertation or thesis. 
  • Try to develop an understanding of what clinical psychologists actually do – look at information on the BPS, division of clinical psychology site, speak to clinical psychologists about their role (there a few of us at Northumbria University). 
  • Consider undertaking a thesis/dissertation on a clinically relevant topic. This doesn’t need to be with a clinical population, as long as it is on a topic that would have implications for clinical psychologists and the people they work with. 
  • Look at the Clinical Psychology Clearing House site to get an idea of the types of things that the different programmes are looking for in applicants
  • Be aware that there is competition for clinical psychology places, but don’t let that put you off. Give yourself as good a chance as possible by getting a good degree, having relevant experience, having a good understanding of the role, and showing that you have disseminated research in some way. 

Read More

Want to hear more about the research of the Health and Wellbeing group? head over to the blog

Interested in Careers in Psychology? Read more posts from staff, practitioners and alumni here

You can also look at the British Psychological Society Guidance about Clinical Psychology Careers

Spotlight On: Dr Michael Smith

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!

Spotlight on: Dr Lynn McInnes

Dr Lynn McInnes is a Director of Education in the Department of Psychology. Part of this role is assuring the quality of the degree programmes we offer. This covers quality of assessments, modules, programmes and working with other staff on the strategic plans for the department regarding teaching and learning.

Tell us abour your career history

In September of 2021 I will have been at Northumbria University for 24 years. I achieved my undergraduate degree from Newcastle University and my PhD from Manchester University. After my PhD I was able to secure research posts for a few years working on a longitudinal study of ageing at Manchester and Newcastle Universities before joining Northumbria University as a Senior Lecturer and then becoming an Associate Professor.

What got you into psychology?

I took an eclectic mix of A-levels as I was not sure what I wanted to do when the time came to make A-level choices, so I tried to keep my options open. I had always had an interest in medicine but the thought of another 5 years of studying was off-putting so when I heard about a three-year degree in psychology it appealed as it offered me a new way to study people and behaviour. My degree and PhD ended up taking six years to complete.

What was the topic of your PhD?

The title of my PhD was “The efficiency of age and intelligence as predictors of spatial memory”. I was supervised by the wonderful Professor Patrick Rabbitt who introduced me to the world of research, the highs and lows of writing papers and research grants, attending conferences around the world and meeting experts about cognitive ageing.

What are your main research areas now?

I have continued studying ageing by looking at what aspects of cognitive functioning change with age. This has developed into studying ageing and health, well being and mobility. Most recently I have worked with colleagues in the department studying hoarding behaviour, especially hoarding exhibited by older adults.

Tell us about one psychology book that you would recommend?

My undergraduate project was about autobiographical memory. I asked people about their first memories and examined how these were elated to age and intelligence. A book that inspired me at the time was Memory Observed: Remembering in Natural Contexts by Ulric Neisser and Ira Hyman and I still would class it among my favourite psychology books.

What piece of advice would you give to students?

Make the most of whatever opportunities come your way. Put effort into everything you do and you will reap the rewards.

Try to remember that your degree is not just about the marks you achieve, but also enjoying the whole learning and social experience.

What would you have liked to do if you had not followed your career in psychology?

I would have loved to be a travel agent, an air hostess or an editor of a travel magazine. I love travelling and taking photographs so a job that allowed me to do those activities would have been perfect.

What do you do outside of work?

As I noted above, I love travelling and taking photographs. I enjoy creating albums of photos and can be relied upon to be able to find holiday photos of years ago, long before social media existed, to have a laugh about them with friends and family.

I also enjoy reading; I am currently enjoying a series of murder mysteries set in the North East of England by L J Ross. I also love working in my garden and hiking in the Lake District.

I have a 20-year-old son at university, and he and his friends are giving me great insights into how the student brain works.

Spotlight On: Dr Libby Orme

Dr Libby Orme is the Deputy Head of the Psychology Department, and an Associate Professor of Learning and Teaching

Follow Libby on LinkedIn or Twitter

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!