Northumbria PhD Students’ Prize Winning Research

One of our current PhD students, Richard Brown, has been awarded runner up in the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group awards for his research conducted in his time on our MSc Psychology programme. Richard is now a PhD student, working with Dr Gillian Pepper, and Dr Liz Sillence and also works as a research assistant with Liz and Professor Lynne Coventry as part of the INTUIT project. He completed his Psychology master’s conversion course at Northumbria in 2020 after previously working in law and education.

Richard’s master’s research

Richard’s master’s thesis investigated perceptions of risk and health and information seeking behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic, surveying a nationally representative sample of 500 UK adults. From this study, he was able to produce two publications alongside Dr Gillian Pepper and Professor Lynne Coventry.

The first paper investigated the relationship between perceptions of risk and health behaviours during lockdown. It was found that greater perceived threat to life from COVID-19 predicted increased compliance with infection control measures. It was also suggested that the pandemic may have made people feel less control over what is likely to kill them. Feeling less control over what may kill you was also associated with a worsening of health behaviours for diet, physical activity and smoking. This suggests that health messages that highlight threat to life may increase adherence to infection control, but may also lead to a reduction in health-promoting behaviours.

The second paper looked at demographic and occupational inequalities in experiences and perceptions of COVID-19. Men reported lower levels of perceived threat to life from the virus than women and, among workers, lower occupational class was associated with greater levels of perceived risk of infection and perceived threat to life. Most notably, key workers during the pandemic who reported feeling that they are insufficiently protected by their PPE experienced increased levels of perceived threat, which may lead to negative health behaviours. This highlights the need for employers to ensure that key workers feel they are adequately protected from COVID-19.

What’s next?

Richard is now looking to build on this research during his doctoral studies. He has submitted a position paper for publication that outlines the theoretical and empirical case for the expanded study of the Uncontrollable Mortality Risk Hypothesis, developed by his supervisor Dr Gillian Pepper and Professor Daniel Nettle at Newcastle University. He has also finished collecting data for the qualitative study of feelings of control over different causes of death, which he hopes will expand into further quantitative research later in the year. Finally, he is planning to investigate health misinformation on Facebook to determine some of the key message characteristics that lead to enhanced sharing online.

Advice for students wanting to publish during their studies

Richard’s advice to students looking to publish their work is to cast the net wide when looking for opportunities and to be creative in disseminating their ideas. In addition to the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group, various organisations advertise student essay competitions which offer the opportunity to have your work published in their affiliated journals (for example the Royal Society for Public Health). There are also opportunities to pitch your ideas to The Conversation and other information outlets. For example, Richard published an article on Open Science in the Psychologist earlier this year. Finally, inspired by Dr Santosh Vijaykumar’s work on The Batsapp Project and Dr Daniel Jolley’s videos on conspiracy theories, Richard has created an explainer video to summarise his first study in a fun and accessible way. This provides a fresh and creative approach for getting your ideas noticed.

You can watch his video below!

Graduate Bio: Joan Wong

We interviewed Joan Wong, one of our MSc Occupational and Organisational Psychology graduates about her career. Joan is now a Senior HR director in the financial technology industry

Author: Joan Wong

Which course(s) did you do at Northumbria and what have you done since graduating?

I was inspired to study Psychology after reading several books about human minds at the age of 15. Having torn between the Counselling Psychology and Organisational Psychology, I finally decided to pursue a MSc degree in the latter with the aim of contributing something to all human beings who spend nearly half their lifetime in the workforce for a living.

I graduated in 2017, and I was lucky to be given the opportunity to be a recruiter one month after I came back to Malaysia. It was a start-up like environment as one of the prestigious firms (also my dream company) set up a shared services centre in my home country back in 2016. Lots of professional growth opportunities as I was able to get involved in campus recruitment, employer branding, and people advisory functions in my first job.

What is your current job title and what does your job involve?

I am currently working as Senior HR Executive in the financial technology industry; another wonderful company where growth opportunities abound. My day-to-day is challenging yet inspiring in different ways, i.e. writing HR policies/process, handling employee enquiries from different regional offices, and my favourite – to plan and execute talent development related projects.

What inspired you to follow your career path?

My dream of being able to help employees achieve a balance between productivity and happiness at the organisation has allowed me to soldier on for the past few years. I realised I could achieve this dream through talent development and talent management functions where my passion lies.

What advice would you give to current students wanting to follow a similar path?

I volunteered to have mock interviews with students from other departments (me acting as a recruiter), when I involved in a value-based recruitment consultancy project with an external NGO, and when I presented my thesis at a conference. They are all about challenging oneself to understand the meaning of limitless, and to understand that being limitless is indeed possible.

Other than the academic knowledge taught by my favourite lectures/professors (they are still the best in my heart to this day), one of the greatest takeaways from this MSc programme is not to be afraid of trying new things in an unfamiliar environment. Say yes to all the opportunities presented to you whilst you are still a student; say yes to all the opportunities to you whilst you start working; say yes to all the wonderful things during your lifetime because they are going to bring you to a place where you never imagine such place even exists on this planet.

Go volunteering and do not be afraid to take on additional projects/responsibilities at the workplace. They might seem daunting, and the journey is going to be arduous. But trust me, the outcome is going to be rewarding to the extent that you are not going to trade that with any other things.

What was your favourite thing about studying at Northumbria?

If I were given a change again, I will choose to re-live the same path. No regrets! Especially the library at Northumbria. It was there for me during so many sleepless nights (the jet lag) at the beginning, and its marvellous reservoir of books. It never failed me when I was looking for different books to read during weekends and semester holidays. Being able to borrow those books from other libraries was an experience that was so special that I could not even replicate this experience at any other places.

Graduate Bio: Naomi Boswell

We interviewed one of our graduates about her career to date. Naomi graduated from the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme, and is now about to finish her training as an Educational Psychologist. Read the full interview below!

You can follow Noami on Twitter

Which course did you do at Northumbria and what have you done since graduating?

I studied the Psychology BSc at Northumbria.  It was the first time I was able to thrive by studying something I was really interested in.  I graduated with a first class honors, before spending the summer on a psychology placement in Sri Lanka with SLV volunteers.  When  I returned home, I started working in an independent children’s home with education for children with autism in the role of an education care mentor before becoming a therapy assistant.  Alongside this, I studied a MA in Autism part time.  Since then I have had roles which have included a volunteer assistant clinical psychologist, a teaching assistant within local authority special school and a assistant educational psychologist before I began the Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology at Manchester University in September 2018.

 
What is your current job title and what does your job involve?

I am a trainee educational psychologist and I am in my final year of the doctorate.  I enjoy how varied educational psychology can be depending on who you work for, where you work and what your interests are too.  The role involves working with children and young people from 0-25 years with special educational needs.  As part of this I work with a range of professionals, such as speech and language therapists, paedatricians, school special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCos) as well as other local authority staff.  My work can involved individual casework with young people, developing training for teaching staff and other professionals, carrying out research and working systemically in schools to create change.  Some of my recent activities have included carrying out research to understand the barriers children and young people can face in trying to attend school and looking at how to develop relationships and promote participation with children and young people. No day is ever the same and there is always something new to learn. 


What inspired you to follow your career path?

I have a family friend who was diagnosed with autism when I was in my early teens. I found it fascinating the differences between him and his sibling.  This sparked my interest in child development.  I was drawn to educational psychology because it provides opportunity to work holistically with a child, their family, school and other professionals. 


What advice would you give to current students wanting to follow a similar path?

For me, the journey to getting to the doctorate was amazing and just as valuable as the doctorate itself.  It can be competitive to get on the course, which can prove daunting but with perserverance it is achieveable.  I have enjoyed having many varied roles and I feel it is this that has contributed to me being able to get on the doctorate at a young age (I had three jobs whilst I did my undergraduate degree!).  Enjoy each role and think about what psychology you are using.  Psychology is all around us!


What was your favourite thing about studying at Northumbria?

My time at Northumbria was an enjoyable one.  I loved the city, the coast, the locals- I was never stuck for something to do.  The university itself is the hub of the city.  My experience of the course was fantastic with my tutors always been on hand to give advice or a little reassurance.  It can be daunting moving hundreds of miles from home but this might just be the friendliest city in the country!

Want to hear from more of our graduates? Head over to the Careers in Psychology Blog

Interested in Educational Psychology? Look at the British Psychological Society Careers section

Want to hear more work linked to learning disabilities? We have a specialist learning disabilities subgroup in our Health and Wellbeing research group – keep an eye out for future posts from them!

Graduate Bio: Megan Holden

We interviewed one of our alumni, Megan Holden, about her career to date. Megan graduated from the BSc (Hons) Psychology in 2019 with a specialism in Clinical Psychology. She now works as an Assistant Psychologist supporting a team of Clinical Psychologists, and is working towards applying for the doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

Which course did you do at Northumbria and what have you done since graduating?

I completed my BSc (Hons) in Psychology, specialising in Clinical Psychology in 2019. Since graduating I have gained full-time employment, working within the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley, NHS Trust. I initially started as the Activity Coordinator on the inpatient organic assessments wards at Auckland Park Hospital, where I also volunteered during my degree. In November 2020, I was successful in obtaining my current position as Assistant Psychologist. I also continue to work alongside Dr Jenny Paterson and Dr Genavee Brown to expand my dissertation research project. 

What is your current job title and what does your job involve?

I currently work as an Assistant Psychologist, within the Care Home Liaison team, across County Durham and Darlington. My role involves supporting the Clinical Psychologist based within the team, to deliver a formulation-based model of care. This involves: completing direct and indirect assessments with patients, families and care home staff; supporting formulation meetings with members of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) to understand the person’s needs; helping to develop behaviour support plans collaboratively with staff; and promoting the use of non-pharmacological interventions to meet the person’s needs, reduce behaviours that challenge and distress.

What inspired you to follow your career path?

I have always been interested in mental health, which is supported by the clinical specialism of my degree. I was particularly inspired to continuing working within Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP) as by volunteering with services users living with dementia and having personal experiences of the impact Dementia can have on a loved one, and how it can impact the family unit as a whole, it sparked my interest in organic mental illnesses. I hope to continue my career and grow as a professional within psychology by completing the Clinical Psychology Doctorate.

What advice would you give to current students wanting to follow a similar path?

The main piece of advice that I would give to other students wanting to follow a similar a career path to myself, would be to try and gain as much relevant experience whilst completing your degree as possible. Psychology is a very competitive field, so having obtained sufficient clinical and research experience during your time as an undergraduate, will put you in a good position to hopefully be successful in Assistant Psychologist roles after graduation.

What was your favourite thing about studying at Northumbria?

My favourite thing about Northumbria University was that I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people on my course, and I am sure we will remain life long friends! 

Want to hear more about careers in psychology? Head over to our Careers in Psychology blog

Interested in Clinical Psychology? Take a look at the British Psychology Society Careers Pages

Graduate Bio: Shaun Carlton

We interviewed one of our alumni, Shaun Carlton, about his career to date. Shaun graduated from the BSc (Hons) Psychology in 2015 and went on to do an MSc in Organizational Psychology. He now works as an Associate Consultant at a Talent Strategy Consultancy firm.

Which course(s) did you do at Northumbria and what have you done since graduating?

I studied BSc Psychology at Northumbria between 2012-2015 and I’ve done all sorts since graduating, really.

My first role was with a small independent mental health hospital where I was responsible for supporting individuals with a range of mental health challenges, predominantly Schizophrenia and Personality Disorders. I’d always wanted to get into mental health care but after a year in role it didn’t feel like the career path that I wanted to pursue long-term.

I decided to go on to study MSc Organizational Psychology at the University of Leeds. While I was (and still am) fascinated by human behaviour, I decided that I was most interested in applying this to a ‘work’ context rather than a healthcare context… My BSc dissertation was actually on how an alcohol hangover can affect workplace performance, so my interest was always there!

I then moved to London to work in recruitment, before making the move into consulting, which I’ve been doing for the past 3 years.

This month I’ll actually be starting a new role as Talent Development Partner at a local government authority back in North Yorkshire. I’m really looking forward to move into the public sector, and to bring my consulting and psychology expertise to support the North Yorkshire community.

What is your current job title and what does your job involve?

I’m currently an Associate Consultant at a Talent Strategy consultancy focused on helping clients realise the full potential of their people. This typically involves me working with senior executives to support them with assessment, development, workforce insight, talent mobility and succession planning amongst other things.

A large part of my role involves using tools including psychometric assessments (measuring intellect/ aptitude, personality and motivations) and behavioural based assessments to understand and predict the type of person who is likely to thrive in a particular organisation. The approach is theoretically grounded in the idea that looking at experience alone is one of the worst predictors of future performance (Schmidt & Hunter, 1988), so we help organisations to increase the accuracy by which they make people decisions in order to unlock performance.

What inspired you to follow your career path?

How many times have you heard someone complain about a rough day at work or how much they hate their jobs? This fundamentally should not happen, ever.

I absolutely believe that if we can change how organisations support, recruit, develop and manage their people then we can increase employee engagement and job satisfaction; both of which have been found to improve the individual’s wellbeing, and organisational performance… everyone wins (see Roberton & Cooper, 2010).

I also think that we can increase fairness and equality in a world riddled with bias. From a hiring perspective I often hear clients talk about, or see in job descriptions the desire for a degree from a certain university, in a certain subject, at a certain grade… My question is, “why”? Do they know that someone who gets a 2:1 from Harvard would be better at the job than someone who gets a 2:1 from a different university? If not, then why measure it in the hiring process?

I’ve worked on projects where clients narrow their potential talent pool down to such an extreme level to look for qualifications that they think relate to performance, but actually have no impact whatsoever. So many people miss out on opportunities through no fault of their own, but through an unjust and biased system… This needs to change.

What advice would you give to current students wanting to follow a similar path?

Stay curious, follow your passions, and believe in yourself. When I studied at Northumbria, I was set on going into healthcare, but I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times where I felt anxious about my next step – not knowing what I’d be doing, where I’d be working, or having a clear career plan mapped out. I’ve since realised that this is okay, just enjoy the journey and keep learning.

I’d also recommend setting up a LinkedIn profile and joining groups of like-minded individuals, following companies you’re interested in, and reaching out to others who work in a job/ organisation that sound interesting to you. Most people would be happy to help out and give you some advice, or maybe even introduce you to someone who could help.

I’m always happy to connect too. You can find me at: linkedin.com/in/shauncarlton/

What was your favourite thing about studying at Northumbria?

I don’t even know where to start… Living in Newcastle was great! I loved the nightlife, the culture and the people. I’ve also made some friends for life and only have great memories – I’d highly recommend it to anyone!

References and useful links

Robertson, I. T., & Cooper, C. L. (2010). Full engagement: the integration of employee engagement and psychological well‐being. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 31(4), 324-336.

Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological bulletin, 124(2), 262-274.

Want to hear more about careers in psychology? Head over to our Careers in Psychology blog

Interested in Occupational and Organisational Psychology? Read about our MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology and take a look at the British Psychology Society Careers Pages