Holly Walton

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I completed my Psychology undergraduate degree at Nottingham Trent University in 2014 and was fortunate enough to be offered a 1+3 ESRC studentship from the University College London ESRC Doctoral Training Centre. During my +1 year I undertook a Master’s in Health Psychology. I then started my PhD in October 2015 in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology. My PhD focused on ‘Evaluating the implementation of social interventions to improve independence in Dementia’ and was linked to a larger ESRC funded program: Promoting Independence in Dementia (PRIDE).

As well as doing my PhD, I was also involved in some non-PhD related activities. I personally found these experiences extremely valuable. For example, I was an ESRC student representative at UCL and was also Chair of the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG). These additional responsibilities helped me to develop additional skills (such as organising writing days!), but also helped me to develop a crucial support network and manage my time.

These opportunities also helped me to develop relevant academic skills. For example: through being part of PsyPAG I also had an opportunity to edit, and write for the second edition of the: ‘A Guide for Psychology Postgraduates: Surviving postgraduate study’. Both editions contain a wealth of information to help navigate postgraduate study and are freely available to download online from:

http://www.psypag.co.uk/psypag-guide/.

I really enjoyed being an ESRC funded doctoral student at UCL and found the Doctoral training centre team to be extremely supportive and encouraging throughout my PhD. I submitted my PhD in July 2018, passed my Viva with minor corrections in October 2018 and had my corrections accepted in December 2018.

Prior to submitting my thesis I applied for, and was offered a post-doctoral research position on the Coordinated Care of Rare Diseases (CONCORD) project in the Department of Applied Health Research at University College London. I am currently really enjoying working on this project and looking forward to seeing what the next few years bring in terms of developing my academic career further!

Annie Brookman

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I was a Masters and then PhD student in the DTP from 2014 to 2018, based at Birkbeck on the Psychology pathway. My PhD was submitted in September, which was a huge relief! My research investigated the skills involved in science and maths reasoning in adolescence, and I’m lucky enough to continue working on the same research for my current Research Fellowship.

My Research Fellowship will run over the next 6 months, and it’s a fantastic scheme supported by Birkbeck and the Wellcome Trust. The scheme will allow me to spend half of my time writing up papers from my thesis for publication, and half of my time on public engagement work. My public engagement work consists of creating a film about the adolescent brain with a colleague of mine, Georgie Donati, and in collaboration with a film production company.

Our vision is to create a film for teachers, explaining the key facts relating to the adolescent brain that are relevant for teachers. We will be working with teachers, to ensure that the content of the film is well-matched to their prior knowledge and needs. The film will be just 2 or 3 minutes long, and we hope it will be informative and engaging, ideally leading to new ideas for teachers to try in the classroom.

I have a real passion for public engagement. The International Mind, Brain, and Education Society recently awarded me a prestigious Exceptional Trainee award in recognition of my work in this area. I am particularly keen to tell teachers and students about research that relates to them, as it may have implications for their own teaching and learning. I have therefore spent lots of time in schools, giving talks to teachers and students about my own research, and research on learning more generally. I have also written lots of blog posts, usually aimed at teachers, describing the latest scientific research into education. Finally, I was involved in a fantastic initiative linking researchers and teachers through informal online chats on a website called the Learning Zone.

I don’t yet know what I’ll do after my 6 months of post-doc funding. I am hoping to carry on doing work that brings scientific evidence to the classroom, whether that’s through conducting further research, or through more translational work. My time as a student in the DTP has developed my research and communication skills, and enabled me to work closely with schools and teachers. I look forward to continuing the development of these skills, and using them to help improve teaching and learning.

 

Nicolas Berger

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I moved from Belgium to the UK in October 2014 to conduct an ESRC-funded PhD project on the social and environmental determinants of physical activity at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). During my PhD, I used the Olympic Regeneration in East London (ORiEL) study to investigate how factors such as neighbourhood trust, social support and perceptions of the neighbourhood environment are associated with physical activity and its change over time in adolescents. I was awarded an Advanced Quantitative Methods (AQM) stipend which allowed me to attend a series of specialised short courses and to strengthen my analytical skills in applied longitudinal data analysis. During the second year of my PhD, I did a 3-month Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV) at the Built Environment and Health Research Group at Columbia University. During my stay, I learned additional analytical techniques and studied changes in the food environments using a historical commercial database that contains information on all retail businesses in New York City.

A few months before submitting my thesis, I accepted a job offer as a Research Fellow at LSHTM. Since February 2018, I have worked on an MRC-funded project aiming to analyse the impact of food prices and industry-led changes in food systems on household food and beverage consumption and diet-related health outcomes. In this exciting new project, I work with large disaggregated household food and beverage expenditure data. This project suits me perfectly because it is in line with my primary research interests to study contextual and socio-environmental determinants of health (particularly diet and physical activity). It further allows me to apply the quantitative skills gained during my PhD to different research questions and to gain additional expertise in the analysis of very large datasets.