Tell us a bit about yourself and what you studied.
I had previously attended Warwick as an undergraduate, reading Psychology back in 2008-2011. I was always really interested in why people seem to do things that go against their own interests. Typically most psychologists start because they want to help people, I found it so interesting that people sometimes did things that made little sense. I went on to the University of York to complete a Masters in Research Methods in Psychology, and spent some time at Imperial acting as a research assistant, where I started working on areas such as obesity as well as financial behaviour.
I came to Warwick to do a PhD, as I have always wanted to become a researcher. I wanted to follow in this really interesting area of why people act in against their self-interest and what can we do about it. My thesis was specifically applied to household financial decision-making, how people think about money and what causes sub-optimal financial behaviours. I devised interventions which I tested in a randomised-controlled trial with students to test if these methods really worked. It was a great experience, as it was my first time managing a trial like this. Not many of my peers get the experience in running randomised-controlled trials in a field study, so it was a unique opportunity.
Why did you choose to study for your PhD at WBS?
I was at Warwick back in 2008-2011 for my undergraduate degree in Psychology. I had such a great time, the course was really well taught and I absolutely loved the campus. The behavioural science group at WBS was different to the psychology department and focused more on the application of decision-making, which I thought was really interesting. It was great to see psychological and economic principles in action.
WBS was the obvious choice for me, behavioural science is such an up and coming research area, and the group at WBS was world renowned, when I saw the funding opportunities I knew I just had to apply. I learnt so much from my time at WBS, just short talks with the faculty led to really interesting ideas and discussions
What has been the best thing about your PhD programme?
One of the best things about my PhD programme was the friends I made, who are some of the best people I have ever had the fortune to meet. They really are the best thing about this programme, it was amazing how friendly and helpful everyone is. I struggle to recall the number of weekends we spent together having a great time and making each other laugh.
What inspired you most throughout your research studies?
I had a great first supervisor, who helped me build my skills as a researcher. He treated me like a capable researcher, and always expected me to deliver excellent results. Having someone like that supporting you and pushing you really does make a difference. Because of him I was able to acquire numerous grant funding during my PhD, totalling over £200,000.
Can you tell us about the programme structure for your PhD programme?
I took quantitative courses during my first year, as well as some psychology modules provided by the Psychology department. I think one of my favourite modules was the second quantitative module on econometrics that was delivered by WBS academics. It was so well taught and I learnt a lot. I also really enjoyed the philosophy content in my qualitative module, I think it’s a really interesting topic and I never realised the implications of the different schools of thoughts and how this is executed in their approaches. It was great to grapple with some of these issues.
Tell us a bit more about finding and working with your supervisor during your research studies.
I was working with my supervisor at Imperial, I was coincidentally applying for a position on the doctoral programme during the end of my time at Imperial and he had accepted a position as Professor of behavioural science, so it really worked out. I had a great relationship with my supervisor, he always ensured that I learnt skills that were invaluable for my career, such as applying for grant funding. Having a supervisor like that really does make a difference. He was always there when I needed him, no more than a phone call or text away. We still work together on projects together, he is a constant source of wisdom and guidance even now.
Can you tell us about the doctoral community at WBS?
I had a fantastic cohort in the doctoral community at WBS, it was great to have such a great group of people around you. We were always keen to celebrate someone’s new publication or award. My friends were probably the best thing about my time at WBS, and even now, whilst people are halfway around the world, we all still make the effort to meet and catch up.
Tell us about your previous work experience as a research assistant.
I volunteered my time at the University of York when I was completing my Masters, I had such a great time that I wanted to keep it going. I reached out to a few academics who were doing really interesting work and that was how I met my PhD supervisor. We worked on a few projects together, he gave me the responsibility of working on academic papers and reports. My favourite project was demonstrating how abstract behavioural tasks, such as the Stop Signal Task can be shown to identify impulsive obese individuals. It is really interesting as I had never actually met him until I turned up on my first day of the doctoral programme, despite working for months together.
Can you tell us about your current role as a Research Fellow at UCL?
My role is a complicated position between UCL and the Food Standards Agency in the UK Government. My role is to help the Food Standards Agency in their long-term strategy to implement behaviour change to ensure reliable and effective policy. This means supporting the Food Standards Agency as best as I can, in their endeavours. This can include providing seminars and training, or even conducting rapid evidence assessments. The biggest things I am working on are experimental research in piloting new policy interventions across topics like regulation or consumers. It is a really great position to have a job that makes such an impact.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in academia?
My undergraduate course was heavily focused on research, from being able to critically evaluate research to designing, conducting and analysing experiments. From there I think I was always interested in conducting research, I was assisting at a local university after my undergraduate degree, and just got stuck in wherever I could, I just found it really exciting. It just made sense to continue my passion and pursue a career in academia.
What advice would you give to potential students wanting to join the PhD programme at WBS?
I would advise anyone wanting to join the doctoral programme at WBS to definitely apply. I had such a great time, the support from the department was really fantastic, we were always really well looked after. It does not matter too much if you are not able to get funding in your first year, I was lucky enough to be awarded an ESRC scholarship. My friends who were not funded managed to secure some form of funding pretty early on. If I could, I would happily do another PhD, but I think I would have to convince my fiancée first!