Apr 07

Representing the BPS

Yet another busy month has passed for us all, but I thought I would take this time to write a short piece about a couple of events, at which I represented the British Psychology Society (BPS).

Exeter University Psychology Society Careers Event

Midweek on what turned out to be a wet, and chilly March day, Exeter University Psychology Society organised a careers fair.  They invited myself and a number of colleagues to cover the various areas of psychological practice.  I was there to, as mentioned, represent the BPS, but also to talk about work in the field of Health Psychology.  Other speakers included; Dr Andy Allen, Dr Craig Knight, Dr Varuni Wilamasari, Dr Barry Cripps, Amy McAndrew and Josie Bannon.  Our brief was to talk about our experience and knowledge of how to get into our field and what it is like to work in it.

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  • I aimed to enlightened the students on topic of Health Psychology.  It is a rapidly expanding but relatively new area of psychology which promotes well-being
  • Educational Psychologist, Dr Andy Allen, talked about the experience of working in both the public and private sector, and gave advice on cross-sector working
  • Dr Craig Knight, an Occupational Psychologist, talked about his work to help businesses maximise the potential of their office spaces by using his expertise in the effects of office layout on productivity and efficiency
  • Dr Varuni Wilamasari, a lecturer at Exeter University and an Occupational Psychologist, discussed how psychology can be implemented into practical settings by showing how her knowledge is applied to decision making
  • Sports Psychologist, Dr Barry Cripps described his extensive career working with athletes across many disciplines
  • Amy McAndrew, an Exeter PhD student gave practical advice on applying for an MSc or a PhD and funding opportunities available to students
  • Joise Bannon, introduced the audience to Wellbeing practitioners. A job involving using low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy to help those with mild or moderate depression and outlined the differences between a wellbeing practitioner and a clinical psychologist.

Following each of us giving a 5 minute presentation we were individually set upon by the assembled students to in the form of a lively question and answer session with students raising questions about aspirations, opportunities in the field and the career processes needed.  All the speakers gave enthusiastic and insightful talks about working in psychology.  It also provided an great opportunity for the undergraduates to clarify thoughts about potential careers.  I personally found it a really great experience. It allowed me to talk on a topic about which I am passionate to people that were interested and asking insightful questions.  This in turn challenged my understanding of the students basic level of knowledge and expectations that they carry during their years of study.  Fingers crossed this will be first of an annual event at this University.

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The second event I helped support was the;

South West Undergraduate Psychology Conference

Bath University Psychology student helpers

Bath University Psychology student helpers

Each year the South West Branch Committee of the BPS sponsor and help organise an undergraduate student conference for the seven universities based in the region (Bath Spa University, Open University, University of Bath, University of Bristol, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth, and the University of the West of England). The conference is an opportunity for students and their lecturers to share experiences, research, discuss ideas, feedback and network with each other and particularly with practising psychologists. The universities take it in turns to host the event and this year it was the University of Bath’s turn.

Dr Michael Proulx

Dr Michael Proulx

So at 10:30 on a grey and drizzly Saturday approximately 120 students and staff convened at the conference venue.  Welcomed with much needed warm drinks and cookies by a group of Psychology students, it became clear from the level of chatter that we were in for a very interesting and engaging day of research dissemination. With the 21 poster presentations hung, we split into streams to watch the first of the 24 oral presentations.  Each oral presentation consisted of a 10 minute talk, supplemented with PowerPoint or Prezi, and a subsequent 5 minute question & answer opportunity. Mid-way through the presentation schedule, lunch provided the opportunity to view posters, chat to authors and network with peers.  The presentations resumed until 15:45 when we were treated to a keynote presentation by Dr Michael Proulx. He gave a fascinating presentation covering his work examining some of the fundamental issues in cognition through the study of multiple sensory modalities. This focused on how developments in psychology and engineering are allowing significant advancements to be made in augmenting hearing devices and subsquently aid visual impaired people.

Clichéd as it maybe, once again, the students’ contributions were of a remarkably high standard. This made it difficult for the judges (academic representatives from the attending universities and the author) to decide upon the BPS ‘Best Poster’ and ‘Best Oral Presentation’.  We ended up selecting 2 posters and 5 oral presentations for commendations. In no particular order, poster commendations:

  1. Alessandro Firetto (University of Plymouth) Out of Sync. The effects of social exclusion through music synchrony
  2. Natalya Smith (University of Bath) Anxiety and gender: how do they affect chronic pain patients’ outcomes following a pain management programme?

Oral presentation commendations:

  1. Tamsyn Hawken (University of Bath) Exploring earthquake related distress: A qualitative analysis
  2. Claire Mason (University of Bath) Project REACH; A study into the risky health behaviours of childhood cancer survivors
  3. Claire O’Reilly (University of Exeter) Evidence for an understanding of string-pulling in an Alaskan coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos sitkensis)
  4. Jennifer Riddell (University of Bristol) Axes of time representation in English and Mandarin speakers
  5. Carys Weeds (University of Bristol) Just noticeable differences in sharpness

Winners of the best poster were: Bathany Isaacs, Zeena-Britt Sanders, Haline Schendam & Viktoria Vianeva (University of Plymouth) Behavioural Congruency and electrical brain potentials dissect knowledge, decision and action contributions to implicit memory

Winner of the best oral presentation was: Rebecca Griggs (University of Bristol) The effects of expectancy information on cephalic phase responses to food

The abstracts for these presentations and the others from the conference can be read in the summer edition of the South West Branch of the BPS review.  Next year the conference will be held on the 22nd March at the University of Exeter, but if you want to know more or wish to be directly emailed about this event please contact me at samh@jbsh.co.uk.

So, those were a couple of events I attended in March, both engaging and exciting and I am looking forward to doing more to help undergraduates develop themselves and the field of Psychology.

Mar 25

Southwest Undergraduate Psychology Conference 2012

It was a glorious sunny day in Plymouth for the 2012 South West Undergraduate Psychology Conference.  The day took place in the Portland Square Building split between the three lecture theatres and the large open plan atrium called the Peninsula Arts Cube3 Gallery.  The conference is an opportunity for the regional universities, students and their lecturers to share experiences, research, discuss ideas, feedback and network with each other and particularly with practising psychologists.

Registration (programme_2012 and abstracts_2012) was in the Cube3 Gallery where the attendees could view Peter Fitzpatrick’s exhibit ‘Latitude 79 Degrees 5 Minutes South 11 Miles’ , and visit me on the BPS stand to find out about the Society.  All five universities from the region were represented, with people travelling up to 3 hours by train, coach, car and foot.  With the hundred or so delegates signed in, and with programmes in hand, the three streams of lectures commenced.

Forty-Two undergraduates delivered talks on topics ranging from the effect of biodiversity in exhibits effecting viewing time, to self perception of appearance in weight trainers.  The format was a standard academic style with the presenters briefed to talk for ten minuets and then the audience were given 5 minuets to ask questions.  The full range of presentation styles was demonstrated including slick delivery of the ‘by the book’ academic talk, through interactive group presentations, to a more free-form approach.  All included professional audio visuals, representing the thousands of hours of work undertaken by the presenters for their final year projects.

In addition to the talks, twenty-nine posters were on display throughout the day, with their authors ready, willing and able to answer questions from the other delegate over the lunch hour.  As with the presentations, the posters showed the spread of potential approaches with institutional templates following standard academic formats to individualistic representations with drawings and photographs from study participants.

The day was drawn to an end with the Keynote lecture, introduced by conference organiser Dr Bill Simpson, Prof Chris Mitchell gave a stimulating and amusing lecture entitles ‘Why Cognitive Psychology?’  I personally particularly enjoyed his dance representing the movement of E.coli from low to high glucose states.

The last formal aspect of the day was the presentation of the prizes.  Sponsored by the British Psychological Society South West Branch, Dr Simpson announced prizes of book tokens for winners and runners-up in categories of Best Presentation and Best Poster. The winners were;

–        Best Presentation; Katherine Wood (University of Bath, Theory of Mind and Anxiety: Their relationship in children and adolescents with autism)

–        Second Prize went to Thomas Davis (University of Bristol, Aggregation of Protean Prey Escape: Countershading confuses a predator’s visual tracking during attack)

–        Best Poster; James Nagata (University of Bristol, Strategies to overcome the neural and attentional demands of multiple object tracking)

–        Second Prize went to Jodie Nicholls (University of Plymouth, Dectection of abnormalities in synthetic mammogram backgrounds)

The day was rounded off with a final opportunity to congratulate all the attendees and do more networking.  This time with a glass of wine and the happy laid back feeling that comes with the final release of pressure felt after completing a good day’s work.  The day was a great demonstration of the vibrancy in psychology and the talent of the up and coming practitioners.  As a member of that community I hope that all the presenters got as much from the day as I did.