The student experience

My overall experience of studying for a PhD at Surrey was characterised by the fantastic support from my supervisor, fellow PhD students and staff in the School of Psychology.

Pippa Tollow

PhD in Health Psychology

"I studied for a BSc in Applied Psychology and Sociology with an industrial placement year in 2008-2012 and an MSc in Health Psychology at the University of Surrey in 2012-2013.

I first developed an interest in health psychology during my undergraduate Professional Training placement, working at the South Thames Cleft Service within Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital. I was interested by how people thought about their health and illness, how they experienced treatment, and how they made decisions regarding their health. As a subject, health psychology offers opportunities to work in academic settings, non-academic research settings or as a practitioner health psychologist. It is a very broad and relatively young field of study, which means that it is developing quickly!

I really enjoy research and started to think about the possibility of a PhD during my masters degree. Having studied for both my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Surrey, I knew that the department was a welcoming and supportive place to work. Surrey also offers an opportunity to gain a Stage 2 qualification in Health Psychology alongside the PhD, which is an opportunity offered at few other universities, and this allowed me to explore the possibilities of either an academic or practitioner career in health psychology.

 

I decided to complete my PhD at Surrey for the supportive work environment, the opportunity to work with my supervisor (Professor Jane Ogden) and the possibility of completing both my PhD and my Stage 2 qualification in Health Psychology at the same time.  

 

My overall experience of studying for a PhD at Surrey was characterised by the fantastic support from my supervisor, fellow PhD students and staff in the School of Psychology, but also from the Researcher Development Programme and various other University departments. All of these people were supportive of the PhD itself, but also of my ongoing personal and professional development, and all encouraged me to look for opportunities outside of the PhD that would add to the experience. My PhD was funded by two charities, The Leg Ulcer Charity and The Marcela Trust, and several of my research studies were conducted in collaboration with The Whiteley Clinic.

My supervisor has an international reputation as an extremely accomplished academic in her field, as well as being a supportive and motivational supervisor. She provided unwavering professional and personal support throughout my PhD studies, and has become a mentor and a friend since completing. Her supervision allowed me to develop as an independent researcher, but also to consider how I would like to develop other skills and pursue opportunities outside of my PhD. She encouraged me to get involved in teaching, to attend academic conferences, to publish my work throughout my PhD and she supported me to complete my Stage 2 Health Psychology qualification alongside my PhD.

During my PhD I completed a Global Graduate award in British Sign Language and took advantage of the facilities on offer at Surrey Sports Park. I was also involved in Surrey’s Students’ Union, as vice-president of the Surrey Postgraduate Society, and was a member of the St John Ambulance links division; providing first-aid support to events at the University and the Students’ Union.


My proudest achievements during my PhD were my publications in academic journals and the feedback I got from students that I taught. My publications felt like a big achievement because of the hard work that was required to go from submitting a manuscript to seeing it in publication. Seeing my work in print for the first time was a fantastic feeling and gave me confidence in my ability as a researcher. However, I’m also incredibly proud of the feedback I received from students about my teaching. I really enjoyed teaching and their feedback made me feel that I was able to positively contribute to students’ experiences at Surrey.

 

The PhD itself was rewarding and important for my career progression since, but all of those extra experiences (learning a language, teaching, attending conferences, joining societies, sitting on committees etc.) added to my enjoyment of the experience, and were invaluable for my own development and deciding what I wanted to do after my PhD.

 

After completing my PhD in September 2016, I worked as a Research Officer for Royal Mencap Society for 12 months. This role allowed me to use the skills I had gained during my PhD, as well as my knowledge of research methods, to support the use of research within the organisation. It was a really rewarding job and I have learnt a huge amount about how academic research is used in the charity sector. I have recently started a new role as a Research Associate for the Centre for Appearance Research at the University of West England."

 

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