Published: 23 January 2019

British Psychology Society awards Surrey Business School student first prize for excellence

Management and Business PhD student Emily Kitson is honoured with first prize in student excellence by the British Psychology Society (BPS) Division of Occupational Psychology, for her Masters’ research looking at the effects of personality and stress on employee safety behaviours. This award recognises quality, rigour and applied value in research ventures.

Emily Kitson completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and her Occupational and Organizational Psychology MSc at the University of Surrey, Surrey Business School of which she graduated last year with a distinction.

The research project recognised for the award was centred on providing sound empirical research to help improve accident rates in organizations. Information from the UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive (2017) showed that in 2016-17, there were 137 deaths and 609,000 injuries that occurred at work and injuries cost organizations £14.9 billion. Emily’s study addressed this concern by explaining the interplay of stress, individual dispositions and safety behaviours using quantitative diary methods that assessed construction workers’ behaviours and attitudes over 15 days consecutively. She found that stress and conscientiousness are predictors of safety behaviours, and that conscientious individuals are still likely to behave safely regardless of how stressed they are.

This research has added to the wider debate and dialogue in the field of organizational psychology, as it is the first of its kind to measure daily fluctuations of safety behaviours and provides insight for interventions and assessment and selection methods to help lower unsafe behaviours in safety critical environments.


We sat down with Emily to ask her a few questions about her time at Surrey and her plans for the future. 

What are the top skills you feel you gained during your programme?

I have developed a set of skills from my programme that has allowed me to become a professional researcher, which will be useful for future careers, as well as for networking and collaborations. For example, I like to ask a lot of questions, and now I know how to delve into the literature to find the answers that are theoretically and empirically sound. This knowledge and critical thinking also allows me to participate in interesting intellectual conversations and debates with other professionals in my field. Furthermore, I can identify gaps in research, which allows me to formulate new ideas for future research ventures.

Do you feel the school supported you in achieving this award? If so how?

The Department of People and Organisations has definitely supported me in achieving this award. I am lucky because my supervisor for my MSc dissertation, Professor Steve Woods, who is now my supervisor for my PhD, is very knowledgeable, experienced and supportive; so he has given me guidance, advice and opportunities that have been invaluable for the shaping of my projects and for my academic development. The whole department is so friendly. It is lovely to have corridor chats and discussions in seminars where I feel that the lecturers have a genuine interest in what I am up to in my research.

What are your plans now?

My plan currently is to pass my confirmation exam in my PhD, and to publish the paper that won this award in a high-quality journal. I have recently presented one of my papers at my first conference, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I shall continue working towards publications that I hope to present at future conferences. Eventually, I would like to stay in academia and also work towards becoming a charted organizational psychologist to achieve a balance of research and practice in my career.

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