Published: 09 January 2019

Finding your way

Laura Carter is a PhD student in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Her interests have led her down a path that she hadn’t anticipated. Now she’s realising her potential as a health psychologist.

Laura Carter

The first lecture was all about what health psychology is and I remember thinking ‘this is it, this is what I’ve wanted to do all this time!’ It combined my two interests...I knew I had to learn more about health psychology!

Laura Carter hadn’t originally considered studying health psychology; she’d envisaged a different academic path, studying to become a medical doctor. She applied to study medicine, but when her application was turned down, she had to think again.

Safe in the knowledge that she didn’t want to take a subject like biology or pharmacy, she thought about studying psychology. She had always been interested in health and medicine and decided that a psychology degree could set her on the path to becoming a clinical psychologist.

It was during the third year of her undergraduate degree that she chose the health psychology module, taught by Jane Ogden. The first lecture was a major turning point for Laura.

"I find it so fascinating that our bodies can produce physical symptoms in the absence of biological changes. Things like contagious itching and yawning, and phantom limb pain in amputated limbs.

“Health psychologists can work directly or indirectly with patients so we can use our understanding to have an actual impact on wellbeing and hopefully make positive changes to peoples’ lives.”

I love the University and have built up relationships with several lecturers during my time here, including Jane, who I was keen to work with for my masters dissertation.

At this point, Laura could see a clear path – she wanted to be a health psychologist and a masters was the next stage. The University’s Health Psychology MSc is accredited by the British Psychological Society, and Laura knew that in order to fulfil her career aspirations she needed to apply.

Laura’s journey continues at Surrey. She is currently studying for her PhD, working with Jane and receiving the appropriate training to become a practising health psychologist.

“I chose my research after a long and windy road exploring my interests. My interests are broad and I often ended up going down rabbit holes. There was a running joke with my PhD cohort: ‘What’s your thesis this week?’"

Things are going well for Laura. She is in the process of writing up her first study, which explores whether some individuals confuse their emotions with physical symptoms and whether there are personality traits or thinking styles that make this more or less likely.

Where will this lead her? Laura’s unsure as to what she’ll do when she’s completed her PhD.

“I know I’d like to do something very much based in health psychology, whether that’s practice or research. A small part of me has considered graduate medicine, but that could be because I seem to be a perpetual student!”

Laura’s journey of self-discovery has shown how important it is to find a subject that interests and excites. And that might be a subject that you hadn’t considered before.

Find out more about our postgraduate research degrees at the University.

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