Meet the academic: Alexandra Grandison
Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Dr Alexandra Grandison shares her current research interests and reflects on her stand out memories from her time at Surrey.
Please could you introduce yourself – perhaps you could tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page?
My job as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology has taken me to lots of interesting places. I spent several months conducting research with a tribe called the Himba in remote parts of Namibia. I’ve also travelled to Puerto Rico to study colour categorisation in Rhesus Macaques. I am proud of the work that I do but my proudest achievement in life is running the London Marathon. I didn’t break any records, but I dedicated myself to months of training and despite not feeling great on the day I made it to the end. Marathon running blisters can be pretty scary, but the scariest thing I have ever done is stand up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Despite this, I pride myself on never saying anything funny during any of my lectures.
What’s your favourite memory of being a student?
My love of psychology developed during my undergraduate degree at the University of Bath, I gained a real insight into the subject through the academic aspects of my course and a year-long placement, where I worked as a research assistant. My studies were always balanced with lots of socialising. As a member of the Team Bath Ladies Football team, I had a lot of fun times celebrating our Wednesday afternoon wins or commiserating our losses. It’s been 16 years since I graduated but I am still in touch with many friends from university who I know will be friends for years to come.
How and why did you become an academic?
I love the diversity of academic life. My duties range from presenting my latest research findings at an international conference to supervising and working one-to-one with brilliant PhD students. In a morning I might be reviewing applications for our MSc Psychology (Conversion) course and making offers to candidates, and then in an afternoon conducting an interview for a media outlet such as Radio 4. I could be providing pastoral support for an undergraduate personal tutee one hour and then providing a peer review for an academic article the next. All of these tasks I find stimulating, challenging and enjoyable and I really value having the opportunity to do all of this and much more.
What excites you most about your current role?
I love supporting students to achieve their potential and I am passionate about student employability. I was the Professional Training Tutor for the School of Psychology for a number of years, and during that time was lucky enough to be nominated for the University’s Honor Beaumont award for services to Professional Training. I have supported hundreds of students during their Professional Training placements and it is so wonderful to see them grow in confidence and develop new skills, competencies, and gain experience and contacts, and very often pave the way for their future career. To me this is one of the most important things that we do, and I am very proud of Surrey’s excellent employability track record.
What is your particular area of academic expertise, and why are you passionate about it?
I am a cognitive psychologist and my primary interest is in language. Human beings are completely fascinating, and language is a fundamental part of what makes us human. I am particularly interested in a notion called linguistic relativity, which is a viewpoint that suggests that the language we speak has an influence on the way we think about and understand the world. Much of my research has challenged this idea by comparing speakers of different languages, focusing on children during language acquisition and on infants before they learn language. I am keen to find out if and how language influences cognition and what the real-world implications of this are.
Why should people study at postgraduate level in your academic area?
A postgraduate degree in psychology opens so many doors. We support our students to develop an impressive range of transferrable skills that are envied by a vast number of employers. We do this through fascinating research-led modules that make use of state-of-the-art facilities, modern and inspiring approaches to learning and teaching and diverse patterns of assessment. Our postgraduate degrees enable students to deepen their subject specific knowledge but also to broaden their skill set and their world view. We aim to produce graduate students who can go out into the world and really make a difference.
What are you looking for in a postgraduate student?
I love teaching and supervising students who are motivated and engaged, but most of all, students who are inquisitive and inventive. Research is a key aspect of all our postgraduate programmes and creativity and vision are central to the research process. We train our Psychology students to have exceptional critical thinking skills and we really value students who question things in an insightful way.
Is there a particular memory of your time at Surrey (so far) which stands out for you?
Some of the most memorable and enjoyable times are at our graduation ceremonies where we come together as a community and celebrate wonderful successes. I always enjoy the sense of occasion, the camaraderie between colleagues and the chance to socialise with students and their naturally, very proud families. And the chocolate fountain is pretty awesome too. These are days when we as staff also feel particularly proud, and they always stay in my memory.
Discover our courses in psychology, including our MSc Developmental Psychology in Research and Practice and MSc Psychology (Conversion) courses.