Student profile
Mark Wherry

Mark Wherry

"One of the best things about life at Surrey is taking my metaphorical office to the lake on a summer’s afternoon, thinking PhD thoughts."


Health Psychology PhD

Entry year


Research project

Social influences on BRCA carriers’ genetic testing and risk-reducing surgical decisions

"A family history of cancer sparked my interest in hereditary cancers and genetics, and my undergraduate and postgraduate experiences led me to an interest in social health psychology. So why study my PhD at Surrey? Primarily because of the fantastic support offered by my primary supervisor, Dr Cecile Muller, a fruitful relationship that started with my MSc dissertation.

It is all my daughter’s fault I’m here. As she sat writing her first essay for her BSc, the first of our family to progress to higher education, I thought: “I could do that”. The timing was right, I was about to retire from a 30-year career. So, I started a three-year BSc in psychology with the Open University and, much to my surprise and delight, achieved a first class honours. I was hooked. Next came the MSc Health Psychology at Surrey and now I’m in the third year of my PhD.

As a child I lived with a mother with terminal breast cancer. As a teenager I struggled with bereavement whilst coping with the death of my mother and her parents to cancer. In my 30s I was diagnosed with, treated for and survived lymphoma. During my treatment and recovery, I was fortunate to share laughter and tears with many remarkable people: patients, family members, supporters and health professionals. These personal experiences inform my passion for the subject.

"I’ve found the experience of doing a PhD wonderfully challenging."

I’ve found the experience of doing a PhD wonderfully challenging. Coming from a career where I was the expert in the room to an environment where that is rarely the case is challenging. That challenge is what gives my life meaning. Although my ‘extra mature’ mind may take a little longer to function than the average PhD student, being able to situate the struggles and stress of a PhD within 50+ years of life experience helps make up for that.

I have conducted research within the NHS and have completed consultative research with the Fountain Centre, a charity supporting cancer patients at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. The achievement I’m most proud of is my first academic publication following my consultancy with the Fountain Centre. I’ve enjoyed challenging myself while being supported by interesting people in a stimulating environment.

One of the best things about life at Surrey is taking my metaphorical office to the lake on a summer’s afternoon, thinking PhD thoughts. Having uprooted from Cornwall for the duration of the PhD, I’ve enjoyed the chance for my wife and I to experience the Surrey Hills and surrounding countryside."


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