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Psych-Talk Editor Candidates


Hamida Islam

John Wayland

Craig Harper

Charlie Cowtan

Freyja Bancroft

Fran O'Brien

Nikki Newhouse

Manuel Spitschan

Laura McGregor

Alisha Wadiwalla

Charlotte Mary Hoyland

Sai Ragunath








Hamida Islam

Research Interests in Psychology

I would like to research on a few ideas which as a student who has completed my first year of Psychology has come across.

Some these ideas i have been thinking about conducting research for my third year projects.

Other research ideas, which i would look into are those of which first year psychology students have questionned.

Committee Experience

I have been involved with setting up meetings and agenda's for some charities, such as global aid and muclim aid.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

Experience that i have which will benefit me if i was chosen for any of the above posts, is that i am well spoken, and i have experience in convincing and making my points hard.

I believe this is vital as any research that we may do needs to be apporved, with relavant experience and evidence which i am capable of providing given the issue.

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John Wayland

Research Interests in Psychology

I have a profound interest in evolutionary psychology, Social Psychology, and Research Methods. Specifically, I am interested in reciprocal altruism and helping behaviour. Futhermore, I am interested in using Game Theory to examine reciprocal altruism.

I am generally more interested in the medical approach to psychology. I therefore also have an interest in neuropsychology and biological psychology. As well as this, I am also interested in psycholinguistics, and draw my interests in evolutionary psychology and neuropsychology in understanding how and why humans have, understand, and use language.

Committee Experience

I have experience as a BPS Student Representative for my University. As well as this, I also set up the University's Psychology Society and contacted Noam Chomsky, who agreed to be the Society's patron.

I am eager to gain vital committee experience, and am enthusiatic at the chance.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

I feel I have good writing abilities. I have submitted two articles to the Journal of European Psychology Students and had a book review published Psych-Talk.

I am keen to represent all students at every level of education, as well as provide a more open and accessible forum of discussion which would serve to benefit all.

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Craig Harper

Research Interests in Psychology

My interests lie mainly in clinical and forensic psychology. In Psych-Talk issue 67, I had a piece published about undergraduate male gambling motivations, something that I would be interested in looking at in greater detail. My dissertation topic is due to be around the public opinions about sexual offenders, specifically looking at differences in opinions about adult vs. juvenile offenders.

Committee Experience

When at school, I sat on the school council committee in the the role of treasurer. During this time, I was involved in the ordering of a variety of stationary and equipment needed by the committee, as well as assisting in the pricing of changes that we tried to make within the school.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

Having had an article published in Psych-Talk, I know the process that needs to be undertaken by potential contributors to the magazine. In addition, I have just been elected SMG student representative for the academic year 2010-2011 at the University of Lincoln. I believe that I could combine this role with either of the roles that I have applied for (Communications Officer and Psych-Talk Editor) to reach a wide undergraduate audience.

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Charlie Cowtan

Research Interests in Psychology

With the skills in psychology I have obtained thus far, and continue to develop, I hope to pursue research of which will be useful to the lay person, one way or another. With the popular psychology still very much present in the public domain, it appears that the lay person still has little knowledge of precisely what psychology is. Miller (1969) declared that psychologists should try giving psychology away, and making it more accessible to the general public. I therefore have a passion to carry out research that is relevant, accessible and useful for the lay public.

A particular interest of mine that I deem to be very useful for the public is research into both health psychology and clinical psychology, as being able to help people either mentally or physically is something I am quite compassionate towards. This involves developing easier methods for improving adherence to medical advice - methods that are not daunting to patients suffering from diabetes or asthma for example. Watt et al (2003) in Australia issued a ‘Funhaler’ to a group of child asthma sufferers, and when compared to a group of children with an ordinary inhaler, adherence to asthma shots was greater for those using the Funhaler. I find this type of research inspiring, as it is making a direct influence on the lives of people, making their lives more bearable, and I hope to be able to carry out similar research to make health enhancing behaviours more easily available, and easier to carry out.

Human morality is another research interest of mine, looking at what factors must be present for people to act selflessly, morally or altruistically. Is there a personality type that predisposes who will act morally in a given situation, or are the costs and benefits ultimately deciding what action is going to carried out? Also, for the highly moral person, what does it take for them to act immorally or out of character? I think that being able to identify factors that are present when a person acts either morally or immorally can help to resolve those problems from occurring in the future. If somebody was able to identify what it takes for them to act immorally or out of character, both of which can have horrendous circumstances in extreme situations, then I think that they can help to avoid those situations from happening in the future.

Committee Experience

Working as a Staff Trainer and as an Apprenticeship Coordinator at a restaurant chain for over four years, I have become heavily involved with the Health and Safety precautions carried out in the restaurant. Belonging to the store’s ‘Safety Circle’, a group of approximately half a dozen employees, including managers, meet together every three months to discuss Health and Safety regulations within the restaurant= identifying current and potential hazards that pose a threat to staff and/or customers. In doing this, we also develop an action plan of how each risk can be prevented or resolved, to ensure minimum risks to safety within the entire store.

Being one of half a dozen Staff Trainers at the restaurant, it’s our duty to meet up with the Training Manager once a month. In this time we discuss items ranging from trainees’ progress to new methods of training, whilst also being given our own individual targets in relation to how many training checklists we must complete on both new and existing employees before the next meeting. We also use this time to focus on items that are missing and unaccounted-for for potentially a variety of reasons, and then try to create initiatives to reduce and eventually prevent these items from going missing.

In the final year of my A Level studies at school, I volunteered to become a Peer Mentor for pupils up to 16 years of age at school. This involved being assigned a few mentees, and meeting up with them individually each week to discuss any worries or concerns they had with anything, or just providing the opportunity to just have a chat. Every few weeks, myself and the other peer mentors would meet together to discuss how we were all finding the experience whilst sharing suggestions with one another about strategies and activities that could be implemented in the meetings.

Alongside my Psychology degree, I volunteered to become a Psychology Course Representative at my university. The role requires the ability to voice the views and opinions of peers, both on a small level solely relating to the Psychology course, and also in the overall running of the university. With Psychology course board meetings occurring approximately twice a semester, I am invited to attend to voice the thoughts and feelings of fellow psychology students in front of the Psychology lecturing team, whilst also providing input toward the other matters raised by the staff. Aside from representing just Psychology students, there is an Staff-Student Liaison Committee that meet approximately twice a semester, where again I am invited to attend to voice the concerns of fellow students, whilst also contributing towards any other matters discussed.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

During my A Level studies, I taught an extracurricular physical education class after school for pupils wanting an extra GCSE, but were unable to fit it ordinarily into their timetable. I also participated in teaching APAUSE to a year 9 class, advising them about sex and relationships, whilst also educating them about contraception and STIs. This October, I will be back in the classroom environment as a secondary school tutor in physical education, helping students who are C/D grade borderline to get their desired grades. Outside of my studies, I have worked as a Staff Trainer at a restaurant chain, being responsible for training new employees, ensuring they have a sound knowledge of the job and what’s expected of them, while ensuring that current employees maintain the standards set by the restaurant consistently. Each of the mentioned activities have helped me to develop my leadership and teaching skills, as I have had to share my knowledge with others in the best way possible. Needless to say, my communication and teamwork skills have improved, making me excellent at communicating to all types of people whether it be students at school, or colleagues at work ranging in age, ethnicity and experience. These skills help me to become a team player, because I firmly believe that working with people is the best way to move forward, and so having the respect of individuals is key to reach the set goals.

I also believe that I have great skills in listening and negotiating with people, brought about by being a Psychology Course Representative at university. This opportunity requires interaction with my peers in psychology, obtaining feedback and then representing their thoughts and feelings at psychology course board meetings with the psychology staff, and discussing methods to alleviate the concerns of my peers.

These skills have also been nurtured through my work as a peer mentor during my A Level studies, as I would meet once a week individually with a few younger pupils at school. During our meetings we would discuss any issues they had at school or at home, whilst also allowing them the opportunity to just have a chat if that’s what they need. This was an amazing experience being able to make a positive impression on the lives of peers in whatever way I can, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity again to be a peer mentor at a local secondary school in my university town from this October.

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Freyja Bancroft

Research Interests in Psychology

I am interested in many different aspects of psychology, although mainly applied rather than pure. In career terms, I aim to become a clinical psychologist, therefore, my research interests centre mainly on dysfunctional behaviours and, more specifically, those concerning children and adolescents. I am focussing on the higher functioning end of the autistic spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome.

More widely, social and developmental psychology interest me the most due to their breadth of application.

Committee Experience

I was a member of the working group for my secondary school’s virtual learning environment (VLE). My role involved finding out what each party/stakeholder (students, teachers etc.) wanted from the site and creating a plan/strategy for how to get the best from our resources, aiming to create an enthusiasm to continually develop and improve the VLE as a tool for learning.

At college, I took the International Baccalaureate (IB) and was selected by the programme manager to be an ambassador for the course on numerous occasions. This involved presenting to various sizes of audience and different age groups, giving an objective but informed view of the IB and the potential benefits to students deciding to enrol. In addition, there were some presentations where, whilst I had to create and edit the presentation, I had to work with co-presenters on what each person’s role within the presentation would be. This involved bringing everything together and making sure everyone was doing something they were comfortable with doing and wanted to do, ensure that the presentation ran smoothly. I also had to consider what the audience wanted from the presentation, who was listening, and what would engage and interest them.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

I am organised and can manage my time effectively in order to meet the various demands put upon me from different directions.

I am articulate and, in addition to being an ambassador for my course, was also selected by my college principal to speak at an open evening about the IB and the college generally. I was selected because of my ability to speak confidently, honestly, and objectively, about many aspects of the college.

Another area of for me is the volunteering work I do as a Young Leader with the Guide Association. In this role I work with those higher up in the organisation to support my work in mentoring, as a role model, the adolescents in the group. Amongst other things, this involves planning and working with them in group activities as well as individual guidance. I feel this is relevant because the leaders work in a committee style to achieve direction for the guides in the group, as well as us identifying individual strengths and interests to motivate the whole team.

As well as being a student myself, my dad is currently a mature student juggling many commitments, so I am able to identify with the needs of different people who may be members of the SMG.

Fran O'Brien

Research Interests in Psychology

I long for the day when a visit to the local Cognitive Behavioural Therapist is as common as popping to the GP. Depression, anxiety and eating disorders are among the most common troubles that people face today, and yet so many people suffer in silence. 2010 is no easy time to be alive. Certainly, we have ready availability of essential resources like food and warmth - at least in the Western World - but the fast pace of change means that humanity is perhaps as unsettled on a day-to-day basis as it has ever been.

I studied History at University for two years before admitting to myself that I was doing the wrong subject. I wanted to learn more about what motivates people, why certain individuals do incredible, and awful, things, and why groups behave in the way they do. But more and more I found myself engaged and perplexed by the intricacies of the individual tied up in these larger scale questions, and realised that it was a change of discipline that was required if I really wanted to consider these issues in depth.

I have been admitted to start Psychology from the second year of the three-year course this October, and have spent since January learning the material that I would have covered in the first year. Already I feel at home in the reading.

Ideally I would like the course to offer explanations to the burning questions in my mind= these are the themes that I will seek to understand in my research going forward. It would seem that humanity is so concerned with explanations. We attach meaning to the fundamental and the trivial alike. We can be so convinced by our mind’s own creations that we 'forget' they are self-made and they tumble and fall into other areas of our lives. What governs this? How is it part of the mind and brain as a system? For any given theme, can we switch it off as quickly as it can be turned on?

Is there more to a person’s handwriting than meets the eye? Do we all, invariably yawn when we see or hear another yawn= or are some people more likely to do so than others? Can we smell optimally when surrounded by a loud noise or do our senses get crowded? Just what is it that sparks puberty?

Perhaps most of all I would like to see the speedy acquisition of findings in Psychology into policy and education, after all, ‘knowledge’ can surely only be as valuable as the ways in which it is put to use. On a personal level, the current hope is to move onto Clinical Psychology, once the undergraduate degree is complete!

Committee Experience

I love to lead and be a member of committees and feel somehow lost if I’m not part of something in this way. From Head Girl at school to JCR President of our College, Managing Director of our Sixth Form Young Enterprise Company and Lower Boats Captain of the Lady Margaret Boat Club, encouraging novice rowers to give an entirely new sport a try, I feel most at home when I’m at the fore of a committee.

During the academic year before arranging to switch subjects I was Junior Common Room President at our college, essentially overseeing work of the student committee on behalf of some 800 students - undergraduate and graduate. I am highly familiar with the mixed basis of work that a committee undertakes, from organising events, to filling out paperwork, making speeches and meeting new people. I thrive in this ever-changing environment.

Perhaps our proudest achievement was launching the new website: www.sjcjcr.com. It was my biggest bugbear that I knew the emails and the flyers weren’t reaching others on their own time, we were desperate for a better source of information and communication, and much effort went into achieving this.

We later took the plunge to propose a move in the timing of the JCR elections to earlier in the year, in Michaelmas Term. The primary aim was to create a much-needed shadowing period, so that the outgoing and incoming JCRCs could liaise over the vacation and avoid mish-mash into the second term. Following the successful amendment, we were thrilled to see record numbers of first years standing for positions, given some initial concerns that they would be discouraged from running in their very first term.

Our year marked the first St John’s International Freshers’ Week, which was a great triumph for improved integration, as St John’s continues to attract newcomers from all over the world. We would also campaign, for example, for students to keep their own rooms to study over the vacation. Weekly I would report back from CUSU (the University wide student council) on a wide range of seminal issues, such as the National Student Debt and these concerns would remind us of the outside world! As would our ongoing relationships with schools up and down the country, as well as connections with RAG (Raise and Give)! Our charitable work expanded considerably. We raised a grand total of £3,700 for a variety of causes, including our JCR Charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

As for the boat club, the role of a Lower Boats Captain is to promote the boat club to prospective rowers and enthuse them into giving a new and often unfamiliar sport a try (no mean feat at 5.30am). Working as a team and trusting one another is vital in rowing. All eight rowers must move in time, following the direction of the coxswain who sits at the front of the boat and acts as our eyes and ears. It’s fantastic to feel part of something in that way!

As Young Enterprise MD, I oversaw the general development of our business, ‘Pom Pom’, as it worked towards achieving regional success. I oversaw the set up, running and set down of our stall at all of our events, edited our annual report and delivered our presentations.

I love to get things noticed and to get people involved. Nothing feels more rewarding.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

As part of training for being JCR President I underwent counselling training, to give me a bit of a better idea of some of the things that people go through whilst at University and the sort of support that students require to do well academically, but more importantly, mentally. To be healthy and happy in an overall way.

I can drive and take frequent trips to London, which would be convenient for any events in the Capital. I’m also big fan of my student railcard and enjoy train journeys up and down the country!

From the age of 16 to 18, I was a lifeguard and I interacted with people of all ages with a professional, helpful and dutiful attitude. I also covered for other members of staff and ran the reception desk at the leisure centre on some evenings.

My love of swimming then encouraged me to help teach 4-6 year-olds voluntarily, including a couple with autism. It was hard work but very rewarding and I especially delighted in watching the children's abilities develop. No one should EVER have to feel left out of anything.

I run in my spare time because I think it helps to fuel my self-discipline.

As far as ‘real-world’ jobs go, I have worked in a jewellers and at Ealing Council.

I’d like to think of myself as chatty, friendly and smiley. I hope I get the opportunity to meet you soon! :)

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Nikki Newhouse

Research Interests in Psychology

My research interests are broad and I am lucky enough to have been able to gain experience in a number of fields. In my work as an honorary assistant psychologist within an oncology centre, I was introduced not only to the importance and breadth of the field of health psychology but also to the widespread co-existence of ‘straight’ psychological intervention and philosophical practice, how evidence-based psychological theory and self-help can support each other. This has extended into an interest in how consciousness affects a sense of personal responsibility and the effect this has on a person’s health and recovery from mental and physical disease.

In my work with adult patients, I am interested in exploring biopsychosocial approaches to treatment and diagnosis of adult mental health conditions, as well as learned helplessness and how common (mis)perception and social policy around treatment pathways influences and encourages this. I am particularly interested in the role of primary care and its responsibility for making psychological intervention available and uncomplicated while keeping it ‘old fashioned’ and face to face. Although I am very interested in the translation of hard psychological theory into evidence-based practice, my interests are not limited to the practitioner’s viewpoint.

Recent research projects have looked at gender differences in face recognition= I have also worked on a project exploring wellbeing and physical environment, and their effect on participation in physical activity. I recently researched the concept of flow and optimal experiences and re-evaluated the balance of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation.

I have an active interest in the history of psychology, both in its research methods and its reporting by the press and dissemination to the public. I am fascinated by the concept of pop psychology and the effect this has had on the academic field over the years.

Committee Experience

I am fortunate in that I have had a substantial amount of experience working with committees and groups, from being head of the school council when at secondary school to being a representative on the council at my young daughters’ school, to managing my own staff of over 30 people as a business owner!

Whilst living abroad, I was employed as the Community Liaison Officer for an active human rights group. My responsibilities included coordinating local members and developing links with the public via the media to encourage engagement in organised campaigns. One such campaign, spearheaded by my team, generated the most international press coverage in the organisation’s history. Additional responsibilities included database management and record keeping as well as networking with politicians, NGOs and crucial influencers and, crucially, working in conjunction within the remit of the international committee. More recently, I have been actively involved in facilitating the Members’ Committee which is active in the adult mental health service in which I work, enabling and empowering service users to get involved with and engage with the larger organisation that runs the service, in order to get their views across and their voices heard.

To be able to work effectively and harmoniously with committees requires a fundamental acknowledgment of peoples’ differing needs and vested interests and I believe the scope of my experience helps me to achieve this.

Relevant Activities and Expertise

For five years, I was the Editor in Chief at Contact Publishing, a company I began from scratch while living in Cyprus, and grew a team of 3 to over 30 staff, publishing and distributing the country’s best selling monthly lifestyle magazine and property supplement. I was responsible for all copy from an international team of over 20 writers, photographers and artists, from conception to print, working with a design team and account managers to fill over 120 pages. Once I sold my business, I continued to write for a national newspaper, producing a weekly column on parenting and the psychology of sharing your life with little people.

On my return to the UK, I have continued to write, working with a broad range of print (newspaper and glossies) and online information providers to produce a variety of work, from one-off features to weekly news and reports targeted at a variety of audiences. Topics include life change, foreign property purchase, health and wellbeing, parenting skills and careers. I have worked as an honorary assistant psychologist at the Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre here in Oxford and, although I am not currently working there, I still produce their monthly, online fundraising newsletter.

I now supplement my studies by working as a mental health recovery worker for Rethink where I am heavily involved in maintaining a caseload of around 20 service users. This work requires me to be up to date with changes to the mental health system and also necessitates a close connection between psychological theory and the everyday reality of putting it into practice. In addition to the clinical work I do with Rethink, I am also involved with Oxfordshire Mind, where I recently helped relaunch the Oxfordshire Mental Health Information Line. Here, we offer telephone support to those worried about their own mental health or that of someone they know, as well as to professionals in the field.

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Manuel Spitschan

Research Interests in Psychology

I am primarily interested in visual perception and attention: How do we arrive at perceiving coherently, distinguishing between objects in our visual environment and interpreting highly complex scenes based on the light that reaches our eyes? How efficient is our visual behaviour?

As volunteer research assistant in the Vision Lab of the University of St Andrews, I have been assisting in ongoing research on the processing of visual scenes containing occluded regions.

Furthermore, a Biomedical Vacation Scholarship by the Wellcome Trust awarded this summer allowed me to complete a research project on hand-eye coordination. I designed and ran and experiment on the effect of hand movements on smooth pursuit eye movements.

The findings of this project may have importan


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