Case study

Research associate and associate lecturer — Rebecca Reece

Rebecca is planning to go into research and academia in the fields of psychology and public health. Find out how her research and lecturing roles, as well as her further studies, are helping her achieve her goal

What degree did you study?

I studied for a BSc Hons Psychology with Criminology at The University of the West of England (UWE) and graduated in 2018. I then completed an MSc Neuroimaging: Methods and Applications at Cardiff University, graduating in 2019.

I am now studying for an MRes in Health and Wellbeing at the University of Bath, which is part of a 1+3 South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) studentship funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

How did you get your job?

I am a part-time research associate and associate lecturer at UWE. I was offered my first research assistant role from one of my university lecturers. Each of my further research roles, and my associate lecturer role, have developed from this first assistant role and connection.

The topics of these research projects inspired the PhD research which I am about to conduct, focusing on comparing methods of exposure to urban environments and their effect on enhancing mental wellbeing.

My experience as a research assistant definitely helped me secure my further research roles and my studentship offer. I would advise to definitely make sure you gain experience during university, as well as knowledge.

What's a typical working day like?

Because I work and study simultaneously, my days are busy and varied. I attend lectures for my course, as well as complete my working roles. Typical work activities include assisting with running seminars, marking assignments, data collection and analysis for research projects, and helping to write papers.

What do you enjoy most about your roles?

I enjoy knowing that my research is contributing to the field and could potentially help people. I also enjoy talking to other researchers who are passionate about their field of interest.

What are the challenges?

Working alongside studying can be challenging as I have assignments and work projects to think about at the same time. This is manageable though by being organised and making a to-do list at the beginning of everyday and sticking to it.

How relevant are your degrees?

My degrees are very relevant. The research methods skills that I learned during my BSc and MSc degrees were the reason that I was offered my research assistant roles. These skills have further developed in my research roles and my current MRes, which will be needed for my PhD years.

My MRes is essential in order to go into my chosen field as it is a requirement for my studentship and is important for refining my research interests and preparing for my PhD. 

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters degree?

Talk to academics at your undergraduate university - your lecturers have probably had students who have previously gone on to do courses that you are interested in and could provide you with a former student contact to talk to or insight into certain courses. One of my lecturers managed to put me in contact with a former student who was currently completing the postgraduate course that I was interested in.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

In five years, I hope to have finished my PhD and be continuing my career in research and working in academia. I also hope to be leading a research team on a project in my field of interest.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Take opportunities - during undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, make the most of opportunities that can give you experience and strengthen your CV. You could, for example, help with research projects at the university, or work or volunteer part time for an organisation or society.
  • Stay connected - take part in discussions during the lecture, ask questions and communicate with your lecturers. Stay connected over LinkedIn so you can still be involved with the community when you finish your degree.
  • Be confident - it is important to have confidence in your research and the arguments you are making. There will be researchers that might not agree with your argument, which is okay, but you need to be able to defend it.

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