Where Are You Now?

Rebecca Owens

Rebecca Owens

BSc Psychology 2009

PhD in Evolutionary Psychology 2016

Rebecca earned a first-class BSc (Hons) in Psychology in 2009 and went on to start a part-time PhD in the same year. She completed her PhD in Evolutionary Psychology in 2016. She is now a Chartered member of the British Psychological Society, a Lecturer in Psychology and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

She explained: “I design, develop and teach material on our undergraduate and postgraduate psychology courses. This takes a lot more work than most people think! Among this, we need to provide pastoral care to our students which can be challenging at times, we need to keep up with University regulations and networks to be able to provide appropriate support.

“Academics are always trying to keep on top of their own research too – even though it often has to take a backseat! I have three main research interests which sometimes intersect – mating strategies and behaviours; body modifications; and male psychology. I co-host a podcast called Inking of Immunity, and I am a member of the Male Psychology section of the British Psychological Society and have just developed and delivered the first Male Psychology module in the world – we believe!”

Rebecca, who entered the University as a mature student and as a mother of two children, says she wanted to come to Sunderland because the student body are more diverse than you typically see elsewhere.

She added: “As a mature student at the grand old age of 21, I felt I really needed that. Plus, I am local, and I had two very young children at that time so moving away from the North East was not an option.”

Asked about her greatest achievement to date, Rebecca doesn’t hesitate to reply that it was finishing her PhD.

“I think it was very much against the odds and even under the best circumstances, PhDs are killer – especially in the write up phase!”

Asked about her biggest challenge, she replied: “I don’t think I can parse it out – completing my undergraduate degree through some very challenging circumstances; completing my PhD through some very challenging circumstances. When you first get employed as a lecturer, the workload is very intense and a lot of people struggle. I was only just beginning to find my feet I think when the pandemic hit and we are faced with even more challenges! Teaching on team-taught modules without having the team around, working longer hours, doing more work, trying to work from home with everything else going on…”.

Rebecca remembers with fondness one her lecturers, Helen Driscoll, and says she has been an inspiration for her. Helen had just started as a lecturer the same year she started at stage one.

Rebecca said: “It was so refreshing to see someone who pushed the boundaries and didn’t conform to societal expectations of what you need to be or do to be in academia. She had similar personal circumstances to me at various points through my studies and to be able to see that she was doing a PhD and being a lecturer in those circumstances meant it was possible after all.

“During my PhD my supervisor left the university and relocated; Helen took over as my director of studies and I might have just fallen off the radar if she hadn’t done that. She is now my line manager and she has always been a huge source of support. Her integrity in all areas is inspiring and I have very much followed in her footsteps in that sense.”

Rebecca advice to recent graduates entering the job market is to be flexible and take opportunities.

“They might not be what you had planned but being flexible and taking opportunities as and when they come is so important,” she said.

Talking about her plans, Rebecca would like to try and get into a steadier research flow so she can hopefully manage and juggle everything that she needs to.

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