"I remember arriving as an International Student to study Psychology at the University of Otago. Most of us came here thinking we would learn how to ‘read minds’. We soon found out that this wasn’t what Psychology was actually about”.
Understanding how the brain works, and what happens when it doesn’t work properly, is surely the ultimate puzzle. This question has driven Desiree, a Psychology PhD student and Clinical Psychology Intern, to explore what might happen in the brains of individuals with schizophrenia so as to better understand this debilitating condition.
Burt remembers when he started his PhD project. “I stepped into my office feeling both trepidation, because of the vast amount of literature to be reviewed; and excitement, because of the potential for scientific discovery and contributing something new to the field. I have managed by just taking each day at a time. Looking back, it’s been a relatively straightforward process.”
“There are researchers here looking at Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinsons disease, schizophrenia and more. These are all devastating illnesses, so it feels good to be surrounded by people trying to solve these issues. Initially I was studying for a Postgraduate Diploma, but the research project I conducted as part of that course made me decide to sign up for a PhD. I’m now in my third year, and I can’t really picture myself doing anything else.”
Despite being advised on numerous occasions not to do research on either children or animals, Tia has done both. “Thankfully I managed to come out unscathed.” A PhD candidate of four years, her research project enabled her to chart a journey where she was fortunate to work alongside 60 whānau Māori (Māori nuclear and extended families).
Growing up, Niki Osborne wanted to be a detective. She was fascinated by the processes that police investigators use to link crime scene evidence to perpetrators. Now, in the Psychology Department, Niki is conducting her own kind of ‘detective work’ – uncovering the psychological processes influencing the interpretation of crime scene evidence.
Maria has always been interested in what makes us feel well. “We all want to be happy, yet too often we take good things for granted until something goes wrong” she exclaims. “Within the last decade, there has been a rise of interest in wellbeing with evidence that individuals who experience more positive feelings are healthier, more resilient to stress, and achieve more than their peers, compared to those who experience more negative feelings” she states.
“I never planned on doing my PhD in the Department of Psychology; in fact, I never planned on doing a PhD at all … and now I’m a Postdoctoral Fellow.”
Due to a close family friend having Parkinson’s disease, Helen Tsui became interested in neurological disorders at a very young age.
“I was 10 years old when I first bought a book about memory. When the teacher joked about being able to benefit from what I was about to learn from the book, I never thought that years down the line, I would be writing a thesis on a debilitating disease that primarily affects memory”.
Min Hooi Yong’s research investigates whether domestic dogs understand human emotional cues. To date, results seem to show that dogs might have some insight into humans’ emotions. “For instance, we know that dogs can differentiate between happy and angry verbal tones and facial expressions” Min explains.