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Making the leap

As an undergraduate Political Science student at the University of Alberta in Canada, Susannah Hermazewska had always been fascinated by how the behaviour of individuals, working independently or as a collective, shape political and social processes. Having studied conflict and post-conflict societies, she was interested in how people are impacted by trauma and how they manage to rebuild their lives. 

“The lives of people affected by conflict and trauma stood out to me during my studies. My grandmother was a refugee from Poland at the end of the second world war. Despite going through hardship, she is such a happy and incredible woman. Knowing this part of my family history, I always wanted to give something back to society.”

Susannah’s family and her studies as an undergraduate student helped her understand how she wanted to help people, but it was at the University of Reading that she was able to take the next steps on her journey.

After graduating from Alberta, Susannah spent a lot of time reading popular psychology books and attending online courses that developed her interest in the subject. After seeing that the University of Reading offered a Master’s Psychology Conversion programme she decided to apply. 

“I was excited that the course was brand new in 2018 and that Reading has well-renowned research and clinical practice institutions such as the Charlie Waller Institute, which meant that the teaching would be to the highest standard, using the most up-to-date research.”

Students on the MSc Psychology Conversion programme such as Susannah can develop a broad knowledge of psychology through personalised teaching as well as access to the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Science’s in-house clinics and research facilities through the placement opportunity on the Conversion course. 

For Susannah, the highlight of studying at Reading was the opportunity to complete a placement within one of the School’s labs at the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics:

“You can’t really replicate the lab experience outside of University. Coming from a liberal arts background, I had never read a proper scientific paper. Yet through this placement, I learned how fMRI studies are conceptualised and planned to the finest detail and how to conduct a systematic review. I gained valuable exposure to the research environment, the personalities needed for a successful research team and how supervisors work with their students.”

During her studies, Susannah was able to develop a close relationship with many academics in the School but in particular with her dissertation supervisor, Dr Jacqueline Sin. Jacqueline encouraged Susannah to apply for a National Institute of Health Research Pre-Doctoral Fellowship which will provide her with skills to excel in her PhD.

In her Fellowship, Susannah is following a training and development program to prepare her to carry out research on the mental health of forced migrants. Later this year she is planning to conduct research within a London organisation providing psychological aid to survivors of torture. After her studies, Susannah’s ambition is to provide psychological support to refugees. She has found her research experience from the MSc Psychology Conversion programme will help her achieve that goal:

“I’ve always wanted to work with people in a caring capacity but it was during my time on the Conversion course that I learned how clinical psychology really benefits from a deep  understanding of research. It is really important to help ensure you are providing the best possible care you can for your patients.”