• growingwithacademia@gmail.com
  • Groningen, Netherlands

Marie’s View of Academia – Before Starting

Nina and I wanted to get this blog going right before both of us start our PhD, so that we still capture our ‘naive’ freshly graduated mindset. Since I am officially busy in my new (home)office from today onwards, I am just in time. 

The start of my PhD project, of course, makes me very excited, but currently also quite nervous. It is intimidating to me to start full-time again after my 2-month break that I decided to take after finishing my research master in the midst of a pandemic alongside some stressful events in my private life, which altogether left me slightly burned out. 

What could be better at easing the tension about getting back to work than some reflecting on why I am doing this – and what it actually is that I will be doing? So, without further ado, here my current view of my work and academia …

Title of my PhD project: Capturing a Patient’s Context – Developing experience sampling tools for personalised patient feedback in psychotherapy

Short description (optional): For now, I will simply copy-paste the abstract straight from my proposal (written in the beginning of this year, before I knew where 2020 would go). It sounds great, it got me the scholarship for the project, I am curious to see what becomes of it over the next 4 years!

Contextual factors such as the social relationships and daily activities of a psychotherapy patient are key to personalised treatments. Yet, they are largely neglected in current research, creating a deficit of tool development for efficient context assessments needed in clinical practice. Experience sampling (ESM) has huge potential for filling this gap, but current methodology is limited. The aim of this project is to improve clinical applications of ESM by (1) investigating personalised context assessment methods, (2) comparing different ways to derive personalised context-specific feedback from ESM data, and (3) developing and disseminating materials that facilitate the use of personalised ESM in clinical practice.

I would like to achieve with my PhD project in the field that… clinicians can provide patients more easily with personalised, targeted treatment that eventually helps more patients to get better. At the same time, I would like to help clinical researchers expand their methodological toolkit. Oh boy, those ambitions…

My self-development goals during my PhD: I would like to find a sustainable way to continue to thrive in my career, but at the same time not neglect my personal life as well as my health and fitness. These 4 year should be an awesome time in my life, that I always like to remember.  

My view of academia after the (research) master: I feel like a lot has been and is going wrong (e.g. the publishing and peer-review system, just to name one), but people have noticed it and the ball is rolling. It seems like an exciting time to enter academia and to try to make a change. In some people I worked with I see the ‘old’ system, but I also see a lot of more progressive academics around me who are as excited about progress as I am.   

How I would describe academia to people outside of it (e.g. my grandma): Well, it is researchers, who work at a university and do their research, but also teach and most of the time do a lot of other cool things (like writing blogs and books, developing methods and tools). 

I really appreciate in academia/ academic work: The freedom and flexibility to work on what I find important as well as the constant opportunity for self-development and learning new things.

I think, academia’s biggest problems are: The pressure created by competition, the artificial bureaucratic boundaries between disciplines or sometimes even just departments and people who are resistant to change.   

The things I am struggling most with during my academic work: To say no, to find a balance between work and private life, and to take the time to reflect more on my decisions (so this blog is a step in the right direction!). 

How academia should change during the next 5 years: It should be more open, more inter-/transdisciplinary, more focused on collaboration as opposed to competition.   

What I think, I can do to change/have a positive influence on academia: I can adopt open science practices myself, I can initiate (interdisciplinary) collaborations.     

My current research crush: Recently, I learned more about the work of Fionneke Bos and love her super practical research! I really hope my PhD project can be somewhat close to what she has been doing over the past years. 

My ‘pet’ project area: I am very interested in legal/forensic psychology and am lucky to be part of an awesome young international team (brought together by the Junior Researcher Programme) with which we work on projects in that area. 

I have the most genius research ideas, when … I am walking a dog or am on a long hike in beautiful nature (preferably with some company to bounce my ideas off of). If that is not possible, reading, reading, and more reading gets my creative juices flowing.    

What I do to relax and NOT think about work for a while: Either being with people I am close with, family and friends, or being very active. Nothing chases thoughts of statistics problems and deadlines away like a heart rate of 175 BPM while being in a Jumping Fitness class or hanging at a high climbing wall.

Resources for when I am fed up with my job: Simply this, or all of the above 😀

If I would not work in academia, what would I do professionally: Probably I would be thrifting furniture/decoration, upcycle and then sell it, all while living on a cute little farm with a bunch of animals (some dogs, chicken and a donkey for sure). After a while, my head would probably get bored and I would start writing books or do some freelance data science work or anything that seems like a nice challenge. 

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