Department of Psychology

Equality and inclusion

Promoting and celebrating equality in our department

Our department has a vibrant community of academic and administrative staff, working at all levels. 

We achieved a Bronze Departmental Athena SWAN Award in April 2017.

Professor Paul Hibbard, Head of Psychology
We are committed to the representation, progression and success of women in science. We aim to foster a confident, high-performing, creative and productive Department, offering equality of opportunity and a positive and inclusive culture to all. 
Professor Paul Hibbard Head of psychology

Celebrating women in the department

We're proud of our outstanding female scientists. We'd like to celebrate them by showcasing five amazing women at each stage of their career, from PhD students to full Professors.

Our department has over 45 academic members of staff, 40 percent of whom are female. We also have about 30 research students, over two thirds of whom are women.

Staff Profiles

Dr Kathryn Buchanan, Lecturer

Kathryn Buchanan is a Lecturer in the Psychology Department at the University of Essex. Over the years she has had the opportunity to address research questions that she is generally interested in finding the answers to. She believes this is one of the best parts of her job.

Motivated by curiosity and a keen desire to conduct research that can have a real-world impact though helping individuals and/or society some of the research questions she has addressed are: “Is it better to focus on ambition or relationships in the pursuit of happiness?”, “Can digital technologies be used to promote pro-environmental behaviours?”, and “who do we behave most generously towards: the old, the young, the beautiful or the disadvantaged?”.

To date, Kathryn’s proudest achievements include being appointed (and so surviving!) as a lecturer and receiving an award for “best research impact by an early career researcher”. Kathryn believes that to succeed in academia a fair amount of determination and resilience are required as well as an enthusiasm both for research and also for teaching.

Dr Ana Gheorghiu, Postdoctoral researcher

When I moved to the UK from Romania in 2010 to do my BSc in Psychology, I had no idea I would end up falling in love with both this country, and with academia. I ended up staying for my MSc and PhD, where I investigated the first impressions people form of scientists, and how these impressions affect what they think of the scientist’s research. I have been lucky enough to have most of my PhD research published in PNAS, and I am forever grateful to my supervisors for helping me achieve this.

I’m currently working as a post-doc on a project investigating perceptions of victims, which I’m very excited about, since it’s different to the research I’ve been doing so far. As unlikely as it may sound, I enjoy research and statistics the most – I could spend a whole day analysing data and crunching numbers (just don’t make me write essays).

In my free time, I love getting lost in a good fantasy book, with a cup of coffee. On more stressful days, I spend some quality time with a punching bag and pair of gloves – it works wonders.

Dr Helge Gillmeister, Senior Lecturer

I have been a lecturer in the department since 2009, I co-direct the Centre for Brain Science (with Nick Cooper), lead the Athena SWAN team (who won Bronze in 2017), and have a number of other functions within and for the department at the University. I've been interested in Psychology (although I didn't know it was called Psychology) since I was a teenager.

I actually envisaged a career directed at literature and arts, and found my way into the sciences fairly late in life, but luckily before studying at university. Psychology is to blame for that. In my teenage years was interested in the very different ways that people have relationships with their own selves and with each other, and I was specifically interested in the thought patterns and behaviours of narcissists and of criminals. When I discovered that there is a science that attempts to describe, explain and predict those thought patterns and behaviours, I was hooked! It was lucky that when I came to the UK from Germany (where subjects in school are very traditional), I could do Psychology in Sixth form, and it is then that I knew I had found something that I could work in that would never be boring. I'm not the only person who thinks so - Psychology, and especially Cognitive Neuroscience, which I turned to during my first degree at UCL, are subjects that have been seeing upward trends in public interest over the past decades.

I did my PhD on multisensory perception at Birkbeck, and I have worked as research assistant in a number of places in London and Cambridge before coming to Essex. My research now is on the importance of our bodies in giving rise to our sense of self. We sustain many different kinds of body representations, and ones I have been working on are perceptual and emotional - how we feel about our bodies can change the way we perceive ourselves and others, which in turn affects the way we feel. I'm interested in other links between affect and perception and currently work on multisensory phenomena like ASMR and misophonia, on body aesthetics and disability, on food perception and exercise behaviours. Some of this work is supported by the British Academy / Leverhulme trust and the Experimental Psychology Society.

Dawn Liu, PhD Student

I am a second-year PhD student in the department. While doing my MSc conversion at Essex, I was very fortunate to meet my current supervisor, Dr Marie Juanchich, who encouraged me to apply for a PhD position, and whose mentorship helped me gain confidence in my abilities as a research student.

I became interested in the psychology of decision-making during my fifteen-year career as a national sailor for my home country, Singapore. Competitive sailing requires quick tactical decision-making based on changing information, so I wanted to understand the decision-making processes involved.

I now study intuitive and analytical decision-making involved in quantity judgements, e.g. understanding nutrient quantities on food labels. I am currently funded by the University of Essex departmental scholarship, and last year received grant money to conduct my research with EssexLAB.

My work has been presented at conferences in London, the US, Germany, and Israel. I also work as a Graduate Lab Assistant on several undergraduate modules, my favourite of which is PS114 (Research Methods). I love working with new students and guiding them along the research process! Outside the office, I am usually either jogging around Colchester or curled up on my sofa with a good novel.

Julie Peirson, Graduate Administrator

I have been the Graduate Administrator in the Department of Psychology for just over year, joining in October 2016. I have worked at the University for about 20 years, including a maternity break, and have held student facing roles in the School of Computer Science and Electronic and the Centre for Computational Finance and Economic Agents. I then worked as PA to the Dean for International Affairs and the Executive Dean for the Faculty of Science and Health until I joined the Department of Psychology.

I particularly enjoy working closely with students and academic staff and this lead to my decision to return to an academic department, where I could take an active part in helping students right from before they arrive to when we see them off at Graduation.

Earlier this year I received a Students’ Union award for supporting students which made me immensely proud – I knew I had done the right thing by joining Psychology.

I have lived in Essex all my life and am an ‘Essex Girl’ through and through. I love working here - it’s never boring and I get to meet so many different and interesting people from all walks of life.

Monika Steinke, Technician

Monika Steinke has been working as a technician within the department where she is providing IT support to staff and students since 2015. It involves looking after the teaching labs, setting up computers, updating software, maintaining and hiring out equipment and creating reprographics and films to support the research of students and academic staff. She very much enjoys working in this position, because, she says, it is an area of constant progress and therefore every day is different and provides her with new challenges. When she started working at the department, she joined the Green Impact Group and has been able to introduce energy saving schemes since, which achieved the department a Bronze award in 2016 and Silver in 2017, when she was also crowned one of ten ‘Environmental Heroes’.

Monika grew up in Bremen, Germany, where she completed her training as a biological technician with the University. She worked as a science technician in various research areas at the Universities of Bremen and of East Anglia.

When Monika and her family moved from Norwich to Colchester in 2006, she embarked on a bachelor degree in Graphic Media to support her live-long passion for design. She is a very keen badminton player and loves spending time outdoors, cycling and started sailing and skiing this year.

Dr Tuesday Watts, Lecturer

I left Grenada, the place where I grew up, at just 17, in pursuit of further education. At college here in England, Psychology was supposed to be the subject I liked least and dropped in the second year of my A-Levels. I wanted to study medicine. Instead, as fate would have it, I fell in love with psychology, and nearly 10 years later, after earning a different kind of doctorate, I teach it at university!

During my departmental-funded PhD, I won the University's 'Three Minute Thesis' competition, which greatly helped my confidence. I specialise in human sexuality and gender-related expressions, both of which form a huge part of our lives. Broadly, you could say I’m interested in what makes us the people we are! This curiosity lends itself well to my teaching in the area of Personality and Individual Differences.

At the moment, I have three publications (one of which is the first chapter of my PhD thesis, which I am particularly proud of!). Outside of the academic world I am a crazy animal lady having a dog, two cats and a flock of rescued chickens. I also really enjoy photography and knitting!

Resources for Staff

There are a wide range of opportunities, resources and support networks available for our staff, both within and outside our University. 

Mentoring Policy

The Department has a mentoring policy to support its academic staff. A senior member of staff is assigned as a mentor or probationary supervisor to all new academic staff.

For research active staff, the mentor provides advice on what is worth doing and when, where and how to network, how to develop a career plan, explaining promotion criteria and how to develop a profile within a discipline. The academic staffing officer can also advise on issues related to probation and promotion.

For new staff, an induction event is held by HR and the department.  

Departmental events and meetings

Formal staff meetings are held twice a month, and there is also an informal Head of Department lunch twice a month, where individual departmental matters may be discussed with the Head of Department during lunch break.

There is a Women in Psychology Breakfast on the first Tuesday a month, and every Wednesday, the MPhil / PhD students organise a social tea-and-cake event for all academic staff and research students.