Department of Psychology

Equality and inclusion

Promoting and celebrating equality in our department

Our department has a vibrant community of students and academic and professional service 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 a selection of our amazing women at different stages of their career.

Our department has over 45 academic members of staff (44% women) and over 15 members of professional services staff (64% women). We also have about 30 research students, over half of whom are women.

Staff Profiles

Dr Elena Broggin, Senior Technician

I joined the tech team as Senior Technician in 2015 providing specialist support to teaching staff and research teams. I like to think I make students’ and researchers’ lives easier, enabling them to run their studies smoothly by setting up research equipment and programming experiments. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience working in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. The international, open minded and friendly environment made me feel at home from day one.

I was born and raised in a small village of 7000 habitants near Padua, Italy. After a BSc in Psychobiology and MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Padua with summa cum laudem I was offered a scholarship for a PhD at the University of Verona. I came to the UK in 2009 to spend the final year of my PhD at the University of Durham where I returned to after graduation working first for the Department of Psychology and then for the Centre of Education & Development. My research entailed visual imagery, binocular rivalry and hemianopia dyslexia as examples of dissociation between visual experience and sensory stimulation.

During my studies, I had the opportunity to use a variety of methodologies and equipment such as EEG, eye-tracking, psychophysics and neuropsychological testing. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of research technologies and what they can tell us about our brains and behaviour was by far the most fun part! After a period of transition from academic to professional work I (finally!) found a career that gave me the opportunity to apply practical techniques to Psychology as well as maintaining a good work life balance. Outside work I love crafting including felting, moulding clay and cross stitching.

View Elena's staff profile.

Dr Veronica Lamarche, Lecturer

I have been a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex since July 2017. Before that, I completed a PhD in Social-Personality at the University at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, USA, and B.A. at the University of Waterloo, in my home country of Canada, where I double majored in Business and Psychology. I have also worked a Research Analyst in education policy for the Government of Canada, and as a Research Advisor for a public opinion and market research firm in Canada.

Ever since I was a teenager, I have been interested in understanding why some people stay in "bad" relationships, and how others keep the "good" relationships from falling apart. This fascination now makes up the heart of my program of research, where I study how people cope with vulnerability and uncertainty in their romantic relationships and maintain them overtime. I am especially interested in better understanding the individual differences that influence these processes within relationships, the external sources of vulnerability that motivate us to turn to our relationships in times of need, and the consequences these processes might have for interpersonal issues like sexuality, consent and sexual assault. If you want to learn more about the ins-and-outs of relationships, consider taking my module PS511-What's Love Got To Do With It? Understanding Romantic Relationships.

I love working in such a vibrant and diverse department with so many staff and students from around the world. In my free time, I like to travel and explore the history and culture of new places, enjoy hiking and wandering in the outdoors, and have recently taken up pottery.

View Veronica's staff profile.

Dr Dawn Liu, Lecturer

I am a Lecturer in the department and I have been at Essex since doing the MSc conversion and subsequently my PhD here. 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. Her mentorship helped me gain confidence in my abilities as a researcher.

I became interested in the psychology of decision-making when I was competing on the Singapore national sailing team before coming to Essex. Competitive sailing requires quick tactical decision-making based on changing information, so I wanted to understand how people deal with information in the environment to formulate decisions. I now study how people understand and use quantitative information (e.g., amounts, percentages) in food decision-making.

My PhD thesis answered the question: how do we interpret, attend to, and evaluate verbal and numerical food labels? I was funded by the University of Essex departmental scholarship, and also received grants from EssexLab and the Experimental Psychology Society. What I love most about being a researcher is getting to explore different questions in a systematic way, and talking to people from all over the world about it: presenting my work at conferences has taken me to Germany, the US, Denmark, Israel, and Austria so far! I hope to take my research further in developing interventions to facilitate healthy food choices.

I lecture on research methods and statistics, health psychology, and co-ordinate an undergraduate employability module. The best part of my job is conveying how statistics and research methods are relevant to students’ life and careers—and hopefully in a fun way! Outside the office, I am usually either jogging around Colchester or curled up on my sofa with a good novel.

View Dawn's staff profile.

Dr Vanessa Loaiza, Senior Lecturer

I first came to the department in 2015 after having spent three years in Switzerland as a postdoctoral fellow. Before that, I trained in my native USA as an undergraduate at Loyola Marymount University and a postgraduate at Colorado State University. I was first drawn to psychology because I was interested in a clinical career, but I changed paths after my first experiences of research as an undergraduate working on an intervention for kindergartners who were at risk for literacy problems. That turning point still motivates me today to encourage students to open their minds to all different career options that psychology allows and to foster the same kinds of opportunities for students to get involved in research that my mentors have given to me.

Although I started in research with kids, my work now investigates the other side of development. I am interested in how memory and complex cognition functions across the adult lifespan: The underlying mechanisms that support our memory from moment-to-moment, how these mechanisms change with age, and if there is anything that we can do about it.

Since joining the department, I have followed several of my passions, which generally fall under the umbrella of open scholarship. I want to make our science more open and accessible to other researchers, students, and laypeople outside of psychology. I do this in a number of ways: First, I lead the recruitment events team to give prospective students a taste of what psychology at university is like, especially by making them feel like they too can be psychological scientists. I also am involved in the Open Science Working Group at Essex to facilitate others getting involved in open science, no matter what their prior experience with it is. Finally, I am passionate about science reaching beyond academia in the way of science communication and work with groups outside of the university. I have given over 20 public community talks and work with a fantastic charity, Age Concern Colchester, to ensure that the very relevant work we do in psychology reaches those who stand to benefit the most.

When I am not busy at work, I love travelling all over the world, outdoor activities like hiking and climbing/bouldering, and hibernating at home with some Netflix and delicious snacks at hand!

View Vanessa's staff profile.

Shaaba Lotun, PhD Candidate

I had never experienced stability growing up. Due to various reasons and many house moves, I attended over twelve different schools, and I was disappointed but unsurprised when I disliked my undergrad experience at a London university. I dropped out, and whilst in search of retail work, the University of Essex reached out to provide me with a second chance.

I’m so proud to say that a few years later, I completed my LLB degree here and graduated at the top of my cohort with two external awards for outstanding achievement. I was then awarded a scholarship to complete my Masters degree, and I’m currently exploring social media and its effect on mental health and behaviour as a PhD student in Psychology.

I worked three jobs alongside my previous studies, and still work two jobs now alongside my research. In my spare time, I run an LGBT+ social enterprise with my partner, fiddle around with video cameras, and get distracted by my very fluffy cat.

If someone told younger-me that I’d be a PhD student, speaking at Parliamentary sessions, and working with huge industry figures on LGBT+ campaigns, I’d never have believed you – but I’m so excited to see where this goes.

View Shaaba's staff profile.

Dr Alex Sel, Lecturer

I joined the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex in June 2019. My research interests span topics including affective processing, embodiment and perception of the body from outside and from within. I tackle complex questions of social neuroscience such as How the sensory and motor information coming from outside and from within the body influences our social behaviour? How these sensory bodily signals integrate with exteroceptive information in the brain? Can cortical stimulation on sensorimotor and interoceptive areas be used to facilitate decisions and social behaviour?

My research profile and experience has built upon international training and collaborations across research institutions in the UK and Europe. I completed my BSc (First Class hons) in Psychology, my MSc in Psychobiology (Distinction on dissertation) and my PhD (Distinction Cum Laude) in electrophysiology of emotion and language processing at the University Complutense of Madrid, Spain. During my doctoral training, I was awarded two visiting fellowships. The DAAD fellowship to Humboldt University Berlin, and the Spanish Research Council fellowship to City University London. I then moved to my first postdoctoral post at Royal Holloway University, before being awarded my own personal research grant to work at the University of Oxford, where I spent three years.

In addition to my research and teaching in the Department, I am a full-time mum and wife. I have been a semi-professional flamenco dancer for a number of years, I am a gym enthusiast, and I love ice-cream.

View Alex's staff profile.

Kelly Wolfe, PhD Candidate

I am a second year PhD student in the Psychology department (I started my PhD in 2017). Before my doctoral degree, I studied two bachelor degrees in Psychology in The Netherlands, as well as a master’s degree in Research Methods in Edinburgh. However, I have been interested in Psychology long before that, ever since my early teens. 

During my first undergraduate degree, I realised I wanted to continue into research. I was specifically interested in two topics: risk and older age. I had worked with older adults during high school and my undergraduate degrees and wanted my work to benefit this specific group of individuals. As I was doing my master’s degree in Edinburgh, I received an e-mail with funded PhD positions in the country. One of them was with my current supervisor, Dr Jonathan Rolison, on risky decision-making and older adults; the perfect fit.

I now study age differences between younger and older adults in risk-taking behaviour: how these groups differ from one another, and whether that difference is due to differences in attitudes towards risk or decision-quality. I find this topic incredibly interesting and I get to work with people within and outside of the university environment. I have presented my work at local conferences as well as international conferences, and I have taken part in the Three Minute Thesis competition. I am also a Graduate Laboratory Assistant, which means I assist in teaching undergraduate students. I enjoy working with students and enjoy watching them engage with a topic that they previously struggled with.

After I finish my degree, I would like to stay in academia, and become a researcher/lecturer. I would be open to working in the UK as well as somewhere else. Part of working in academia is the opportunity to move for your work and seeing more of the world, which I am looking forward to.

When I am not working, I spend my time going on hikes, cooking, gardening, reading and snuggling up with my cat.

View Kelly's staff profile.

Resources and support 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 once or twice a month. Every Tuesday (at 1pm or at 4pm in different weeks) in term time, there is a research seminar to which all academic staff and research students are invited, followed by a social event with the speaker.

Once a month (on different days), there is a Women in Psychology lunch, an Athena SWAN open lunch (where the SWAN leads invite open discussions on equality and inclusivity), and a social tea-and-cake event for all academic staff and research students.

Resources and support for students