The Big 5_Ep 7_Sarah Docherty_mixdown
1:35PM Dec 9, 2021
Hello and welcome to the Big Five podcasts from Northumbria psychology department. My name is Dr. Genavee Brown and I'll be your guide into the minds of psychology students, alumni and researchers at Northumbria University. I'm a lecturer and a researcher in the psychology department. Each week on this podcast I'll speak to a guest who is either a student, alumni or researcher in the Northumbria psychology department. By asking them five big questions, we'll learn about their time studying psychology, and hopefully learn some big facts about human behaviour and experience. Today I have the pleasure of speaking to my guest Sarah Daugherty. Hello, Sarah. Hi Genavee Sarah has completed her BSc in psychology and her inroads in psychology at Northumbria and has been here since 2014. She also acted as a research assistant at the brain performance nutrition research centre. She's currently doing her PhD under the supervision of crystal Haskell Ramsay, Mark Weatherall and Lynn McInnes, and she's looking at multivitamin supplements for older adults. And today, Sarah is going to tell us a bit about her experience being a student at Northumbria and currently studying as a PhD student there. So Sarah, could you tell us a little bit about why you wanted to study psychology and kind of how you found yourself doing a PhD.
So I think I was kind of one of these people. When I first started my degree where I was, like, I want to do psychology, because it's in residence, I think a lot of people stopped the degree like that, and maybe not kind of knowing what interested in and but throughout my degree, it was research that I was really, really interested in, I loved different types of research. And I kind of fell into the area that I used. And so I started helping, I was kind of intern and throughout my degree at the green performance nutrition centre. And I kind of found a love there for kind of nutritional interventions and clinical interventions, and kind of the impact they can have on people and kind of different aspects of psychology that can affect this and mood, and how we can use kind of nutrition and supplementation and help people throughout. And then through that work, I kind of also became interested in the ageing population and older adults and how there's kind of a massive area there that will help through supplementation. And and that's kind of what got me interested in my area of experience. And for me, I'm kind of planning out the research and thinking, Okay, how will this actually help people? And designed studies that kind of person centred saw for his people? What will help them? How can we do that. And that's how I kind of became interested in my specific area, and looking at kind of nutritional deficiencies, and seeing how they can be supplemented. And it's things that can be done like really easily in everyday life. So things like supplements are readily available. So looking at whether something like this can improve different kinds of psychological outcomes in older adults, and how this can kind of help a population, because we're always seeing the negative connotations of ageing population of kind of economic issues and social issues and healthcare issues. But in fact, that population is it's not a burden our society and I think being able to run research that is actually gonna improve these people's quality of life is so important. And that's what I like about psychology is working with people and kind of getting their input and saying, Okay, if we do this, how does that make you feel? Does that make you feel bad? They? I think it's saying these kinds of daily improvements when you're interacting with your participants and interacting with people is why I enjoy it. So much of kind of seeing the real world benefit of doing the research.
Yeah, that's definitely amazing when we can directly see the influence of our research that it's having on people's lives. As I said at the beginning, you've been studying psychology at Northumbria for a while now? What's that been like? Studying from undergraduate all the way through to your PhD? Now? Have there been any experiences that really marked your studies, any classes that you found? really developed your identity as a researcher? Yeah,
so I think even when I think back to kind of my first year of my degree, and we do our lab classes, where we'll learn about research methods, and that kind of was where it all began for me because I was like, some people kind of don't really like that aspect. But I just loved it and I love being able to kind of design studies and do it, how I would like to do it. So throughout that and of doing the labs classes and getting that hands on experience, doing research, and then developing through that I did kind of lots of different placements with For my optional modules on my degree, and that kind of sparked that more, because I love doing like the practical side of things, and in research in chips, comes to work with like different members of staff in the department working on different research projects. And I think for me, that's kind of what pushed us towards a PhD because I got to see all this research that was going on in the department at the time. And in seeing the kind of whole well run that was in the publications that were coming out from the University at the time, and just really wanting to be a part of that. And then moving on to my master's, it was all research based, and the masters of research. And then that a large chunk of that is your placement and internship within the department. And that's again, when I started working on the brain forms in Nutrition Research Centre, and just getting a hands on experience of working on like real clinical trials that were happening. And, and I love doing that I love the Masters experience. Yeah, and I think I push us towards the PhD because I knew that's what I wanted to do. So I thought I can take all the skills I've learned here towards PhD and use all the transferable skills to help me do the PhD successfully. So all the research skills I got, and also kind of just like the transferable skills like time management and retail management. And but yeah, I would say it started on undergraduate degree on the labs classes. And then as I progressed through, being able to kind of use both initial skills to develop my research skills throughout. And I think it was also a lot of opportunities to get involved in different aspects of research, and really liked about the Greeks. I like the practical elements of it. I think that's why I kind of enjoyed it so much. And that's what pushed me towards my PhD.
Yeah, that's really great resume of how you can progress from undergraduate if you really take onboard those research methods that we start from the very beginning, and use those to, to really develop your own research projects. What would you say is the most exciting or surprising thing that you learned on the programme? Or that you found in your research? Did you do any very interesting clinical trials, for example, at the brain performance nutrition centre?
Yeah, so I think when I was working, it was seeing the industry side of it of kind of working with the University and how that works. I think that was really interesting. But I think kind of, for me, it was kind of how flexible research can be. So I think we're always have these ideas of clinical players and what we're and I started my PhD with that. But because of like it, really it kind of plan my own research, management just to see and how you can adapt your research, or the times. So I was doing my PhD right in the middle of COVID pandemic. So at first, it was kind of like, oh, this is kind of ruining all of my research. But then, because of that, I completely changed my research plan. But I think if anything would benefit my PhD so much more. So now when I look at the research I've produced during this time, I think it's a lot more meaningful than what I had originally planned to do. And, and also I started with the idea of this is what clinical trial is, and this is how it should run. Again, seeing how flexible the research can be. So I've used quite different methodological approaches, I think, other than other people have been in clinical trials. So I kind of, I'm kind of by your sake, but I started off my PhD with quality of study, which is something I've never done before, just because I wanted to design my clinical trial to be meaningful to the people who will be taking part in it. So I started with a qualitative approach, where I wondered over 70 year olds, kind of what would you want to improve in your life? Or if you predict supplement, what would you like to see improvements in. And the results were kind of not what I was really expecting, that helped me to design my intervention based on the people who were actually taking part in it. And I think it's quite a nice report, because as someone who was in my mid 20s, I can't really say what someone who was over 70 would actually like to see improvements in their life. So I think, during that it's just helped me like become a flexible researcher. And I think it's kind of changed my whole outlook, the research, and how I do my research. I think taking the benefits, our kind of the pandemic has been kind of the most, you know, surprised about in my PhD because when I first started I kind of had the negative attitude of this is ruined all my research, but in fact, it just made it better if anything. So I think that was the most surprising thing. I found that you can be very flexible in your research, especially if you've got a support team around you. So my supervisors are very supportive of kind of creative direction I would like to go in so I think they've let me be so kind of in charge of my research and support the ideas of Hope throughout just just being great.
Yeah, that supervisory support is so important. And I I was going to ask actually, I'm curious what what was it the older adults wanted to improve the most what was so surprising about that?
So I think the main thing that I found, which I kind of wasn't expecting to because I'm just go through my lived experience is that and one of the main things that came out was that there was such a big desire or improve kind of all our sexual life, and how much importance they put on that and this pain of stigma around speaking about that. And even even in the literature, there's a lot of research that shows even kind of doctors are kind of unwilling to speak to all adults about their sexual life. And it was such a big importance on that of being able to still engage in a satisfactory sex life and how kind of health problems and medication can stop that. And aside from that, those a lot of us have been able to engage in the activities. So being able to feel physically well enough to do housework, and being able to go out with friends and family and how the mobility can stop that. So people didn't seem to really complain about the actual health issues that they might have been experiencing, it was more than knock on effects that this had on all areas of life. So being able to kind of partake in any recreational activities that they would like to do, or the type of activities you could do with the friends and family. And again, just the stuff that could do in the house. And I think there was still being able to enjoy your own life and independently, so less the health issues, it's more than side effects of laws, and something I've never really thought about myself. Yeah, that's really
fascinating. Thanks for sharing that. So I guess I'd like to know a little bit more about where your PhD has gone from that first study. What other interesting findings have you found? And I guess, how close are you to the end? And what do you kind of see as the end goal of this research,
I started out with a qualitative study. And then that helped me define design my main intervention. So I then had all the outcome variables that I wanted, which came from the participants own views. And then I define the same intervention. And it was a 12 week supplementation study. And I started off getting people in and doing a baseline, given them the supplements for 12 weeks, and then getting them back into do it again. But then, of course, the pandemic hit, and we couldn't do research anymore. And I had kind of a really unique situation, that I had a group of people who had done their baseline measurements during kind of before the pandemic, and then they would do a complete follow up 12 weeks laid out while we're in lockdown. So I kind of thought, okay, there's something really interesting here. And a lot of research that was being published at the time in the corporate pandemic, didn't actually have a base claim of the same people who took part. Because obviously, it was unexpected. So I thought, okay, if we take the intervention, or we don't actually think about the supplementation, what can we see from the baseline to follow up of how the pandemic has actually affected all adults, or designed that and moved everything online. And then we had a look from pre German lockdown what actually happened, and then all my participants have been so great, and so invested in the research. So then we actually then contact them a year after one more coming out of lockdown to kind of track what happened across the time. And the reason like the results are actually very, very interesting. So I'm pretty good German rock down, there was pain of higher perceived stress worse, well being and worst as of symptoms, which of course, seems logical, based on what was happening at the time. And but there's actually improvements in self reported physical health symptoms, and improvements in relationship quality and improvements in time spent engaging in physical activity, which kind of seems counter intuitive. So we'll kind of look at the reasons why this might be. So things like improved physical activity is when you kind of put down as people have had more time in the house not having any external responsibilities. So what I've found in my participants is that they live in such fulfilling lives they've got so many things of hobbies and activities that they kind of don't stop but when the in house had time to engage in more physical activity around the house and one of the only things that were actually leave the house for was to do an exercise so that was one of the explicit reasons well I will leave in the first lockdown actually also coincide with kind of one of the hot springs on record. So this give time for people to do thing kind of activities in the garden and even garden and in this all kind of improve increased how much time they were doing physical activity for and in terms of the improvements in relationship quality. I think especially during the first lockdown, there was such a kind of emphasis on community spirit and helping out neighbours. And we actually saw this because there was an increase in the relationship quality people kind of on the outskirts of your social networks, or maybe not people that you see every day, but kind of neighbours and extended family. And people actually reported that there was an increase in this relationship quality, I thought was quite impressive. And so although those are definitely the bad sides a lockdown, there was also some kind of improvements. And then when we followed up the LA app, it was well being and depression and mood still negatively affected port lockdown. So those kind of longer term effects that hadn't really been addressed. And what was kind of important as well as that, or my participants were kind of healthy in terms of established norms of baseline. So people who maybe don't have those healthy norms or baseline, they could have had an even greater impact, because of lockdown. So kinda more vulnerable populations will probably more negatively impact. So when we've seen that effect in people who have kind of normal levels of baseline, it's probably going to be worse for people who didn't have those normal levels of baseline. So I think that was quite interesting overall.
Yeah, definitely. What an amazing opportunity to to do that study, just because the timing was right. And yeah, yeah, it
was a really unique perspective. And I think that was probably the main strength of when I was reading other research in that area, there was a lot of kind of matched pairs designs in terms of because it wasn't anticipated. So no one had a baseline and I just had a baseline by chance. And what I thought was going to kind of ruin my research, actually a lot more meaningful research with the idea that he had very surprising that it came out that way. I think I was very lucky in terms of my research during that time, compared to maybe some other PhD students.
Well, I think that's a testament to your creative spirit to to find a way to turn that into a positive. That's really great. Have you published a paper on that yet? Are you still in the process of writing that
is that is published now. It was published on gerontology and geriatric, geriatric medicine, is open access as well to read.
What's the title of that paper?
The paper is called the effect of governance in lockdown on health and psychosocial functioning in adults aged 70 and older.
Wow, excellent. Well, if any of our listeners are interested in that topic, you can go check out that paper, you have made quite a bit of progress in your research. Sounds like you're nearing the end of your PhD. So since you have done so well, do you have any advice to provide for any students who are interested in doing a PhD? who are just starting a PhD? What would you say is the biggest thing the biggest skill you need to develop to be successful,
you need to be resilient, things aren't going to always go the way that you plan and you come in, in your first few months, thinking you're going to do might not be exactly what you end up with. And that's fine, because everything is dependent on circumstances and what you can do at the time. So you've got to kind of build up that resilience of, okay, this might not be exactly what I had in mind in my first few months of a PhD, but what I can actually do based on what I find can be a lot more interesting. So yeah, being resilient, I would say would be the most important thing. And just being able to organisation skills, I cannot stress enough. So I think when I first started, I wasn't as organised as I was now. I will show how to be in in terms of anything you do, make a note of what you've done, because you will forget it. So we'll do some other day I will take I'll remember exactly what I did here, and then get started on another project. You don't come back to that until six months later. And then I'm like, I've got no idea what I actually did with the car thought I'll remember, but I didn't. So I think people have given some sort of record of everything that you do track of pain for our meetings and what we did. So engaging in that we actually have a record of what you've done each week. And what asking help mode for me was thing kind of halfway through. Yeah, it's such a weird position where it's like, you feel like you're almost towards the end, but also that you haven't really done much and you probably have, but just keeping your supervisors updated of how you're actually doing and not just saying that you're failing if you're not in the game, because everyone loses motivation throughout. So I think just having that relationship with the supervisors in terms of being able to say, Okay, this week, I haven't actually done anything I've maybe had to been elsewhere. I've been I've lost track a little bit and being completely open and honest. Because it does happen everybody. So then I asked for my super supervisors for weekly meeting. So I could make myself smaller targets. And that helped a lot. And I think again, That's another important thing is to make yourself small weekly targets, things to do rather than big projects. If if you have a kind of a target, write an introduction section, that's really hard to achieve. Whereas if you're like, Okay, this week, I would just like to write phase two paragraphs, and kind of what I want to write in that. And paint having smaller, more manageable targets. Because there's such a nice feeling when you do accomplish the small things or kind of write myself to do list each week with some things that I think will be really quick. But then soon, it will take a lot longer than expected. But then at least I can still see I've done and I maybe haven't been everything else, but I've got my smaller targets that I want to meet. And I think that's really important, because most of your PhD isn't any of these massive projects. It's more things of, okay, I need to do ethics documents this week, and kind of making kind of smaller targets. I think that's quite an important thing. Throughout. I think I've just listed about 10 different things. But I think there's a lot to kind of think about I think being resilient, being organised and making sure you're honest with the supervisors throughout kind of my main things through Yeah,
absolutely. Yeah. When you were saying, trying to remember projects, what you've done six months later, I was gonna say that's the main reason I pre register my work now is just so when I go back, I can be like, What were my hypotheses? Yeah, absolutely. And, yeah, the communication with your supervisors, obviously, is so important, because, you know, your supervisors have your, your best interest at heart. But sometimes, you know, we need to know what you need as a supervision style. So if it's weekly meetings, if it's us, setting deadlines for you, we're happy to do those things. But of course, you know, requires communication and negotiate in that relationship, which is really important. Well, thank you so much. This has been absolutely fascinating. And I hope that anybody out there who's starting a PhD has found this advice. Very helpful. So where can people find you online if they'd like to follow your research?
And I am on LinkedIn, and ResearchGate a server. I am on Twitter as Sarah underscore Daugherty one. And there is also a Facebook page with myself and another PhD student in the department created Alexander Thompson, where we were offering ageing research. So we made a Facebook page, which is healthy ageing psychology research at Northumbria University. And this kind of outlines any research that's going on or anything in wrestling that we've got going on within our research studies. And so if anyone's interested, they can like the Facebook
page as well. All right, excellent. And is that can people in the community who are interested in participating in your research get in touch that way
as well? Yeah. So if they like the page, you can message the page kind of register your interest and any kind of work or studies were working on we will post on there as well for people to get involved in.
Excellent. Excellent. Well, thank you very much, Sarah. If you would like to learn more about Northumbria psychology, check out our psychology department blog at Northumbria psi.com. On our blog, you'll also find some opportunities to apply for funded PhD ships. You can also follow us on Twitter at Northumbria psi. If you would like to be interviewed on the podcast or know someone who would please email me at Genavee firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, if you like to podcast make sure to subscribe to our podcast on your listening app and give us a review and rating. We'll be taking a short hiatus over winter break, but we'll be back with you on January 10. And all the month of January we will have guests speaking about PhD studentship opportunities in Northumbria psychology department. I hope you've learned something on this voyage into the mind. Take care until next time