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The University of Southampton
PsychologyPostgraduate study

Lauren Towler MSc Health Psychology, 2016

Research Assistant at Solent NHS Trust

Lauren Towler's Photo

I’ve made so many connections and I’ve managed to get onto research projects by getting in touch with contacts that I’ve made during my time here

Why did you choose to study at Southampton?

I chose Southampton specifically because of its research reputation. It’s known to have a really strong Psychology department for research, and I knew that I wanted to go into research as a career. I was familiar with some of Cynthia Graham’s work in my chosen field – sexual health – so that also attracted me. I did Psychology at undergrad and there was a lot of emphasis on Clinical Psychology, but I felt more inclined to the health side of it because it was more up and coming.

What made you particularly interested in sexual health?

I’ve done some work in a sexual health clinic as a health care assistant, and also as a support worker in a different clinic, where we went out to pubs and clubs to get 18-24 year-olds to do their chlamydia screenings and other sexual health-related tests, so it was sort of like an outreach programme. I just really enjoy it; it’s something that I feel is really important, there’s still quite a lot of taboo about sexual topics, so I suppose that it just felt natural for me to go into that kind of thing.

What was your course like?

Health Psychology is a very theory-driven course, and if you’re quite a practical person it can be quite easy to be put-off whilst doing it, and there is a lot of reading, there is a lot of work, but it always seems worse when you’re not quite there yet and you’re in the middle of it, but if you try to manage your time as best as possible, keep organised and just keep your head down and do it, it’s actually way easier than you think it’s going to be.

Were there any modules that you particularly enjoyed?

There was a Sexual Health module that was available to both MSc and BSc students, so we were with second year students as well, and that was really great. It was led by Cynthia and Roger, and the way the course is set up is really creative because it’s more focused on discussion between students. Each week we were put into groups and we were given a topic that we were supposed to give a presentation on and then conduct a half-hour discussion afterwards. So every week the lectures were led by students, and the lecturers would only interject to correct or lead discussion if it was petering out, so it was a really interesting way of learning.

Were there any specialist facilities that you used during your time here?

My degree, personally, meant that I didn’t need specialist facilities, but I suppose you could see the reputation of the University as a facility because I’ve made so many connections and I’ve managed to get onto research projects by getting in touch with contacts that I’ve made during my time here, and been involved with research with supervisors here at the University. I want to pursue a career in research, and I wouldn’t say that research is all about connections, but people tell you what’s coming up at different universities, usually a little bit in advance of when other people might know, which is obviously useful. The lecturers know everybody in the area in their certain field, so they can give you a huge list of places that you can apply to, and places where you can get work experience.

Can you tell us about your dissertation?

For my master’s dissertation I conducted an online survey, so we used the University survey platform and advertised on Reddit and other websites like that, and we got quite a good response. I think off the top of my head we had around 300 women respond in the space of a couple of months, which was really great.

What are your plans for the future?

At the moment I’m doing some research projects with Solent NHS, and I’m hoping to get on a PhD, I’m applying for one at the moment, fingers crossed for that, but if not that one then I’ll make plenty of other applications and ask my supervisor from my MSc and see what we can do, but hopefully I can get a PhD under my belt and become a research fellow.

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