Psychology student research series, Vol II: What helps us help people?

Greetings! Last year I interviewed two students whose research projects I had the pleasure of supervising. Due to the interest that blog post generated, I’ve decided to compile a series of psychology student research posts.

This time my special guest is Keirissa Lawson, who has a research background in viral immunology, and currently works as a CSIRO communication advisor. Keirissa is also studying psychology at the Honours (4th year) level at the University of New England, Australia (UNE).

As part of her studies, Keirissa has designed an online questionnaire that will provide her with data for her thesis. This is a critical milestone for students of psychology, whether they wish to pursue research or clinical practice. With fewer than 12 working months, Keirissa has had to propose, present then design a study; and seek and attain ethical clearance to conduct the study. She is now at the data collection phase, and still must analyse and interpret the data in a thesis, to be submitted toward the end of the year.

The brief interview that follows serves two purposes: (1) to exemplify the diversity and high potential for meaningful contribution that student research in a regional Australian university has to offer; (2) to allow the student to invite you to her voluntary survey.

If you are an adult Australian resident, please consider participating in Keirissa’s experiment. It will take no more than 15 minutes to complete. Your participation will be immensely appreciated by Keirissa, and also, will give you some hands-on experience of what a student university project can look like. Details are in the links below, or you can click on one of the relevant links, above. If you cannot or do not want to participate, please feel free to share with your Australian peers – thank you in advance.

Psychological factors and helping behaviour

UNE human research ethics committee (HREC) approval no: HE19-095

Hi Keirissa. I note you have quite a formidable background in sciences other than psychology. What brings you to psychology?

I’m a self-confessed science nerd who became addicted early in life to the ‘wow’ moments of understanding how things work. My first professional science-love was understanding how our immune system fights viruses. I was so lucky to have the experience I did as a young scientist, working in frontier research labs in the UK and enjoying exposure to some impressive and inspirational science thinkers.

When I returned to Australia I felt my days as a lab rat were over and I was looking for a new career direction. I was drawn to psychology because it combines my love of science with a passion for people. Once starting on that path I haven’t looked back. I’ve really enjoyed the journey through my psychology degree, learning about and linking together biology, behaviour, philosophy and sociology in the pursuit of understanding how we tick. I’m also grateful for the rigorous training in scientific method that psychology demands. Supporting mental health and wellbeing is my future professional goal. I’m working to equip myself with the skills and training I need to be able to achieve this.

Why do you want to study the volunteer experience? Is your interest academic, personal, or both?

Volunteers are responsible for so many critical services in our community. From amazing relief services following natural disasters, through to practical services for homeless and elderly members in our society, volunteers provide their time and skills to help others in need.

My interest is both academic and personal. I am a volunteer worker with Lifeline, working on their crisis helpline, 13 11 14. I have benefitted greatly both from the experience of being a volunteer for Lifeline and from the professional training I received in preparation for the role.

I have noticed a consistent turnover rate of trained volunteers and recognise the significant resources the organisation invests in recruiting and training new volunteers. I was interested in looking at which psychological factors could predict the length of volunteer service and if this information could be used to help Lifeline retain their highly trained staff for longer.

People reading this blog post may wish to complete your survey, but do they have to be volunteers to participate?

I would be grateful to anyone willing to spare a few minutes to participate in this study. You don’t need to be involved in volunteer work to participate. Non-volunteers are just as welcome as volunteers.

How do you manage your time when having to juggle work, study, leisure and personal time? What is your best tip for readers who may be considering further study?

My best tip is be motivated by having a passion for what you study, and persevere. Also, reflect on what you have achieved instead of focusing on the distance to the long goal. I can say that having to juggle work, study and personal life has provided me with a good opportunity ‘to develop’ better time management skills but I haven’t mastered it yet. I keep giving it a red hot go.

Thanks for your time, Keirissa. Please let our readers know how they can access more info about your study.

If you’d like to participate in my study, click this link to take you to the online surveys.

Alternatively, please copy and paste this link in a new browser window: https://bit.ly/2WGx2eL

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