Jennifer Wagner

Masters by Research Postgraduate Student - School of Science, Engineering and Technology

Overview of current position and main responsibilities

I’m a postgraduate student, undertaking my second Masters by Research studentship, working on a project in the area of psychology and food for the multi-disciplinary, collaborative R-LINCS project.

What was your career path to this position and subject area?

It took me a while to get here! My original undergraduate degree was in Marketing with Business which, after completion, accompanied me into the world of work for ten years. I decided to come back to academia as a mature student in 2015 and did a conversion course at Abertay in Psychology. As I did my dissertation with my supervisor Dr Elena Rusconi, I realised I really enjoyed research and decided to pursue it further. Last year I completed a self-funded Masters by Research in Psychology about brain stimulation and visual attention, and then this R-LINCS project came up and I went for it as I was really interested in people’s emotional responses to food. After this, I’m considering doing a PhD.

Do you feel you have a good work/life balance?

During my first course I was pregnant, and had my son during my second semester, which meant it was a bit of a struggle to get a good balance in the beginning however it’s much better now. I think you learn to be really organised (and to say no sometimes!) You also have to manage other people’s expectations; if you can’t achieve what is being asked of you within the timeframe, be clear and honest with people. There’s no set 9-5pm working pattern but there’s a certain amount of work that needs to be done and a number of hours that it’ll take to do and it’s up to me to manage that. Saying that, I’ve always been lucky with my teams of supervisors; both Masters teams have been flexible and have allowed me to drop off and pick up my children at childcare when I need to.

I do some teaching as well, which adds to life’s demands but, again, provided you’re well organised, you can manage your time and your research around this. The teaching is a stipulation as part of the R-LINCS agreement however it’s something I’m interested in doing anyway. During my first Masters, I asked to demonstrate my brain stimulation research classes, which the University facilitated even though it wasn’t part of my remit at that point.

Who has inspired you in your career?

There’s loads of people that inspire me! The main one – before I made the career change – was my mum as she had a career change too in her thirties and was always very keen to get across how important it is to do something you enjoy. When I came back to university, my supervisor Elena was brilliant in inspiring me, not only with her drive and determination but also with her confidence in MY abilities. Coming to do something that you’re not familiar with and not used to, you can almost talk yourself out of opportunities but having someone who you admire telling you that you can do it is incredibly inspiring.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?

I don’t think my younger self would have listened to anything anybody would have had to say - that’s why it’s taken me so long to get here! If I did though, it would definitely revolve around the notion of rejection and not letting it put you off and not being afraid of it. When I look back I think it’s taken me so long to have belief in myself to go for things in the first place as I always strived for perfection. But that’s unrealistic; you learn as you go and the main skills to succeed are enthusiasm and drive.