Published on: 10 May 2016
Find out why PhD student Stacey Heath swapped her career in government for the world of academia
You can follow Stacey Heath on Twitter.
How do you swap a successful career, in government for a life of academia? PhD student, and Soapbox Science speaker, Stacey Heath, talks about communicating research to the public, what drove her to change career, and why her 13 year old daughter’s thirst for knowledge motivates her to be an inspiration.
Stacey Heath is a Psychology PhD student in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences. Her research involves looking at urban regeneration and social identity. Stacey will be speaking at the upcoming Soapbox Science event; Soapbox Science provides a platform for female scientists to share their research with the public.
What is your current research about?
My current research looks at the social identities of diverse groups. Specifically, I am researching urban regeneration schemes and the impact such strategies have on the communities they aim to develop. I am looking at the social dynamics of such schemes both pre and post regeneration.
You, previously, held jobs for councils and local government; how difficult was it to make the leap into an academic career?
Very difficult. I was a single parent of three young children when I decided to complete my BSc. I had to work evenings to make up the some of the loss of earnings, but I had reached the highest position that I could really reach within my career without any formal qualifications and I wasn’t happy to settle in a position for the rest of my life, I wanted to have a bigger impact on the world.
Initially the notion was to return to full time employment post degree, however once I started my degree I got swept up in the world of academia, I thrived, relishing the impact that I could make to others’ lives as a researcher and was fortunate enough to win ESRC funding for my MSc and PhD.
The Soapbox Science event is an outreach platform for promoting women scientists; who were your inspiring female role models?
I have a number of female role models in my life. I come from a family of extremely strong women, my nan, mum and aunt have all been incredibly successful in their lives, struggling against gender biases, role identities and imposed gender responsibilities to succeed.
My daughter holds a thirst for knowledge that I have never seen in a 13 year old. The thought of inspiring her - and my other children when they are older - drives my ambition.
Stacey Heath, PhD student, Psychology
I think one of my biggest inspirations is my eldest daughter, she is passionate about equality in all of its forms, she is obsessed with the suffragettes, the current immigration crisis, and the inequality of xenophobia. She holds a thirst for knowledge that I have never seen in a 13 year old. The thought of inspiring her - and my other children when they are older - drives my ambition.
How important do you think it is to communicate your research with the public?
Communicating research that involves the public directly is incredibly important, it is the public who understand the public best, it is the public who know what works and what doesn’t, their experiences and understandings shape my research as a whole, not to mention that the whole issue around gender inequality (within the sciences) is based on the perception of gender roles, so communicating my research is a step towards challenging and changing those perceptions.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you will be talking about at the upcoming Soapbox event?
I am going back to basics a little with the Soapbox event. I want to put psychology out there – a subject that is rarely taught in schools, the common perception seems to be that of a Sigmund Freud psychologist on a couch analysing dreams– or worse – mind reading.
I want to highlight the diversity of psychology as a discipline. Then, I hope to narrow the focus a little and hone in on my research and the importance of social identities to health and well-being.
What attracted you about University of Exeter, how do you think it can support your research?
The University of Exeter is a leading world research university with a strong background in social psychology, making it my first choice for research. The expertise of the academic staff within this field is second to none, I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to embark on a PhD under the supervision and collaboration of such elite academics.