It is a great honour for me to be awarded the Anderson Prize for the highest performing student in Master of Research in Psychology. It is a pleasure to receive this prize after such an unusual and challenging year – a demonstration of how much the School of Psychology values its student community.
Five years ago, when I moved to Aberdeen from Italy to study psychology, I did not quite know what to expect. My uncertainty faded away very quickly – what I found was a warm and welcoming student community and world-class researchers with a genuine passion for teaching and research in psychology. Ultimately, during the final year of my undergraduate degree, seeing their enthusiasm inspired me to help with the teaching at the School. At the same time, I got the opportunity to work with a team of renowned researchers on my thesis project – this is where I discovered the beauty of pursuing one’s own research question and demonstrating it empirically (in my case, using the fascinating method of eye tracking).
Answering my question led to even more interesting research questions: in fact, starting the MRes after graduating was a seamless transition. I went from helping tutors with the delivery of workshops to helping course coordinators by taking responsibility of groups of learners. I even had the chance to attend courses delivered by the Centre of Academic Development, and I have recently become an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, which was very rewarding. In parallel, I took my previous research question even further by learning much more advanced research methods. My supervisors helped me learn how computational models to predict gaze patterns are implemented, how scripts to derive complex gaze metrics are written, and how R is used to analyse data. Having seen the flexibility of R, I realised that data can be analysed in many different ways – even machine learning! – and I implemented a somewhat niche regression technique that allowed me to address my hypotheses in an interesting way. I am just about to start a research assistant post on an exciting project within the School: using motion tracking to inform the development of immersive Virtual Reality environments that could train realistic human actions. My aspiration for the future is to keep gaining knowledge and experience in the field of psychology through a PhD programme, and to keep working in academia to provide my own contribution to the scientific community.
Taken together, my time as a student in Aberdeen has given me the opportunity to constantly evolve, both personally and professionally. My special thanks goes to my supervisors – for helping me learn and for giving me the opportunity to explore my research interests with maximum freedom – and to the teaching staff, for being so supportive of someone in the early stages of their career. Last but not least, I am incredibly grateful to my lovely family for their big support throughout these years.