Taylor Swain – 2022 Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence

Taylor Swain is from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work and is one of the 12 winners of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Doctoral Thesis Excellence for 2022.  Taylor was supervised by Professor Melanie Takarangi.

Taylor’s thesis, “An investigation into the relationship between prospective memory and PTSD symptom severity in the general population”  investigated the relationship between prospective memory—such as taking medication with breakfast—and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) using a variety of different measurement methods and also aimed to explore the mechanisms that might underpin, or contribute to this relationship, such as metacognitive beliefs.

We asked  Taylor to share what winning this award means, what lead her to a PhD and what the journey was like and what the future holds.

What does winning this award mean?

This award is the final piece of the puzzle in my PhD journey. For me, after a long and winding journey, this award validates my abilities as a researcher and an academic. It provides me with motivation and confidence to achieve more, and support other people to achieve, now and into the future. It helps me in my battle against that never-ending imposter syndrome.

This award also represents the hard work I contributed to my PhD, alongside the hard work and support of my supervisor, Professor Melanie Takarangi, and the work of her research team. I truly believe this award is a testament to Mel and her ability to grow students into researchers.

What led you to undertake a PhD? What inspired or motivated you?

My supervisor, Professor Melanie Takarangi, was my main inspiration to undertake a PhD. When I began my undergraduate degree I thought I’d be a psychologist, and research was never an option. Before being involved with her lab, I didn’t really know what research involved, or how fun and interesting it could be. Her passion for research, bright and supportive personality, and willingness to help students is the reason I pursued the PhD pathway. Looking back, doing the combined PhD program was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Tell us about your PhD journey

My PhD journey, as I’m sure is true for most PhD students, was a long and winding one. Battling through interpersonal stressors along with that whole COVID-19 pandemic thing, sure made for a challenging journey. I found solace in my supervisor and other lab members, in my friends and family, and in people who could empathise with the PhD experience.

What has been one of the most enjoyable parts of the journey?

For me, there of course were so many enjoyable parts along the way. In-lab data collection was such a rewarding experience. Getting to be in the lab everyday, alongside other lab members who were equally as passionate about research was something I really undervalued until the pandemic. Similarly, before COVID, travelling overseas with lab members and my supervisor, meeting other people from all over the world who had similar interests was a real highlight.

What has been one of the hardest parts of the journey?

One of the hardest parts for me was that final path to submission. Those days and weeks before you submit filled with endless writing, feedback, editing, writing, and more editing. During that time is when the feelings of being an imposter are certainly at their strongest!

What are your future goals and plans? / Where do you see your career heading in the future?

I guess I still don’t know, and I’m quite comfortable with that. Currently I work part-time as a Senior Psychologist at The Department for Correctional Services, and part-time as a Lecturer at Flinders. I thoroughly enjoy both these roles, and despite their differences, the part of both roles I’m most passionate about is teaching and mentoring younger students, or training psychologists.  A real strength of doing a PhD is that it opens so many doors, so I feel grateful that although I enjoy where I am now, you never know what door might open in the future!


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