A PhD in Psychology, Open Psychology Research Centre, Psychology in the world, Research in the School, School study journeys, Student news

In conversation with Dr Nihan Albayrak-Aydemir, a new Research Associate in the School of Psychology & Counselling at The Open University

Photo credit: Dr Nihan Albayrak-Aydemir presenting her research on regulatory focus and coping strategies among Syrian refugees at the 18th General Meeting of the European Association of Social Psychology in Granada/Spain in 2017.

Sue: So, Nihan, tell us, what are your academic/psychology interests?

Nihan: My first line of research examines social identity dynamics and intergroup relations, especially underlying prosocial attitudes and behaviours within the context of migration and global emergencies. For instance, I studied humanitarian responses to global emergencies in my PhD (Albayrak-Aydemir, 2021) and one of my empirical papers compared the ways in which British and German people perceive and respond to the situation of Syrian refugees (Albayrak-Aydemir & Gleibs, 2021). I am also interested in the conceptualisation and contextualisation of prosocial behaviour in social psychology and am working towards building a theoretical framework to offer a more nuanced understanding of this concept.

I am currently developing a second line of research by studying meta-science and public understanding of science. I look at the ways in which research and teaching practices influence the production of academic knowledge and the development of academics (e.g. McPhetres et al., 2021) and in my new position at the Open Psychology Research Centre, I will do so mostly focusing on open science practices in the field. I am also interested in how the public responds to scientific knowledge and adapts to scientific developments. With this, my main goal is to contribute to a fairer science culture, both among academics and the public.

Sue: What aspects of your academic work do you find particularly enjoyable and/or rewarding?

Nihan: As an academic, the thing I particularly find enjoyable and rewarding is the fact that I get to advance knowledge, develop so many new skills, and meet a whole range of people. The cherry on the cake is that I can be anywhere to do any of these. I can teach students from another country via an online course, write blog posts targeting a specific group of people, or share my research findings either as a scientific report or an artwork. Acquiring and sharing knowledge takes place in numerous ways and it never stops!

Sue: What position have you taken up in the School? What will that involve and how does it build on (or differ from) what you were doing previously?

Nihan: I took a postdoctoral research position at the Open Psychology Research Centre. My position includes two main roles. In my first role, I will contribute to setting up the School’s very own participation pool. I will be working on the academic background of the participation pool and provide the evidence-based best (or worst) practices to be considered in the development of our participation pool. This is a business-like experience that I never had in academia before, so I feel incredibly lucky to be part of something entrepreneurial at this early stage of my career.

In my second role, I will conduct research on meta-science, mostly focusing on open science practices and their role in ‘transforming’ academia. I started this position right after my PhD so it is very similar to what I was doing before – research. However, it is still a new experience for me because this time, I have the flexibility to take my research wherever I want, no strict conditions to satisfy for a degree, and no supervisor to hold my hand throughout. So, I will hopefully learn how to manage this flexibility and develop good and healthy practices to be able to work both autonomously and collaboratively.

Sue: What advice would you give to psychology students who would like to follow a similar career path?

Nihan: Before you are in the path of academia:

Do get in touch with people whose career paths you would like to follow and learn from their experience. In doing so, however, avoid asking general questions like what it is like to be at the X university, how they get accepted into the Y programme, or whether they think you can get into the Z programme at the W school. Instead, ask more specific and targeted Do get in touch with people whose career paths you would like to follow and learn from their experience. In doing so, however, avoid asking general questions like what it is like to be at the X university, how they get accepted into the Y programme, or whether they think you can get into the Z programme at the W school. Instead, ask more specific and targeted questions that they can really answer: What do I need to consider when choosing supervisors/programmes/universities? What do you think is the most important thing to seek in a supervisor? How can I approach potential supervisors? Should I be transparent if I am approaching more than one supervisor in the same department? What funding opportunities are available for PhD fees/conference travels/research at the X university? Asking specific questions will save both of your time and allow you to get more valuable information from them.

After you are in the path of academia:

Sometimes you can work as much as you want in academia but things just do not happen. Sometimes you can work as much as you want in academia but things just do not happen. This could be because of so many reasons like health, structural barriers, or personal luck. So, get used to that feeling as soon as you can and try to remember that you did your best in your own capacity. Another piece of advice for your mental health: Never ever compare yourself with others in academia! It would not be a fair comparison because everyone’s journey is unique.

Sue: What are your interests outside work?

Nihan: Photography and calligraphy. I especially like working on a black and white palette because I love history and historical objects. I also like sending and receiving letters and postcards. So, I am part of a huge network where I exchange postcards with people from all around the world. Receiving a postcard from someone you have never talked to before and reading their kind messages in their own handwriting is an amazing way to start a day!

Sue: Thank you for talking to us, we wish you luck in your fascinating life and work journeys.

Dr Nihan Albayrak-Aydemir was in conversation with Sue Cocklin, OPRC Centre Assistant.

Learn more about Nihan here and follow her on Twitter here

References

Albayrak-Aydemir, N. (2021). Individual humanitarian responses to global emergencies: an integrated framework of helping in context (Doctoral dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science).

Albayrak‐Aydemir, N. & Gleibs, I. H. (2021). Measuring global bystander intervention and exploring its antecedents for helping refugees. British Journal of Psychology112(2), 519-548.

McPhetres, J., Albayrak-Aydemir, N., Barbosa Mendes, A., Chow, E. C., Gonzalez-Marquez, P., Loukras, E., … & Volodko, K. (2021). A decade of theory as reflected in Psychological Science (2009–2019). PloS ONE16(3), e0247986.

Woltin, K. A., Sassenberg, K., & Albayrak, N. (2018). Regulatory focus, coping strategies and symptoms of anxiety and depression: A comparison between Syrian refugees in Turkey and Germany. PLoS ONE13(10), e0206522.

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