Sue: What are your academic/psychology interests? What aspects of your academic work do you find particularly enjoyable and/or rewarding?
Marta: I would describe myself as a social researcher. I am interested in seeing how people act within society and how society and culture interact to form and shape attitudes, behaviours and norms. Most of my work focuses on intersex studies and gender equality, particularly looking into the social constructions of the body, identity, gender and sexuality within medical and family narratives. Also, my work with the Italian Red Cross and PoliS-Lombardia (a public research centre) raised my interest in psychological and social research’s role in informing practices, policies, and general opinions. Thanks to these experiences, I was involved in different projects on social innovation processes, social sustainability and sustainable development.
I feel rewarded when working on projects that aim to impact communities positively and that can be developed in synergy with different stakeholders, both inside and outside academia. I believe that the role of research is to advance knowledge while enabling accessibility and creating positive change. For this reason, I enjoy participating in social projects adopting different languages (IETM – Loud Silences, Cotton candy).
Sue: What position have you taken up in the School? What will that involve?
Marta: I joined the School in November 2021 as a Post Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA), working both on the development of the Open Psychology Research Centre (OPRC) research infrastructure and on Intersex Studies, a research field that I worked on while doing my PhD in Social Sciences in Italy and that I am looking forward to going back to.
I find this to be a unique opportunity to respond to social challenges through engaged research. As the Centre’s PDRA, Dr Albayrak-Aydemir and I will work primarily on developing a participant pool for the School, providing the background knowledge and the research infrastructure for participating in research studies. On the other hand, I will also research the life experiences of people with variations of sex characteristics (also known as intersex variations), looking into how medical and social practices act in different sociocultural contexts.
Sue: How does it build on (or differ from) what you were doing previously?
Marta: Before moving to the UK for this new position, I have previously worked in government, non-profit and academia. Although involved in several projects adopting different standpoints, my work experience has always revolved around social innovation, whether by exploring stakeholders’ narratives, evaluating social policies, assessing performances, holding executive appointments, or creating new synergies between different sectors. As my new position at OU matches my return to academia, I find my diverse work experience to be consistent with the OU’s development goals and challenges that the new OPRC aspires to face.
Sue: What advice would you give to psychology students who would like to follow a similar career path?
Marta: Although every experience is different, there are several recommendations that I believe to be very useful at the beginning of any career and stand true also in the following years
1. Enjoy the ride. A PhD student’s freedom in experimenting, trying different methods, and digging into the literature is pure gold. Sometimes the research plan works, and most of the time, it doesn’t: feeling a bit lost is ok; adjusting to new questions and issues is part of the adventure. Researching is an endless learning experience.
2. Don’t be alone. Building a network is essential for anyone’s future career and to create synergies that are part of the personal and research experience. School events, conferences and lab meetings are as important as grabbing a coffee with a colleague and dropping in at someone’s office (or virtual room).
3. Take care of yourself. It can be hard to set time and space boundaries, especially now that we are still working from home most of the time. Having some work-life balance is crucial and is also very difficult to accomplish. For this reason, it is important to build a network, ask all the questions you need to ask and ask for help. (Also, everyone experiences the imposter syndrome at some point, you are not alone).
Sue: What are your interests outside work?
Marta: In my free time, food and travel are my go-to’s. As I root my sense of belonging into experience, I love exploring new flavours, cooking time-intensive recipes, and discovering hidden places while enjoying friends and family time (and a glass of wine). However, I can also lose myself for hours if I run into a good book, an interesting TV series or a crossword puzzle. I am not into sports besides swimming…
Dr Marta Prandelli was in conversation with Sue Cocklin, OPRC Centre Assistant.
Prandelli, M., & Testoni, I. (2021). Inside the doctor’s office. Talking about intersex with Italian health professionals. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 23(4), 484-499. DOI: 10.1080/13691058.2020.1805641
Hegarty, P., Prandelli, M., Lundberg, T., Liao, L. M., Creighton, S., & Roen, K. (2021). Drawing the Line Between Essential and Nonessential Interventions on Intersex Characteristics With European Health Care Professionals. Review of General Psychology, 25(1), 101–114. https://doi.org/10.1177/1089268020963622
Prandelli, M., Meraviglia, G., Testoni, I. & Biglia, B. (2020). Educating New Generations: Standpoints in Women’s and Gender Studies and Implications for the Inclusion of LGBTQ Studies in Italian University Courses, Journal of Homosexuality, 67(7), 990-1012, DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2019.1582219