Dr Magda Marczak is a lecturer in clinical psychology at Coventry University in the UK. She teaches into the Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programme in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, School of Psychological, Social and Behavioural Sciences. She is also one of the new co-editors of the ISCHP blog. Find out more about Magda’s academic journey in this Career File.
How did you embark on a career in academia? What was it that prompted this decision? It was a very conscious decision. When I moved to the UK in 2004, I realised that my academic qualifications were not recognised. As such I could not officially practice as a Clinical Psychologist in the UK and needed to figure out what route to take. After a couple of years, I decided academia was the way forward. Working as an Assistant Psychologist afforded me enough ‘brain space’ to complete a PhD, although I must admit there were times I didn’t believe I would ever complete it and was ecstatic when it was done!
Could you say a bit about your career trajectory so far? I started off as a primary school English teacher. While it was never my desire to be an English teacher forever, it proved very useful in allowing me to pay for my university education in Poland. I graduated from the University of Lodz, Poland with a Magister degree in Psychology. This in theory ‘made’ me a qualified psychologist but rather than focus on working with clients, I was more interested in learning how psychology is practised in other countries. After a couple of years doing just that, I found myself living in the UK. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in psychology and embarked on my PhD in Applied Psychology at the University of Nottingham, which I completed in 2014.
During my time in the UK, I have lectured at the University of Birmingham and Coventry University. I have also held postgraduate research contracts at Birkbeck’s College, University of London, and the University of Leicester. I have been working as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Research Tutor within the Clinical Psychology Doctorate Programme at Coventry University since 2014.
What have been the challenges so far in your career in academia? Coming from a post-communist country, I had quite a naïve outlook on how the world is run. Realising that my qualifications were not recognised was rather difficult, and I needed some time to revamp myself as a professional in Western Europe. There have been times when I was challenged because of explicit and implicit assumptions from my colleagues and managers that as a junior academic and a Polish national I will do as I’m told. In some way, I’m still trying to fit in, although being a part of a fantastic Clinical Doctorate team at Coventry University definitely makes this easier.
How did you become involved in ISCHP and how has the experience been for you? I found out about ISCHP through a colleague, Dr Gianina-Ioana Postavaru, who I briefly worked with at Birkbeck’s College, University of London. I found the information posted on the ISCHP website both interesting and thought-provoking. When an opportunity came up to apply for the position of blog/website co-editor I just could not resist. Having had experience of ‘looking after’ the OSHwiki site project hosted on the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work website, as well as co-editing the online newsletter The Centre and web content for the Centre for Sustainable Working Life, I thought I may be considered for the job. As it turned out, I was correct.
What are you currently working on? Since my PhD, I have been involved in several collaborative projects as PI, the results of which have been presented at both national and international conferences. My research interests are in the areas of:
(1) cyberpsychology, mainly investigating cyberbullying and other forms of bullying, stress and coping, as well as the mental health needs of young people and adults; and
(2) clinical health psychology, especially investigating the experiences of people suffering from various skin disorders/ illnesses, recovery, adjustment and “survivorship” following a diagnosis of cancer
I am also a member of the European Network for Problematic Usage of the Internet (COST Action CA16207). Our aim is to bring together a multi-disciplinary and geographically diverse group of experts to advance the understanding of problematic Internet use from a bio-psycho-social perspective, clarify the brain-based undergirding, and develop effective interventions. The Action 4-year work plan aims to: (i) share knowledge, interchange ideas and best practice to generate; (ii) common science and technology programmes; (iii) address training gaps and build research capacity; (iv) strengthen science and technology communication; (v) foster integration of less research-intensive countries and; (vi) promote new trans-disciplinary, translational approaches to tackle PUI.
What researchers/authors have inspired you and why? “Explaining health and illness: An exploration of diversity” by Wendy Stainton Rogers and “Health Psychology: A critical introduction” by Antonia C. Lyons and Kerry Chamberlain are must-haves for those researchers who explore people’s unique experiences of health and illness.
What advice would you give to those who would like to embark on an academic career or are just starting out? Don’t be afraid to try something new. What I mean by this is that you should take the opportunities that are available to you at the time. You will always learn new things that you never know may be of use in the future.
Make sure that you find some jam in a doughnut: that within your day-to-day work, you always have one project that you feel passionate about!