When I started university, I knew that I wanted to major in clinical psychology and see patients. I wanted to be like Freud—an analyst, but I found out pretty quickly that approach was unsuited to my personality. Instead, in my postgraduate work, I focused on a cognitive behaviour approach, which was more suited to my style. As part of my studies, I took an internship with older adults, and loved it. Right away, I knew it was something that I wanted to specialise in, and I wanted to be sure that I could do both psychotherapy and neuropsychological interventions with this group. The combination has served me well as a researcher, a clinician, and in my teaching.
You definitely need curiosity. But you also need to be able to think about methodology and logic and how things fit together. I think cross-fertilisation is important. If you can see the links and connections than you’re going to be a good researcher—psychology lends itself well to connections between fields.
I am interested in the psychopathology (i.e., mental illness or mental distress) of older adults—people over 65 years of age. One of my projects looks at the ways of assessing and treating late life anxiety, which is something that is less well studied in older adults than depression, but more common. I also look at ways of measuring and detecting cognitive decline of functional skills (e.g., driving).
Too often, older people are overlooked or portrayed in negative ways. I have a personal mandate to make people more aware of positive ageing and get them thinking about psychology and ageing. We need more examples of positive ageing in the curriculum, more exposure to research in ageing across all the disciplines, and more people doing the research—ageing is an important and inevitable process of human development.
My big hobby is bird watching. My life list consists of 1237 species of birds around the world. One of my biggest wish list ticks was the Australian Lyre Bird—I think seeing that bird guaranteed I would one day settle permanently in Australia! I would also really like to see a Hoatzin from South America, which is an amazing bird that is as close to a direct link to dinosaurs as you are likely to see.
But the place I most want to go birding is in Africa, particularly Kenya and South Africa.