Amelia Dennis on life as a psychology researcher at the University of Surrey


After I finished my MSc Research Methods in Psychology course at Surrey, I knew I wanted to do a Psychology PhD, focusing on social attachments (the relationships we form with our parents as children), and our understanding of wellbeing and how this can be increased. It’s so fascinating to me that one seemingly overlooked aspect of our life, the care we receive as infants, can go on to shape our future!

I decided to do my PhD at Surrey because of the friendly research environment and the expertise of the supervisors – there are so many preeminent social psychologists here!

I’m researching the interplay between attachment dimensions (the processes used to assess attachment in children and adults) and nostalgia, with the aim of using nostalgia as a mechanism to boost attachment security. To do this, I’m using the psychology laboratories to run my own studies, investigating the impact of controlled threat on attachment processes.

My supervisors, Dr Erica Hepper and Professor Jane Ogden, constantly support me through my PhD and help me stay motivated and optimistic, especially when things don’t go to plan. The technical staff are also incredibly helpful, showing me how to use equipment, so I can improve my techniques.

I get lots of opportunities to collaborate with academics and other researchers, especially in weekly meetings with the Social Emotions and Equality in Relations Research Group and catch-ups with other psychology PhD students.

My PhD has also revolved around extracurricular activities, from research group sessions to researcher breakfast mornings. Being surrounded by a great bunch of fellow students in psychology has really helped! Making friends in the postgraduate research community is important to cultivate a supportive and fun environment.

Recently, a team I’m part of — Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Equality Research (PIER) — won a grant from the Doctoral College to strengthen research culture and integrity. PIER are putting together an event that strives towards equality through collective action within the community and research. Being part of this team has been an incredible experience and I love being surrounded by people that share the same passion to make the world a better and more equal place.

For me, my PhD has been an enriching experience. I’ve taught undergraduates, started my teaching qualifications and, of course, recruited participants for my studies. None of this has been easy — it’s taken motivation, commitment and hard work, but I wouldn’t change any of it! There’s never a dull moment.

My advice: make sure you choose a supervisor who’ll support you through the highs and lows of your PhD. Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others – your PhD will be unique to you!

Find out about postgraduate research degrees at the University of Surrey

News stories


Learn more about University of Surrey

Where is University of Surrey?