Erin McCloskey (@ER_IN_RESEARCH), Canterbury Christ Church University, will be taking part in Soapbox Science Canterbury 2018 on 23rd June, giving a talk entitled “Being an expert in not being an expert: How peer support programs help mend broken hearts”
SS: Erin, how did you get to your current position?
EM: In 2015, I came to the UK to study a MSc in global mental health at King’s College London and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Originally, I came to study women’s addiction, but was surprised to find I had developed a strong interest for stillbirth bereavement. I knew I wanted to continue my career in academia, so I spent time looking for an institution that would be the right fit for my PhD. I interviewed for a PhD studentship at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2017, and was delighted to receive an offer for a fully funded scholarship and stipend. I began my program in February 2018. Currently, I’m in the process of developing my final proposal where I plan on researching how bereaved parents of stillbirth participate in peer support programs and how participating in these groups impact their grief journeys.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
EM: As a child, I wasn’t encouraged to pursue science since it wasn’t a strong area in my studies. My mother was chronically ill which meant that I was preoccupied with tending to her and worrying about her health, that I couldn’t concentrate on my school subjects. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become a doctoral student! Fortunately, my grandmother encouraged me to enroll first in a community college and then a four-year university. Later, I received academic support from my female professors. Patricia Jensen JD, was a consistent form of support throughout my MA at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. The most valuable lesson she taught me was to show up. “The world is run by people who show up. You don’t have to be the best, you don’t have to be the most, but you do need to show up”. As simple as this advice may sound, it’s much harder to follow through with it on a day-to-day basis. However, it is now a guiding principle in my life.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
EM: Although my subject area is heavy and very sensitive, I love the fact that I can work directly with bereaved parents and with charities. A lot of the work I’m doing currently involve meeting with people and hearing their experiences of losing a child and perspective of mental health care after their loss in the UK. These parent’s experiences are the fuel for my research. I enjoy developing a project that will impact programming and support for families who experience baby loss.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
EM: I’m an avid believer in women supporting women, and Soapbox Science serves as a vehicle for scientists to meet each other outside formal settings. In addition, I love that this event brings the public and researchers together to break down societal silos.
SS: Sum up in one word your expectations for the day
SS: If you could change one thing about the scientific culture right now, what would it be?
EM: The glamorization of the ‘imposter syndrome’ is something I actively want to change on my campus. It’s so common for novice researchers to feel inadequate to others in their field, and to internalize their fears as fuel to do their work. It’s normal to hear fellow doctoral students to devalue their skillset and to belittle their own work! If they couldn’t succeed, they wouldn’t have been selected to do a PhD program. I would love to see self-confidence grow on campus and gain a presence to counteract the inadequacy of the imposter syndrome.
SS: What would be your top recommendation to a woman studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
EM: No one else can do the work you can do. There is plenty of room at the table for you, and the work you want to do. Your interests are important, and your perspective is needed. Finally, choose the institution with the most support rather than choosing the institution’s brand and reputation.