Susan Michie is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at UCL. Her research focuses on developing the science of behaviour change interventions and applying behavioural science to interventions. You can catch Susan on her soapbox on the 27th of May in London, where she’ll give a talk called: “What does it take to change your behaviour?”
SS: How did you get to your current position?
SM: By wandering all over the place – starting with a degree in experimental psychology, then training to be a clinical psychologist, then doing a PhD in developmental psychology, then working as a clinical psychologist … and then in organisational change whilst doing research into psychological aspects of genetic testing … until I joined UCL doing mainly research and focusing on behaviour change. Alongside building my research group. I launched the Centre for Behaviour Change to bring different disciplines together in building an understanding of behaviour change and applying it to address real-world problems.
SS: What, or who, inspired you to get a career in science?
SM: My mother was a biologist, my father was a computer scientist, my step-mother was a psychologist. I grew up in a culture of curiosity, problem-solving and the discussion of ideas and by people who loved their scientific careers. Sunday mornings were spent in my mothers’ lab helping her to make records of what her mice had been up to the day before. I didn’t plan a career in science; my career has developed as I have gone along, each phase somehow leading to the next. But I have always been drawn to thinking critically about things and wanting to answer questions by collecting and analysing data.
SS: What is the most fascinating aspect of your research/work?
SM: I love the whole process – having an idea, figuring out how to put that idea into practice, testing ideas, developing methods for doing this where they don’t exist, planning how to design studies so they can answer questions as clearly as possible, collecting and analysing data as intelligently and rigorously as possible, translating findings into words that are true to the data but engage readers in telling the story.
SS: What attracted you to Soapbox Science in the first place?
SM: Someone suggested it, I looked it up on the website and thought it looked useful, different and fun – three concepts important to me. I enjoy doing things I haven’t done before, rising to challenges and talking to new audiences. Thinking about how to engage members of the public in a public place and making my science sound interesting to passers-by is intriguing – and stimulating a new kind of creativity in the planning.
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?
SM: Openness, transparency, accountability (these are all aspects of one thing: being a really good scientist)
SS: What would be your top recommendation to someone studying for a PhD and considering pursuing a career in academia?
SM: Give yourself the time to read around your subject and to think deeply and carefully about what to do, how to do it and who to do it with.