Research student insight
Dorota Juszczyk joined the Department for Health in 2010 to study a PhD in Health and has been conducting a research project on Motivational responses to physical activity and dietary policies: translating success from the smoking context.
She is being supervised by Dr Fiona Gillison an expert in the Psychology of Behaviour Change, Professor Linda Bauld an expert in Public Health Policy and Professor Graham Room an expert in European Social Policy.
Prior to joining Bath, Dorota completed an undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of East London and then went on to study towards an MSc in Health Psychology at University College London (UCL). After completing her Masters, she obtained a research assistantship position in the Health Behaviour Research Centre at UCL and has been involved in a variety of projects such as the development of a questionnaire assessing the awareness of colorectal cancer and in a number of qualitative studies exploring barriers towards early detection of cancer.
In her chosen research area, Dorota is interested in an interdisciplinary approach to obesity which was triggered by her postgraduate research project which explored the influence of different food labelling formats on attitudes and intentions to healthy eating. She explains “when the PhD opportunity at Bath University came up on obesity and psychical activity, I knew it was ideal for me!”
Speaking about the progress with her research, Dorota has focused on the exploration of attitudes and motivational responses towards policies that aim to reduce smoking and obesity rates.
“As my research aims to build on lessons learnt from successful tobacco control policy, in my first study I looked at attitudes of smokers. The results suggest that tobacco control policy has an important role in shaping public views on smoking. During past years, tobacco control policy has created an environment which people perceive as not supportive of smoking, where smoking is becoming less and less socially acceptable.”
So far the results from her work suggest that it is possible to create an environment where certain behaviours are perceived as desirable. This in turn might motivate individuals to change their unhealthy behaviour and adopt a healthy behaviour.
Her interdisciplinary approach trying to bring together social policy and health psychology perspectives has proven to be challenging at times as “some aspects of these two approaches such as research methods are quite different, so it is sometimes difficult to combine them”.
In spite of this challenge, Dorota is enjoying her project as it aims to explore an exciting, innovative area which “of course would not be possible without the supportive environment that university creates”. She believes the academic staff to be very helpful, commenting on the fact they “actively engage me with the research environment of the University”.
At the moment her time is spent working on “developing a qualitative study to see whether points raised in the study with smokers are relevant for obesity and whether the government can create an environment that supports healthy eating and physical activity participation, that is not perceived paternalistic or even patronising, but supportive”.
Speaking about the facilities at the University, Dorota believes they are excellent.
“Studying at Bath is not just about doing your research. There are a number of places that you can go to have something to eat, or simply sit by the lake and feed the ducks. And of course, the University of Bath has the amazing Sports Training Village, where you are spoiled for choice in terms of activities you can do!”
Dorota has contributed to the University, especially to departmental activities such as running statistics lab classes for the Sports and Exercise Science students or assisting the placement supervision of Health Psychology masters students. Furthermore, she has attended a number of courses through postgraduate skills training, a programme that aims to develop interdisciplinary research skills such as database search, as well as more generic skills that are useful in the work environment such as project management.
In order to be a successful researcher, she believes you need to “enjoy the pursuit of knowledge, be open-minded, but at the same time be able to think critically”. Other successes in her professional life include an oral presentation at the Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference in Southampton which she gave as a part of symposium ‘Understanding the Cognitive and Behavioural Impact of Nutritional Labelling to Inform Policy’.
In terms of the near future, Dorota intends to complete her PhD on time and hopes to find a job where she could “use some of my research experience in the applied setting”.
“I think that our knowledge regarding behaviour change interventions for obesity is improving, and now we need to translate this knowledge into practical solutions.”