International Women’s Day not only stands as an opportunity to celebrate women, but also as a call-to-action. In celebrating International Women’s Day, we acknowledge and make a commitment to the fight for gender parity and #pressforprogress.
One of the factors contributing to gender inequity in STEM is the persistent, outmoded stereotype that these are ‘male’ disciplines. Challenging the perception that few women can, want to, or will do science, technology, engineering and maths is important. Not only to encourage more young women to pursue work in these areas, but also in bringing about changes that will reduce bias and make these disciplines more gender inclusive.
This year, UNSW Psychology is recognising International Women’s Day with a shout-out to our incredible women working in psychological science. The collage and bios presented below showcase the range of women working in psychological research at UNSW, and the diversity in what constitutes their science.
This will be an ongoing project, added to over time, to work at broadening the perception of what it means to be a scientist. If you would like to be featured, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professor Kaarin Anstey
Kaarin joined UNSW in 2018. She leads an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cognitive Health, is a Director of the NHMRC Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration, and Co-Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research. Kaarin’s research programs focus on the causes, consequences, and prevention of cognitive ageing, dementia, and common mental disorders in adulthood. Kaarin has worked extensively with longitudinal studies, and leads the PATH Through Life Project which has followed over 7000 people for 16 years. Kaarin also conducts research into older driver safety.
Jessamine is a clinical psychologist and the Head of the Anxiety Treatment and Research Unit in the Department of Medical Psychology at Westmead Hospital. She has been practicing and conducting research in clinical psychology for over 10 years, specializing in the treatment of child and adult anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders, and providing treatment in English and Mandarin. Her PhD research focuses on experimental investigation of cognitive biases in people with generalised anxiety disorder, specifically when they are faced with uncertain situations. Currently, she is also involved in a prospective study examining the long-term effectiveness of CBT for anxiety disorders in a community outpatient setting.
Dr Kelly Clemens
Kelly is a Lecturer and current UNSW Scientia Fellow. She is trying to figure out why people can relapse to drug abuse after periods of abstinence. This includes looking at pharmacological and molecular changes in the brain that occur in response to drug exposure, and that can persist across abstinence.
Siri Damathman and Lauren Brouwer-French
Siri and Lauren are undergraduate students studying at UNSW. Siri is studying Advanced Science, majoring in Psychology, and Lauren is studying a combined Bachelor of Psychological Science and Law. Both Siri and Lauren are working with Associate Professor Eva Kimonis in the Parent-Child Research Clinic.
Dr Kate Faasse
Kate is a Lecturer and ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow. She researches the psychology of health and illness, particularly beliefs about medicines, and how expectations can influence treatment outcomes. She is also interested in how people talk about health and illness on social media, and the novel insights that this information can provide in understanding people’s health beliefs.
Dr Justine Fam
Justine is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Psychology at UNSW Sydney. Her current work focuses on the neural mechanisms underpinning Pavlovian conditioning and extinction. She obtained her PhD in Psychology from UNSW, where her thesis examined the temporal dynamics and behavioural correlates of decision-making. Justine hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms that underlie learning and memory by pairing neuroscience techniques with detailed analyses of behaviour.
Georgie is in the final year of a combined PhD/masters in clinical psychology. Her PhD research and clinical interests are concerned with the treatment of childhood disruptive behaviour disorders. She is currently testing the effectiveness of treatment delivered via teleconferencing in order to expand the reach and impact of evidence-supported interventions.
Dr Bronwyn Graham
Bronwyn is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Discovery Early Career Fellow. Her research focuses on the biological processes underlying the development and treatment of anxiety disorders, with the aim of developing ways of augmenting the effectiveness of current treatments by combining them with novel adjuncts that target these processes. She is particularly interested in the impact of female sex hormones like estrogen, given that women are twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders compared to men. Bronwyn and colleagues have recently completed a clinical trial of exposure therapy for spider phobia which showed that women respond much better to treatment, and show much greater sustained recovery from symptoms, when it is delivered during periods of heightened estrogen (e.g., ovulation). These findings could fundamentally transform the way that anxiety treatments are delivered to women, by routinely taking factors that affect hormonal status (like hormonal contraceptive use, menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause) into account.
Bethany is a PhD Candidate at UNSW Sydney. She is particularly interested in how we can apply cognitive psychology to real-world issues. Her research focuses on the cognitive mechanisms that underlie forensic science expertise – She is interested in how professionals within the criminal justice system, such as fingerprint examiners, learn and make decisions and how this contributes to their work.
Dr Lydia Hayward
Lydia is a postdoctoral researcher whose work lies at the intersection of social and health psychology. Her research explores the causes and consequences of prejudice. She investigates how positive contact with people from stigmatized groups can reduce prejudice (i.e., racism, weight bias), and how negative contact may increase it. Her work also investigates how experiencing stigma is harmful for members of stigmatized groups. For example, people who are overweight or obese face frequent stigma and discrimination because of their weight, and this is associated with poorer psychological well-being and reduced motivation to engage in health behaviours like eating healthy and exercising.
Zoey is a PhD Candidate at UNSW Sydney and is supervised by Prof. Branka Spehar and Dr. Mark Schira. Before starting her PhD she completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in neuroscience, and was also a research assistant. Her PhD project uses psychophysics and fMRI to broadly investigate the aesthetic appreciation and visual processing of natural scenes. She has presented her work at both domestic and international conferences.
Associate Professor Eva Kimonis
Eva R. Kimonis, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at UNSW. She specialises in understanding antisocial and violent behaviours in youth. Eva is Director of the UNSW Parent-Child Research Clinic where she and her team have been working on developing early interventions for families of children with severe behaviour problems.
Drs Lidija Krebs-Lazendic, Natalie Rogers, and Kate Hutton-Bedbrook
Kate, Lidija, and Natalie are part of the School of Psychology’s teaching support and development team at UNSW Sydney. Their work involves the creation and development of psychology courses and course materials, research into higher education learning and teaching practices, and providing critical teaching support for academics within the school.
Lillian is currently completing the Master of Clinical Psychology/PhD at the School of Psychology. As part of the Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program, her research focuses on psychological mechanisms that may underlie the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers. Specifically, she is investigating the effects of control and emotion regulation on psychological symptoms in this population.
Dr Jessica Lee
Jessica is a postdoctoral research associate working in the area of cognitive science. Her research focusses on human learning and behaviour, and particularly the differences between lower-level associative processes and higher-order reasoning.
Dr Sophie Li
Sophie is a clinical psychologist, translational neuroscientist and the mother of two young boys. Her research aims to determine the association between sex hormones and the neural, behavioural and cognitive mechanisms that underlie anxiety- (e.g., spider phobia) and fatigue-related disorders in order to improve treatment delivery and outcomes. She specializes in the treatment of anxiety and fatigue disorders and has extensive experience in delivering exposure-based treatments to people with arachnophobia.
Associate Professor Kristy Martire
Kristy is an Associate Professor and director of the Master of Psychology (Forensic) program at UNSW Sydney. She conducts research examining the development of expertise and the effect of expert evidence on decision making in criminal/forensic contexts.
Professor Skye McDonald
Skye is a Professor of Neuropsychology at UNSW Sydney. She obtained a Masters in Clinical neuropsychology from the University of Melbourne in 1983 and a PhD from Macquarie University in 1992. Her work is focused on people who have traumatic brain injuries. She does research to examine emotional and social disorders following brain injury and how to assess and treat them.
Dr Moyra Mortby
Moyra joined UNSW in 2018. She is an NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow. Moyra has developed a strong international research profile in the fields of dementia, neuropsychiatric symptoms, neuroimaging and epidemiology. Her research program involves a mixture of clinical and epidemiological research, with a strong focus on neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia and prodromal stages of dementia, both in clinical/care and community settings.
Dr Jill Newby
Jill is a Senior Lecturer and NHMRC/MRFF Career Development Fellow. Her research looks at how we can use the internet, smartphones, and virtual reality in the treatment of anxiety and depression. In this research project, she is testing whether we can use a brief one-session virtual reality exposure therapy intervention to treat phobias (e.g., heights, needles & blood). She is also conducting research to explore how we can improve access to psychological treatment by using the internet and smartphones to deliver therapy. Using this approach, we can help people access affordable, high quality mental health care, regardless of where they live, or their financial circumstances.
Vera is a PhD candidate investigating how stress impacts on cognitive ability, and how we might be able to harness specific strategies to mitigate this effect. She is particularly interested in how we can apply knowledge from the behavioural sciences to societal and policy issues, thereby enabling individuals to make informed and agentic decisions.
Dr Asheeta Prasad
Asheeta is a Lecturer and ARC Early Career Fellow at School of Psychology. She applies unique and interdisciplinary research tools of molecular biology, optogenetics, chemogenetics and behavioral neuroscience. Her research is focused on finding better treatments for addiction and Parkinson’s disease.
Dr Stephanie Roughley
Stephanie is a postdoctoral research associate working in the area of behavioural neuroscience under the direction of Prof Simon Killcross. Her work examines the neurochemical underpinnings of learned behaviours relevant to the study of addiction and other motivational and emotional disorders.
Samantha is a PhD candidate at UNSW. Her research examines the attributions people make for their eating behaviour. She is interested in the ways in which people might be motivated to deny external influences on their food intake, and the affective and behavioral consequences associated with these motivated explanations. Exploring how people conceptualise their eating behaviour can help us understand the impact of self-evaluations on health and wellbeing.
Professor Branka Spehar
Professor Spehar’s research interests include colour perception, perceptual organisation, attention, and, most recently, the perceptual foundations of aesthetic experience. She is interested in the neural mechanisms underlying these processes, how are they affected by varying spatial and temporal context, how they develop in infants and children and how are they are tuned to the statistics and characteristics of natural images.
Dr Rachel Stephens
Rachel is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Sydney Thinking and Reasoning Lab at the University of New South Wales. Her research focuses on understanding the cognitive processes that underlie human reasoning and judgment. This is important given that people are increasingly asked to draw conclusions about complex issues, often based on conflicting evidence (e.g., how to make healthcare fit for the future, or how we should respond to climate change). One of her key goals is to advance the field’s quantitative and methodological approaches, helping to test competing theories more rigorously. An important part of her work has involved challenging long-standing and influential dual-process theories of reasoning, which distinguish between faster, intuitive thinking and slower, deliberate thinking. This has important implications for questions such as how reasoning skills develop in children, and how we might train and encourage "better" reasoning.
Anthea Stylianakis and Dana Leidl
Anthea is a combined Masters (Clinical)/PhD student supervised by Professor Rick Richardson, Scientia Professor Richard Bryant, and Dr Kathryn Baker. She is examining how chronic and acute stress affect. Dana is a PhD student studying the neural mechanisms of memory updating. Dana is supervised by Dr Nathan Holmes, Scientia Professor Fred Westbrook and Dr Kelly Clemens. adolescents' behaviour, brain, and physiology.
Elizabeth is a PhD candidate examining different methods of reducing anger, and how cognitive and motivational factors contribute to and interact during this process. Currently, she is investigating whether experiences of humility can reduce anger and aggression.
Stephanie is a PhD Candidate in the area of forensic psychology. Her research aims to optimise the communication and comprehension of forensic science evidence in the criminal justice system. Specifically, she is looking at improving communication between forensic science practitioners and pre-trial decision-makers, such as police officers.
Catherine is a psychology student currently in the second year of her PhD. Her research specialises in perception and investigates what makes things aesthetically pleasing to our senses.
Dr Lisa A. Williams
Lisa is a social psychologist with a focus on affective science. Her research program investigates the ways in which emotions arise from and impact social processes. Current projects address emotional experience in the context of close relationships (e.g., pride in another’s success), prosocial behaviour (e.g., charitable donations), and blood donation. She is also an advocate for gender equity in STEM and the higher education space.
Caroline Xie is an Honours student working with Dr Asheeta Prasad. Her thesis is examining the underlying mechanisms of deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease.
Jenna is a PhD candidate interested in visual cognition and how emotion and motivation affects attention. She is particularly interested in emotional impairments to attention and perception and ways of improving attentional performance.