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Kirsten Smith

Kirsten Smith tells us why passion and having a clear idea of your own values are the most important ingredients for a fulfilling career.

Name Dr Kirsten V Smith
Degree Course Psychology
Year of Graduation 2007
Kirsten Smith

Your time at the University

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the University has an excellent reputation. I loved having everything I needed within a 2 mile radius. It had a vibrancy but also felt very accessible and intimate.

I have very fond memories from my time there and feel exceptionally lucky to have had such inspirational teaching from some of the world leaders in their fields (Profs Ian Deary and Sergio Della Sala to name a few).

It was freezing though, I could never understand how it could be colder inside my room than outside - the price you pay for giant bay windows!

The highlight of my degree was the student exchange programme that allowed me to study for a year at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Their approach to hands on research and teaching complimented the solid theoretical grounding I had received at Edinburgh and saw me put into practice some of the ideas I had learned, designing experiments with my own set of rats. It was here that I was first exposed to the research ideas that went on to form my doctoral thesis 3 years later. I am in the process of publishing this work that could lead to advancements in the way that Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is treated.

Tell us about your Experiences since leaving the University

I am now a Wellcome Trust Clinical Fellow at the University of Oxford. My research involves investigating the processes that might make an individual more prone to developing a prolonged and disabling grief reaction following the loss of a loved one. This work will hopefully lead to new psychological treatments that will prevent and reduce the distress associated with the bereavement process.

When I left Edinburgh with a First Class degree in Psychology I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be, or could be, a psychologist. I attended a recruitment day for corporate sales and when I was being told how much I could earn and what I had to do to get it I decided that I wanted my career to be about discovery and not money. I couldn’t imagine not using all of the things I’d learned during in my degree, it felt too significant to let go of.

I couldn’t imagine not using all of the things I’d learned during in my degree, it felt too significant to let go of.

Kirsten Smith

I got a job as an assistant psychologist in a neuropsychology department in London - largely, I believe, off of the back of my undergraduate dissertation - before working as a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London.

These roles helped me get a place on the Doctorate in Clinical Psychology that exposed me to a range of therapeutic models and developed my skills as a therapist.

Since then myself and some friends have set up a charity, the Loss Foundation, that supports those who have lost loved ones to cancer. We provide specialist bereavement support groups and run social events and retreats to tackle the social isolation felt by many following a significant loss.

This work has been incredibly rewarding and has allowed me a deeper understanding of the difficulties associated with loss.

Alumni wisdom

If you get the opportunity to take part in the student exchange programme or Erasmus then do it! The experiences I had from my year abroad were so enriching and opened up so many opportunities for thinking and personal growth.

Also try and get a clearer idea of what your values are, what you are passionate about and what you would be willing to work through the night on because it was important enough to do right - passion makes drive easier which makes a successful fulfilling career easier.