A new year, a new profcast! Today we’re talking to Dr. Gozde Ozakinci, Lecturer in Health Psychology at the University of St Andrews.
Why did you become an academic?
For me, it was a natural attraction. I liked being around people who were excited by ideas about how humans/animals ‘worked’. I also had the fortune of attending a beautiful university in Istanbul (http://www.boun.edu.tr/en_US). I just fell in love with the idea of teaching and doing research with enthusiastic and smart students in a beautiful environment. And initially (like many psychology students I guess), I thought I’d also combine it with clinical psychology practice. I had done some volunteer research assistance in some labs in my university in health psychology. And I really liked it. But I was not ready to give up my ‘I want to be a therapist’ goal yet. But doubts were creeping in. So, after I finished my degree, I took a year out and went to Cardiff and spent a year in a psychiatric hospital as a community service volunteer. There were 6 of us there and we lived in the hospital too! Oh the stories I can tell but I’m digressing… And there I realised my passion for psychology was in the health domain and not in the clinical world.. I did an MSc in health psychology at UCL and had the fortune of being supervised by Profs John Weinman and Charles Abraham. And the rest is history!
If you were not an academic what would you be?
Ahh, the million dollar question! What I would ‘love’ to be is very different from what I ‘would’ be. I guess I’d love to be able to create something with my hands (knitting, sewing) and actually make a living out of it. Our jobs are too cerebral. But if I wasn’t an academic, I’d probably use my research/clinical skills in the voluntary sector.
When was the first time you felt accomplished as an academic?
The day I successfully defended my PhD thesis was a highlight. I really felt that it marked a certain accomplishment and that I’d be very proud of it for the rest of my life.
For me, the papers that I publish with my students are the ones that make me feel very proud. I know how much those publications mean to them and I have worked with them at every step so they mean a lot.
What are the best and worst reviewer’s comments you’ve ever received?
The best ones are the ones that appreciate the work you’ve done as well as the clarity of writing. I definitely enjoyed getting those ones.
To be honest, I can’t remember a really horrible reviewer’s comment. I remember getting the reviewer’s comment from my first submission as a PhD student and feeling like I was being punched in the stomach repeatedly. I have no memory of what the comments were though!
If you could do one thing to improve population health in the UK what would it be?
During 2014, I have found my passion for exercise again and found runner communities that are wonderfully supportive of beginner runners. My own Jog Scotland Leven club (or more affectionately known as Leven Las Vegas Running Club) is a great example of that. I have also started doing parkrun (www.parkrun.org.uk). I cannot begin to tell you how good these communities are in gently encouraging people to run no matter what level they are at. So, I would just like everyone to give their local exercise/running/walking groups a go as they may find themselves in great company that encourages them to be more physically active. And feel mentally better for it too!
How do you achieve a work life balance?
As I was saying above, I started exercising this year. In addition to running, I found a local Zumba class. I know that if I put something in my diary, it has a better chance of getting done (I like ticking things off my list), so I applied the same rule to exercise and entered times of Zumba classes and running group meetings in my diary. I have also admitted to myself that I’m addicted to email so I now turn off work email from all devices once I reach home till next morning (I’m working on not checking emails while still in bed!). Allowing myself not to be a slave to emails and switching off occasionally is a work in progress but it helps me tremendously.
How has academia changed since you started?
Hmmm, where do I start? I guess I was very naïve when I started thinking about an academic career. I had no appreciation of the pressures that the academics are under, especially in terms of bringing in grant income and publishing in high impact journals. But talking to my older (ahem, more experienced) colleagues, I realise that ‘something’ has changed along the way so it wasn’t only my naivety that made me not notice the pressures.
What makes you happiest?
Lots of things.. Creating things with my hands – I’ve started knitting again. Talking to my niece in Turkey over the internet… Running.. Having Turkish coffee with my mother and then pretending that we can ‘read’ the coffee cup and predict our futures!
What is your favourite book?
‘Black Book’ by Orhan Pamuk. Masterpiece.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
There is a certain mosque in Istanbul that I think is incredibly peaceful despite being in the middle of a chaotic market area: Rustempasa mosque. I’m not a religious person but that place gives me much peace.
If you could go back in time and do one thing differently what would it be?
Wow, that’s a hard question… I guess I wish I had learnt how to play a musical instrument at a young age. Now it feels like a great effort to do that.
Who has helped you most in your career?
Oh so many people! There are too many to name here and I’d worry I’d miss someone. But without my mother and her belief in me, I’d never have left Turkey and followed opportunities. I’ll be forever grateful to her (this started sounding like an Oscar speech!).
What part of your job do you find most challenging?
Waiting for news from grant awarding bodies or journals. My normal patience goes out of the window. I want to know the outcome of my grant application preferably within an hour of submitting the press button. Of course, I never want to hear the bad news!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
I guess it’s not strictly an advice and not sure who said it, but one of my dear colleagues here in medical school, Jim Aiton (another parkrunner), once told me this:
‘Anyone can hold a world record but only you can achieve a personal best.’
I think in a competitive world, it’s worth remembering this.
And my PhD supervisor, Howard Leventhal, once said to me (I think it was right after getting that first journal rejection!): ‘Don’t let the b*****ds get you down!’ I think it was useful advice!