Page 1


2016/17 SCHOOL OF


WELCOME In this issue of the newsletter I am delighted to update you on the continued success of the School of Psychology. We are proud that, thanks to the high quality education and training and a strong track record in research, Trinity psychology remains the leading psychology department in Ireland and continues to perform very well in the international rankings. This success is due to the academic excellence, dedication, commitment and creativity of the staff and our students. The most significant development was the launch of the Global Brain Health Initiative (GBHI), a world-leading initiative for addressing the global burden of dementia. GBHI has been made possible by the largest ever philanthropic donation in the history of Ireland, and its ambition and vision will advance dementia-related psychological science and practice in the coming decades.

At a GradLink gathering.

The School continues to offer a knowledge base and a set of skills that not only equip students for the many careers that exist in psychology, but also prepare graduates intellectually for other activities. Our graduates’ successes are our successes and we are delighted that many of you volunteered to be mentors on the School of Psychology mentoring programme — GradLink, which aims to develop current students’ knowledge of the labour market and career paths, through nurturing career learning relationships with alumni mentors working in a range of areas. We look forward to updating you on the programme over the coming years. We thank you for your continued involvement and hope that you will enjoy learning about the recent developments at the School outlined in this newsletter. We want you to feel part of the School community and warmly welcome your contributions, suggestions and input. Please visit the School’s website to keep abreast of the latest news on our activities. Professor David Hevey Head of School of Psychology

Newsletter 2016 – 2017

Global Brain Health Institute Co-led by Trinity College Dublin and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), the new Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) over the next 15 years aims to train 600 international fellows as leaders, advocates and key stakeholders in the shared fight against dementia. All will develop skills needed in communications, health economics and policy, built on a foundation of brain health science and evidence. The programme will graduate Atlantic Fellows who will return to their home regions as exceptional and empowered ‘change agents’ with careerduration mentoring, access to pilot funds, and an international network of colleagues collaborating to drive a common mission. These individuals will experience personalised training in brain protection, dementia prevention, and public policy directed toward changing outcomes for underserved older people. Linking these exceptional fellows to a community of committed graduates and faculty working collaboratively will make worldwide improvements in the scale and trajectory of dementia and brain health both feasible and real.

Trinity GBHI leaders: Professor Brian Lawlor, GBHI Deputy Co-Director, Conolly Norman Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, and Professor Ian Robertson, GBHI Co-Director, Professor of Psychology.

The ultimate success of GBHI lies in the dynamic and diverse opportunities to engage the most talented trainees and provide the type of career-long support needed for continued development of leadership — practitioners, advocates, and stakeholders — in the global fight against dementia. GBHI has shared operations in Trinity and UCSF. Its Co-Directors are: Trinity’s Professor of Psychology, Ian Robertson, and Dr Bruce

Miller, MD, a behavioural neurologist and director of the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF. GBHI has been made possible through a grant of €138.4 million from the Atlantic Philanthropies. The landmark award, which is the largest single programme grant Atlantic Philanthropies has ever made, is the biggest philanthropic donation in Irish history and the largest ever received by Trinity College Dublin. For more information please visit www.gbhi.org

Virtual Reality Game to Teach Peacekeeping Skills A new virtual reality game to train international military and police in peacekeeping skills such as communication, cultural sensitivity and gender awareness is being developed by an EUwide consortium led by a team of researchers from sociology, computer science and psychology at Trinity College Dublin. Dr Michael Cooke, from the School’s Research Centre for Innovative Human Systems, is a core member of the project team. It is planned that all military, police and civilian personnel being deployed in EU conflict prevention and peace-building missions such as those to Afghanistan, Palestine and Libya will be able to receive training through the online roleplaying game ‘Gaming for Peace’. The game will allow users to experience simulations of challenging scenarios from 2

conflict and peace-building missions to learn communication and cooperation, gender awareness and cultural competency skills. Entering the game as avatars, players will role-play as a member of another organisation, a different gender or nationality, and so will experience a variety of conflict zone scenarios from a range of different perspectives. The ‘Gaming for Peace’ project has been funded by a €2 million grant from the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme. Led by Trinity, it brings together 14 collaborative partners from academia, military, police, civil actors and business, including the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Finnish military, the Polish military and Polish police, Laurea University in Finland, the Ted Kennedy Institute at NUI Maynooth, Upskill in

Belfast, and Irish computer games company Haunted Planet, led by Mads Haahr, who is also an Assistant Professor in Computer Science in Trinity. The European Security and Defence College, which oversees the training of all EU personnel deployed on peacekeeping missions, the UN, and NATO have all expressed interest in using the end product of the project. The project also involves a novel process of curriculum development which will allow users to evaluate the game and add their own experiences of conflict prevention and peacekeeping missions to the game. The game can be accessed anywhere via the internet and can be customised at low cost by different stakeholders. The ‘Gaming for Peace’ project is expected to be completed by 2018.



Online Programme in Managing Risk and System Change The School of Psychology launched the first online masters programme in TCD Managing Risk & System Change in September 2015. This is a two year part-time programme with an annual intake each September. The programme has attracted an exceptionally high calibre of students across the globe and across a range of industries including, finance, aviation, health, emergency services, and construction. It provides a rigorous but practical focus on risk, change and system design in operations, with an innovative integrated approach to the role of people in such systems, all of which has been tested in collaborative industrial research and practice. The programme provides students with a stimulating online learning experience by creating a structured yet flexible learning

approach. The place of study is flexible as online delivery allows students to engage in learning activities at home or in the workplace and there is no requirement to attend the Trinity campus in Dublin. World-class international teams have been mobilised to provide the highest calibre research-led teaching, supervision and professional expertise and students also become part of a global community of practice and professional learners, where they will not only benefit from the academic and industrial experts delivering the course but also from the extended network of fellow students. The next intake for the Managing Risk and System Change programme is September 2017 with a closing date for applications on 30 June 2017.

Traumatic Life Events the Focus of New International PhD Programme Researchers from Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Global Health have secured €3.3 million for research into trauma-exposed populations in Europe. This four-year study is funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 scheme and is a collaboration between Trinity and a number of European academic (Ulster University and the University of Southern Denmark) and non-academic (the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, SPIRASI, the Probation Board of Northern Ireland), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support, hosted by the Danish Red Cross, and the Bornehus South Children’s Centre partners. The project CONTEXT (COllaborative Network for Training and EXcellence in psychoTraumatology) is led by Chair of Global Health Professor Mac MacLachlan, Assistant Professor Frédérique Vallières

(Centre for Global Health, School of Psychology) and Associate Professor Philip Hyland (Centre for Global Health, and the National College of Ireland). Twelve doctoral researchers will study the psychological effects of exposure to traumatic life events among unique traumatised groups in Europe: refugees, asylum seekers and migrants entering Europe from conflict zones, humanitarian workers tasked with providing aid to traumatised individuals, and victims of gender-based and childhood traumas. The researchers will spend half of their training with the non-academic partner organisations gaining front-line experience working with the victims of traumatic exposure. Dr Vallières said, “The coming together of the academic and non-academic partners in CONTEXT will yield important advancements in our current theories and therapies regarding psychological responses to traumatic life events.

The collaboration between our partner groups will provide researchers with a unique opportunity to make discoveries that would not otherwise be possible where these sectors work in isolation.” Dr Hyland further added, “This award highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research when it comes to understanding how, and to what degree, contextual factors play a role in determining psychological responses to trauma.”


Newsletter 2016 – 2017

Prestigious European Research Council Grant The School‘s Assistant Professor in Social Neuroscience Redmond O’Connell is one of three Trinity researchers who were awarded European Research Council (ERC) starting grants of almost €1.5 million each. These grants are aimed to help early-career researchers to develop their full potential. Redmond O’Connell’s ERC-funded research seeks to identify the neural mechanisms that are essential for decision making. A central focus of this work is to observe and measure the decision making process in the brain as it unfolds by using electroencephalography — a technique that provides milisecond-by-milisecond recordings of neural activity. In so doing, Dr O’Connell’s research will address a number of important questions including how we balance demands for fast versus accurate decisions and how the brain enables us to represent our confidence in a preceding decision. Additionally, Dr O’Connell’s research will apply these new methods to improve our understanding of how the ageing process impacts on our decision making abilities.

Dr Redmond O’Connell (far left) and his team.

Congratulations to Redmond and his team!

Putting Stress to the Test The Stress Test, the new book by Trinity’s Professor of Psychology Ian Robertson, shows us how we can harness stress to our advantage and use it to make us not only stronger and more resilient but sharper too. In The Stress Test Professor Robertson relies on four decades of research to illustrate how we can reshape our brain’s response to pressurised situations and ultimately see how stress can be a good thing; the right level of challenge and stress can help us to flourish and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Professor Robertson’s research on the human brain’s attention systems has led


to a number of entirely new ways of measuring how humans pay, or fail to pay, attention. It has also resulted in novel methods for improving cognitive and emotional function in people with a range of psychological and neurological conditions including traumatic brain injury, stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and ageing. Professor Ian Robertson was the founding director of Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN). He is a Co-Director of Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI).



The Neuroscience of Interrogation his new book, Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation.

Professor Shane O’Mara.

There is no scientific basis for the claim that torture works to extract reliable information from detainees, according to Shane O’Mara, Professor of Experimental Brain Research, in

Drawing on neuroscience and cognitive, social and clinical psychology, as well as examining the use of torture in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Cambodia, Algeria and by the CIA, the book is a detailed account of the human brain under stress and demonstrates that torture is at best ineffective, usually counterproductive,

and always inhumane. Citing extensive research on the effects of sleep deprivation, pain, drowning, heating, cooling and sensory deprivation he reveals how common torture techniques don’t work the way torturers assume they do. These techniques actually undermine the neurocognitive mechanisms required for recalling accurate information and damage memory, mood and cognition. In the book Professor O’Mara points the way to a humane approach to interrogation, founded in the science of brain and behaviour. He draws together the latest research in interrogation to present a new framework for behavioural and brain science-based interrogation, based on recent research in clinical psychology, and other relevant domains.

SFI Outstanding Contribution to Science Communication Award

Dr Sabina Brennan receives her award for outstanding science communication.

In November 2016 Research Assistant Professor in Psychology at Trinity, Dr Sabina Brennan, won the Science Foundation of Ireland (SFI) Outstanding Contribution to Science Communication Award. Dr Brennan was recognised for her outstanding

contribution to the popularisation of science, having raised public awareness of the value of science to human progress. Her projects highlight the importance of brain health and dementia risk reduction which cover many

aspects of science and human behaviour. Dr Brennan’s animated films have been viewed in 140 countries and have been translated into 15 languages such as Arabic, Punjabi, Somali, Urdu, French, German and Sign Language. 5

Newsletter 2016 – 2017

International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival

Deirdre Robertson, an Irish Research Councilfunded postdoctoral researcher in Trinity College Dublin, was named as the national winner of FameLab — an international science communication competition supported by the British Council and Science Foundation Ireland. Deirdre represented Ireland at the International Finals at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK in June.

Dr Deirdre Robertson.

Inaugural GradLink Mentoring Programme

GradLink mentor Alan Sheehy-Skeffington speaks with a potential mentee at the GradLink Reception.

The GradLink Mentoring Programme aims to help students in their personal and career development by establishing supportive mentoring relationships with alumni. The programme has been running at many schools across college for the past several years. In 20162017, the School of Psychology was delighted to launch its inaugural GradLink programme with over 40 Junior and Senior Sophister students and 22 alumni mentors participating. At the January launch event students had the opportunity to hear from graduates who 6

are pursuing careers in fields such as clinical, counselling, organisational, occupational and educational psychology, consulting, marketing, further education, journalism, and writing/ directing. Students were then matched with a mentor, based on their area of interest, who they will meet at least twice during the year. Students benefit enormously from the exchange of ideas with their graduate mentors, who help them explore issues such as deciding what career path to pursue after college, particular roles and sectors and CV preparation.

The School is extremely grateful to this year’s mentors for volunteering their time and providing invaluable guidance to current students. The 2017-2018 School of Psychology GradLink programme launch will take place in November 2017. If you are interested in getting involved as a mentor please visit www.tcd.ie/alumni/mentoring or email Erin Paullin paulline@tcd.ie.



Interview with Alumna

Gillian O’Brien, B.A. (2001).

1. What was your childhood ambition? I don’t clearly remember having just one childhood ambition as my aspirations for the future changed quite a bit but there was a common theme of wanting to work with people in a caring role.

2. What made you decide to study psychology in Trinity? I decided to study psychology in Trinity for a few key reasons. I chose Trinity as it had always appealed to me as a university because it’s located in the heart of the city and is steeped in so much history and tradition. After much deliberation I chose psychology as it sounded like a fascinating subject. In hindsight, I realise that I knew very little about what it entailed or where it might lead me to in terms of work opportunities but I’m so glad that I followed my instinct studying something which I thought would be interesting. I subsequently went on to complete a doctorate in clinical psychology building on the great foundation I established in Trinity.

3. What appeals to you most about your current role?

5. Have you any advice for students or fellow alumni?

My current role as Director of Clinical Governance in Jigsaw — The National Centre for Youth Mental Health — is varied, challenging and very rewarding. It allows me to make a meaningful contribution to the delivery of mental health services for young people through a variety of activities including therapeutic work with young people, clinical supervision of staff, management, leadership and ongoing development of a network of services. I work best in an environment that encourages innovation and change whilst also valuing reflection and relationships and I’m very lucky to work in an organisation and in a role which contains each of these elements.

My only advice for students of psychology is to remember that there are endless possibilities once you complete your degree. While this can seem daunting, psychology is a great foundation for a wide range of careers and further courses of study. The better defined postgraduate paths of clinical, counselling, educational and organisational psychology are just a few of the options available to you. Make contact with psychology graduates in fields of interest to you and ask them how they ended up in their chosen area.

4. What are your strongest memories of Trinity? I have great memories of my time in the Tennis Club, endless league matches on Sunday afternoons in Botany Bay and the annual tennis club tour.


Appointment of Professor Lorina Naci Professor Lorina Naci was appointed at the School of Psychology and the Global Brain Health Institute in May 2017. Her focus is the development of novel biomarkers of healthy and disordered cognition in the ageing and patient populations, such as brain-injured, deeply anesthetised, Parkinson’s. In recent work, Dr Naci has used neuroimaging to understand how consciousness emerges in the healthy brain and to detect awareness in some brain-injured patients who appear to be entirely vegetative. Her work has enabled some of these individuals to communicate their thoughts and wishes to the outside world. Concurrently, her work explores the medico-ethical and societal implications of these applications to build ethical guidelines for use in clinical settings.

In 2016, Dr Naci was selected as one of only two Canadian scientists to receive the national L’Oréal-Unesco For Women In Science Research Excellence award. In 2017, she received the highly prestigious L’Oréal-Unesco For Women In Science International Rising Talent award, as one of 15 recipients in a worldwide competition including over 9000 applicants. This prize recognizes outstanding early career scientists of exceptional promise. Dr Naci’s work has been published in high-impact scientific journals and covered widely in the international media, including the CBC, BBC, Science, Nature, The New Scientist, and The Times.

Get Involved

Upcoming Alumni Events

Class Notes

Trinity has a long tradition of outreach and community engagement. To find out about the numerous ways you can get involved with Trinity both at home and abroad, please visit www.tcd.ie/alumni/volunteer

Alumni Weekend 25-27 August 2017

Do you have any news or updates that you’d like to share with your fellow alumni? Submit your news with an image, subject of study and year of graduation to alumni@tcd.ie

Professor Lorina Naci.



Other Events www.tcd.ie/alumni/news-events/events

For more information please visit www.tcd.ie/alumni/news-events/publications/ class-notes.php

School of Psychology Trinity College Dublin 2, Ireland T. +353 (0)1 896 1886 E. psychology@tcd.ie




Trinity Development and Alumni East Chapel Trinity College Dublin 2, Ireland T. +353 (0)1 896 2088 E. alumni@tcd.ie tcdalumni

Profile for TCD Alumni

Psychology Newsletter 2017 online  

Psychology Newsletter 2017 online