Josie Henley-Einion, PhD in Dreams, Learning and Memory

Josie Henley-Einion

Josie Henley-Einion, from Cardiff, graduated from Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences with a PhD in Dreams, Learning and Memory. Her thesis, entitled ‘The timecourse of memory consolidation during sleep: Evidence from delayed incorporations into dreams’ studied and confirmed an effect that was widely doubted by researchers around the world. Josie explains why she chose to undertake a PhD and what she has achieved from it…

What did you do prior to studying at Swansea University?
“It’s been a long journey! I originally studied as an undergraduate, joint honours Psychology and Linguistics in Bangor University, and graduated in 1992. After this I worked as a researcher and considered a PhD but couldn’t settle on a topic. I worked in care and teaching Psychology at Further Education level, and then as a computer programer. I was working in the Heath Hospital in Cardiff in the Research and Development Department when I applied to Swansea.”

Why did you choose to study at Swansea University?
“I was looking for a funded PhD on www.jobs.ac.uk. The Swansea PhD researching dreams and memory really stood out to me as being a fascinating topic. I was attracted to Swansea as the university has a good reputation for Psychology, and especially dreams as there is a dream lab and a lot of research goes on there. I was very excited to be accepted.”

Can you tell us about your course?
“With a research PhD it’s not a taught course, so it’s quite self-directed which can be very daunting. Luckily I had a good supervisor, who is the head of the department: so no pressure! In the first year I ran a study that started out as a replication of a previous study in the area, but as we changed some of the parameters it ended up being quite new and we had a publication from early on, which was very motivating. In the second year I was working on my thesis and got involved in a collaboration with others that was based in the sleep lab, several publications came out of this. I also attended a conference in the Netherlands and presented the findings of the first study. In the third year I developed a new study and there were some significant results. It was all quite exciting and good to be involved in.”

What part of the course did you enjoy the most?
“It sounds odd but I love statistics! I also enjoy networking, so conferences and seminars, meetings and talks. I like to meet other researchers and academics and listen to them talk about their research. I’m interested in so many different areas in health and social care, social sciences, politics, economics, I can find a common interest with anyone I meet!”

How will your qualification help your career?
“A lot of research posts ask for a PhD or near to completion, so having already got my PhD will put me in a good position. It is evidence that I’m determined and can see a project through, as it’s such a hard slog and there’s a high attrition rate in PhDs.”

Would you recommend Swansea University to other students?
“Yes, definitely. The location is amazing, right on the beach and it’s beautiful in any season. In terms of the reputation of the University for teaching and research, that’s also a high recommendation, and the Swansea nightlife is good too! It’s quite a multicultural area but with a very Welsh foundation, and there are a lot of interesting places surrounding the area.”

What advice would you give to students considering postgraduate study?
“Have a good think about what it is you want to study, as you’ll be doing it for a long time, and you’ll be alone for a lot of it even with a supervisor. Maybe take some time out between undergraduate and postgraduate if you’re not already a mature student, because some work experience will help you to find your niche, as well as giving you skills to fall back on if you don’t find a job immediately following the PhD. Treat it as a journey with many interesting points along the way, so you enjoy the process, rather than focussing on the product because at the beginning that’s a long way away. Best of all, remember to enjoy it, as it’s a great opportunity, especially in a funded PhD – you are getting paid to do what you love!”