If I could live my life one hundred times ...
Dr Nic Hooper, 26 of Cardiff, has received a PhD from Swansea University at a graduation ceremony in Brangwyn Hall today (Tuesday, 1st February 2011).
Nic progressed straight from his undergraduate psychology degree at Swansea onto a PhD in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Due to money issues, it seemed easier for Nic to live at home in Cardiff and continue to work a few nights a week in a restaurant and travel to Swansea for his studies.
Following two difficult years on his undergraduate degree juggling his job and education, Nic decided to move to Swansea for his third year to concentrate on studying – a decision that changed his life.
Nic (pictured) said: "I decided it would be best to move to Swansea to concentrate more intently on my degree. However, I was still undecided as to what to do after my undergraduate degree. I met Psychology lecturer, Dr. Louise McHugh, who introduced me to a revolutionary third wave behavioural therapy that would change my life.“I became convinced that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) would change the world, and decided to write my dissertation on it. I received a high mark for the assignment and Dr McHugh offered me the chance to apply for a PhD to further my research on the subject.”
PhD funding opportunities for Nic were not favourable as he did not receive a First in his undergraduate degree and also did not have a Masters. Therefore Nic began a self-funded PhD which felt like a massive risk at the time.
He said: “Other PhD students in my department earned £12,000 a year, had conference expenses included and paid no fees. I paid £3,300 a year to do my PhD and paid for my own conference trips, although the Psychology Department at Swansea provides some support, this only really covered one trip to the United States. It was a massive risk.”
During his studies, Nic worked as a note-taker, a statistics tutor, a modular tutor, a barman, a waiter, an aid to an autistic child in a primary school, a play assistant with five-year-olds and a handyman/window cleaner. Nevertheless Nic went ahead with his PhD centred on the issue of ‘Thought Suppression’.
Nic believed that Dr McHugh’s encouragement as his tutor changed his life.
He said: “She constantly encouraged my crazy ideas, educated me, supported me and was wonderfully patient in those times of PhD torment! On a weekly to daily basis our brainstorming sessions ended in great ideas, the products of which have really come to fruition recently. As a child of a working class family, I have two papers published and four papers under review at internationally renowned Psychology journals. I’ve presented my work 19 times in seven different countries. I am in collaboration with researchers from France, Sweden and the United States.
“My reputation as a researcher has sky-rocketed within the ACT Psychology community and I have a great job working for great people at the University of Kent in Canterbury. All of this thanks in the most part to a combination of supportive and loving parents, patient and helpful friends, a great University, a sublime tutor and hard work.”
Nic’s reputation preceeds him which is proven by the invitations he has received and papers he has published.
He said: “It’s a very bizarre feeling, as a 26-year-old, to walk into a room filled with people, knowing that they are there purely to see you talk. Late last year I gave an invited talk at Kent, and then one at Swansea, only six months after finishing my PhD.”
Renowned psychologist Steven C. Hayes is an author of 32 books and over 400 scientific articles, as well as the founder of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Relational Frame Theory (RFT).
Since Steven read Nic’s study, he has continued to present it across the world in his presentations.
Nic added: “I was in the audience of 500 people listening to Steven C. Hayes, when he started to talk about my work - a very surreal experience!”
Nic continues to receive great exposure via a variety of sources and his work has also been the spotlight study on the Association of Contextual Behaviour Science website for six months.
Nic added: “At the beginning of 2010, I worked from 8 til 4 in a primary school, then from 5 til 10 on my PhD. But at the end, I had a qualification that will provide for myself and a family for the rest of my life.
“I believe that I got lucky. I got lucky with my lecturer. She helped me every step of the way and pushed me to do things that were outside my comfort zone. I got lucky with my family who gave up so much for me. And I got lucky with my University, because if I could live my life 100 times, I would always end up at Swansea University.”