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Research and Education ;

5 minutes with Kay Hopkin and Mary Leamy

We sit down with Kay Hopkin, Senior Programmes Officer (PGR) and Mary Leamy, Associate Dean (Postgraduate Research Studies) and Senior Lecturer in Mental Health in the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care to discuss the Faculty’s PGR offering and their lives outside of work.

Briefly, tell us about your background and career up to this point.

Mary: I’ve worked at King’s for 15 years, previously at IoPPN and then at NMPC since 2014. I’ve spent much of my career working as a full-time researcher, working on mental health-related studies. I am a psychologist by background, with an MSc in Occupational Psychology. My MSc dissertation involved looking at the knowledge, skills, abilities and personality traits required for airline pilots to be promoted from first officer to captain. It was a memorable summer observing how they coped with routine and emergency situations, sitting in the cockpit and flight simulator.

Kay: I have a BA in Classical Civilisation and on completing my degree, I spent 3 years working for Disney before deciding to move into Higher Education. I have been at King’s since 2019 and in that time, I have worked across three different Faculties (Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, Social Sciences and Public Policy and Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care) in various programmes-based roles.

How do your roles support postgraduate research (PGR) students?

Mary: I lead an enthusiastic team of academic and professional services staff who monitor our students’ academic progress and wellbeing, and are available to listen and advise students on how to cope with a range of challenging situations and complex circumstances which can arise. When necessary, we intervene directly or signpost them to others who can help them during their PhD studies. Our PhD co-ordinators, Ruth Harris and Vasiliki Tzouvara (Care of Long-term conditions), Tomasina Stacey (Methodologies), Matt Maddocks (Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care) and Louise Rose (Applied Technologies for Clinical Care) and I also work behind the scenes to support PhD supervisors to recruit, supervise and support their PhD students. I work closely with Kay to ensure the PGR programme runs smoothly, that we are responsive to our students and continue to improve the research training, networking and social opportunities for them whilst they are studying with us.

Kay: I act as the first line of support for doctoral students who have any programmes-related queries, helping to resolve their issues or signpost them to the relevant teams where necessary. I am also co-chair of the PGR Conference Organising Committee and play a key role in ensuring the success of the conference each year, working closely with our organising committee which consists of both students and staff members. I work closely with our student representatives and meet them on a regular basis to discuss how things are going and take action based on the feedback received following these meetings. Additionally, I look after applicant enquiries and assist in the process of matching applicants with supervisors. I’m involved in supporting every element of the PGR student lifecycle in NMPC, from the very beginning to the very end.

What makes postgraduate research in NMPC, and more broadly at King's, unique?

Mary: The quality, experience, range of topics, and depth of expertise provided by PhD supervisors, who have national and international reputations. Many of our PhD students have had highly successful clinical and managerial nursing careers prior to doing a PhD and identify research problems that they have observed though their own clinical practice and/or settings. There is huge potential for many types of real-world impact arising from the research findings of studies conducted by our PhD students.

Kay: We have a very international student body, and the research being undertaken by our students offers diverse perspectives and a global outlook, enabling our students to make a meaningful impact on a global scale. We provide our students with numerous opportunities to present their work and refine their presentation skills during research seminars and our annual Postgraduate Research Conference. We have a wonderful student community; there's a genuine sense of community and support among our doctoral students, which promotes an excellent environment for academic and personal growth. Our faculty has world-leading experts in their fields, providing students with excellent mentorship and guidance throughout their research journey. Our graduates embark on a wide range of fulfilling careers in their chosen fields, which is a testament to the quality of education and training they receive in our faculty.

We are also fortunate enough to be based in one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. From a non-academic perspective, the opportunity of living in London, particularly for international students, is a wonderfully enriching experience.

Can you tell us a bit more about the international side to postgraduate research?

Mary: We are actively and strategically promoting our PGR taught and research programmes, initially in southeast Asia, but in future we plan to take a similar approach elsewhere. Particularly over the last two years, we have successfully done this in universities in Thailand, China and Indonesia. Our visits have often been facilitated by our current PhD students, who have accompanied us and/or helped with initial introductions or online meetings to initiate productive discussions for opportunities for wider research and educational collaborations.

Kay and I recently enjoyed working with our PGR students, supervisors, co-ordinators and communications/marketing colleagues to produce a PGR video, geared to the international market which we were able to use as part of our PGR recruitment drive whilst visiting Thai universities. The video featured some of our current and alumni students and was very well received.

Kay: We’re proud to have an incredibly diverse doctoral student community, with students from all around the world, bringing a wealth of knowledge and perspectives to the faculty. We recently held a coffee morning where we asked our doctoral students to bring dishes from their cultures to share with others which was a lovely opportunity to celebrate different cultures and bring everybody together whilst also enjoying delicious food!

Many of our students conduct research primarily using data from their home countries and undertake data collection abroad as part of their programmes. This enables them to bring their research back to their home countries upon completion of their PhD, where they can truly impact their fields in meaningful ways.

What is your favourite thing about working at King's?

Mary: I love the fantastic and unexpected opportunities that continually arise because of King’s impressive international reputation. NMPC is the longest place I’ve ever worked in and that speaks for itself. I am thankful to be surrounded by colleagues who are not only inspiring and supportive, but also fun to spend time with.

Kay: It may sound a bit cliché, but I have to say it’s the people! I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I work with wonderful people in many aspects of my role. Whether this be working closely with Mary as the Associate Dean for Postgraduate Research Studies, my team in the Research Support Office, or with the wonderful doctoral student community in the faculty. In my previous roles, I have felt quite removed from the students I was working to support, but I get so much job-satisfaction in this role as I have had the opportunity to develop strong working relationships with our doctoral students and directly see the impact my work has on them which I find incredibly rewarding.

What do you do with your time outside of work?

Mary: An ideal weekend for me would involve some yoga class, outdoor swimming at the local lido, walking the dog in the Chiltern hills, meeting up with friends for a cocktail and meal in a cosy country pub.

Kay: My big passions are travel, plants and musical theatre. I’ve already visited four countries so far this year and have plans to visit a further two in the next few months. I’m a bit of a nerd with my houseplants and spend more time than I care to admit looking after them – my flat is truly a jungle! And I’ve grown up loving musical theatre so try to take advantage of living so close to the West End as much as I can!

However, I am very much looking forward to a London summer of picnicking in the parks as much as humanly possible, definitely my favourite time of year in the city.

What do you think people in the Faculty would find most surprising about you?

Mary: I am married to Britain's second brainiest nurse! (Geoff was runner up in Britain's Brainiest Nurse, a quiz show hosted by Carol Vorderman)

Kay: I don’t know if it’s massively surprising, but a fun fact about me is that I once spent a whole year in Florida working at Walt Disney World!

Quick fire...

What's your hidden talent?

Mary: I am an avid skier and like nothing more than combining this is a spot of paraskiing and bobsleighing!

Kay: I can make a pretty incredible version of the Dishoom Black Lentil Daal.

One thing you could not go a day without?

Mary: Taking some quiet time to switch off and listen to music or a podcast.

Kay: Tricky one! Honestly, probably listening to Taylor Swift (so excited to be seeing the Eras tour in June).

Favourite films?

Mary: Shawshank Redemption, La La Land.

Kay: I’m not somebody who claims to have the best taste in films, but as mentioned above, I love a musical! Off the top of my head, I’d say Moulin Rouge, both Mamma Mia movies, Yesterday and Bohemian Rhapsody.

In this story

Mary Leamy

Mary Leamy

Associate Dean (Postgraduate Research Studies) and Senior Lecturer in Mental Health

Kay Hopkin

Kay Hopkin

School Programmes Manager

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