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Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

Professor Til Wykes

Til Wykes

Job title

Professor of Clinical Psychology
& Rehabilitation

Vice Dean Psychology & Systems Sciences

Co-Director Service User Research Enterprise

Department/Division

Psychology

Date started at King’s

1986


Challenges and achievements

When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?

My interest in Psychology came when I ran out of fiction books in the Village library and the librarian allowed me to stray into the adult non-fiction section. One of my first choices was an educational psychology book – thick and clearly much too scholarly for a thirteen year old.  But I saw it was about science and numbers as well as Freud so I followed it up with more text books and careers evenings. So my choice of psychology was due to my height - if I had been a little bit taller I might have been an architect or an accountant instead.

What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area? 

My research has revolved around the understanding of schizophrenia and the development and implementation of psychological treatments to aid recovery. Schizophrenia is often a chronic and episodic condition which can result in long term disability. My contact with individuals with this disorder made me curious as well as developing an admiration for those who struggle to live with this condition. But my route to this research topic was very roundabout. In my undergraduate degree I was interested in the effects of alcohol and the perception of time. Then I moved on to a PhD on children’s understanding of stories and then I was introduced to people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia at the MRC Social Psychiatry Unit. All this gave me an enquiring mind and knowledge of cognitive psychology that has been invaluable.

Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding. 

Most people will talk about their science but actually the two achievements I am proud of came because of my science but also through taking on administrative role. The first is to set up the Service User Research Enterprise which employs expert researchers who also have experience of mental health problems. I was its first director and after more than ten years we have matured enough to have joint directors – myself and Professor Diana Rose – the first professor of service user led research. My second achievement is working hard to ensure that mental health research is fully recognised. I led the NIHR Mental Health Research Network which recruits more than 30,000 people a year into mental health studies. This makes a huge difference to our understanding and treatment of mental health problems.

Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?

I found this question incredibly difficult to answer. The glass ceiling imposed on women has meant that I have looked up to few senior women in my area merely because there weren’t any. I remember that I encouraged all women on the academic board at the Institute of Psychiatry to sit together so everyone would realise how few there were. 

What if any support has most benefited you in your career?

Other scientists providing evidence of my skills to overcome the imposter syndrome especially when you begin to feel you really will be found out.

What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s? 

Other scientists providing evidence of my skills to overcome the imposter syndrome especially when you begin to feel you really will be found out.

How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?

Well I am not in bits so I must be managing it but I have no idea how. I just fit all my teaching, administration and research into my daily life and try to empty my inbox each day. Of course that is helped by having organisational support from a very competent personal assistant, Geraldine.

How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?

What balance? I have a really interesting job and I do think about problems and potential solutions all the time and I don’t begrudge any of that time. But I do have a life outside work. In my spare time I contribute to the family food blog which means sampling gourmet and not so gourmet offerings in our local restaurants.   

What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?

I have learnt that you just have to keep going despite hurdles and challenges. Concentrating on the goal and not being diverted often means that these potential problems melt away. This doesn’t mean being a bull in a china shop – a bit of planning is always needed.

 

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