09 October 2020

My UEA Story: Judith Fynn

Name:  Judith Fynn 

School:  Norwich Medical School 

Research area:  PhD in Public Health

Bio:  My research looks at evaluation of health promotion, focusing on interventions to increase physical activity of individuals, communities and populations. I am interested in factors that influence evaluation processes and practices, and in particular how we can improve evaluation and dissemination. It is important that relevant evidence is generated and used to inform current and future interventions. Much of my PhD research has focused on exploring the use of evaluation frameworks and partnership working to facilitate and improve evaluation of programmes delivered as part of normal service delivery, as opposed to evaluation within a research environment. I am particularly interested in understanding how processes, organisational structures, and systems influence evaluation practice.

Prior to starting my PhD I taught in Higher Education for many years and I have continued to do some tutoring work whilst studying full time at UEA. I enjoy working with students, and I hope to find opportunities to continue to work with undergraduates and postgraduates in the future. In the short term I plan to do more research in public health evaluation and, as I come to the final stages of my PhD, I am starting to apply for funding for small research projects. 

What is life as a postgraduate student at UEA like? Describe a typical day

As a postgraduate student at UEA, I have found the environment and people very supportive. Whether it is library staff, career centre staff, supervisors and other academics, or other students, I only have praise for the support I have received. My supervisors have been great. I have been fortunate to have a space with computer access during my studies, which I have felt was vital, as a typical day is spent sat working at a computer. I have found for my own well-being it has been important to find opportunities to break away from the computer, to meet other postgraduate students or staff, and to keep active. Getting involved in committees such as the Research Student Forum was a good way to do this.

Why did you choose UEA?

UEA is a lovely campus, in a lovely region. For me, though, one reason was that it is local and, as a mature student with a life outside of studying, that was important. Another key reason was the opportunity for funding on a project that I was keen to do. 

Any tips for choosing a project / supervisor?

Each project and supervisor is different, and each student is different – what works for one may not work for another, so I think the best tip is to take the time to find out and get to know the project and team, and to ensure you communicate continuously. 

How is postgraduate study different to undergraduate study? 

Postgraduate study typically means you will be expected to work much more independently, but that does not mean working alone. You will be expected to work closely with supervisors, but you will also be expected to make your own decisions, and manage your own time and work. This can bring benefits of flexibility in when and how you work, but requires discipline. Three years seems like a long time at the start, but soon flies by; I found working to specific milestones and review dates useful.

What’s the social side like? How do you find the Postgraduate community?

There are lots of sports and social clubs at UEA. There are also lots of opportunities to get involved in voluntary roles or other projects going on across the university. Within the postgraduate community, students are in lots of different situations, for example working on PhDs full-time or part-time, many are working or have family or other commitments outside of UEA. Whatever your circumstances you will find others in a similar situation. 

Any highlights of your experience?

For me, the highlights have been getting my first two papers accepted for publication! The other highlight would be meeting some great people, some of whom I hope I will continue to be friends with for a long time, and some of whom I hope I will get a chance to work with after I finish my PhD. 

What kind of activities you have got involved with at UEA (e.g. networks, conferences, events, outreach) that have helped your research? 

I have been involved as a postgraduate representative on the Research Student Forum and other Faculty committees, which has been a great insight into how these bodies work. I also got involved in helping to run the annual Faculty Student Conference. Being involved helped me feel part of a research community, and helped me get to know staff and other postgraduates more. Attending external conferences, carrying out research activities with external organisations, and the postgraduate training (PPD) sessions have also been important for networking and personal development. 

What is writing your thesis or preparing for a viva like (if you’ve got there yet!)

Some of the training sessions cover things like preparing for a viva and this input has been helpful and reassuring, whilst the guidance from my supervisors has also been very important. I am still writing the final chapters of my thesis, it is a slow and sometimes painful experience, but I am sure will be worth it in the end! 

What would you say to someone thinking of coming to UEA? 

Go for it! 

…anything else you’d like to share! 

I already lived in Norfolk, but breaking out from my studies to enjoy the local rivers and broads, and nearby beaches, has been essential for my well-being. Norwich and the surrounding region are both welcoming and offer many opportunities for enjoying the outdoors. 


Norwich Medical School

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