Brain Sciences


Psychology and Language Sciences researcher makes shortlist for national science writing competition

9 April 2019

PhD student Alessandro Massazza was a runner-up for a national science writing competition organised by the Economic and Social Research Council, called Better Lives.

Alessandro Massazza

Alessandro’s paper focused on intrusive memories, a symptom of the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These are vivid, highly sensory memories of sections of the trauma that can sometimes pop up in the minds of survivors without them wanting to and can feel as though the trauma is happening all over again.

His research addresses why only ‘certain moments’ of a trauma are encoded as intrusive memories, while the remaining moments of the same trauma are encoded as normal autobiographical memories.

He collected qualitative and quantitative data on intrusive memories from 104 earthquake survivors by living for several months in the most hardly hit disaster zone of the 2016-17 Central Italy earthquakes.

The ESRC, in partnership with SAGE Publishing, organised its third student writing competition and ESRC-funded PhD students were asked to explain how their research has an impact on improving the lives of people. Alessandro was one of 12 finalists from 117 applicants.

“It was fantastic to receive the news that I had been selected as one of the finalists for the ESRC and SAGE BetterLives science writing competition. The breadth of topics tackled through this competition was truly striking, encompassing migration, climate change, and health. I was glad that mine and others’ research on mental health conditions were included side by side to key contemporary issues,” said Alessandro.

Alessandro Massazza

The competition celebrates and fosters the writing skills of the next generation of social scientists, while engaging the public with the incredible breadth and depth of social science research taking place throughout the UK.

Entrants were encouraged to use their imagination to write 800 words that would capture the interest of the public, engage people with their research and demonstrate their writing and communication skills. A judging panel selected the 12 finalists.

Professor Shamit Saggar, Director, The University of Western Australia Public Policy Institute, and a judge for the competition said: “The judging panel of the 2019 Better Lives competition examined many excellent examples of work that showed the very best of ESRC-supported doctoral research that was both intellectually strong and highly focused on tackling real-world practical social problems. The finalists amply demonstrate that social science matters in shaping evidence-led solutions. Investment in doctoral research is therefore vital and reflects the seriousness in our ambitions as a society to drive prosperity and social cohesion.”

All shortlisted candidates will get the opportunity to attend a writing masterclass on how to get published, run by SAGE publishing.