Dr Keri Wong is an Assistant Professor in Psychology, based in the Department of Psychology and Human Development. She founded and co-chairs the IOE Early Career Network.
At the IOE
What attracted you to your position at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?
There are many reasons but the main one must be because of its global reputation in education research, teaching, and policy. As my work focuses on youth mental health in schools, the IOE was the place where I could see potential for my research to have an impact on children’s and teacher’s mental wellbeing as well as school policy.
What do you most enjoy about your position?
As an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) I am involved with all aspects of teaching, research and administrative roles – all of which overlap and make my day interesting. I most enjoy having the freedom to pursue important research questions in psychology and know that I’m contributing to a bigger cause. I am grateful every day that I get to do what I do and for that, I know I have picked the right career path.
What were you doing before this?
I was previously the Betty Behrens Junior Research Fellow (JRF) at the University of Cambridge, Clare Hall College. Through large data and international collaborations, I investigated the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour and crime and the intersection with disabling conditions like schizophrenia/paranoia in non-clinical children, twin samples, and adolescent-onset schizophrenia patients. I also supervised undergraduate and master’s students in my role and ran the Clare Hall Postdoc Society.
What is the focus of your research?
My research focuses on the causes and maintenance factors of the schizophrenia and crime relationship. As a developmental psychologist and criminologist, I am interested in understanding how we can better assess and prevent childhood mental health issues from developing into disabling mental illnesses like schizophrenia and antisocial behaviours in later life.
My interdisciplinary work spanning psychological, psychiatry and education involves working with various populations; from school children and parents to young adults and patients.
“Where I see my research making the most impact is in schools – equipping schools and teachers with the mental health toolkit needed to ensure our children reach their full potential."
Tell us about a project you are working now.
I launched the UCL-Penn Global COVID Study in April 2020, a longitudinal survey to investigate the short- and longer-term impact of the pandemic on mental health, physical health and social trust. Supported by the UCL Global Engagement Fund, study findings from over 2000 participants will be presented in a webinar series in summer 2021 and have also been published and presented as scientific papers and policy inquiries.
- The seminar series 'Lessons from COVID-19: Reflections, resilience, and recovery' takes place over five free webinars between 2 June and 28 July 2021.
What's the most important thing you've learned from your students?
I learn from my students every day. Despite the changing times, they continue to impress me with their emotional resilience and creativity in pursuit of their subject but also in sharing that knowledge both inside and outside the classroom.
“The most important thing my students have taught me is how resilient they are as a generation."
I have been fortunate to work with various campus student groups on mental health activities over the years - and more recently through a UCL ChangeMakers grant - to bring the student community together in order to better understand the importance of mental health (as well as physical health) and how we can facilitate better overall health for everyone. These student leaders who have the foresight to put student’s mental health front and centre will graduate and lead our society across all industries – and for this, I am inspired to do all that I can to support them.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my contribution to founding and co-chairing the IOE Early Career Network (ECN) with Dr Emma Jones in the past two years.
Our grassroots network started from simple conversations. With the support of the senior management team, the ECN has grown with a Twitter presence upwards of 760 followers, we have representation across all six IOE departments. We are making strides in communicating the needs of early career staff to senior management leaders.
Through this role, I have become more aware of university operations and have been afforded the opportunity to play a bigger role in hiring processes and structural changes. Our November 2020 ECN survey even sparked the conversation around the importance of mentoring for EC staff not just for career progression but also in terms of staying connected as a community and maintaining good mental health during these challenging times.
I hope the ECN will continue to represent and support all self-identified early career staff members with their personal and professional development in the years to come, as I look to pass on the baton to our successors at the end of my tenure.
What other subjects outside your area of specialism interest you?
Computer science (AI, natural language processing), English Literature, Fine Art, and Biology.
What might it surprise people to know about you?
If I didn’t pursue psychology, I would’ve been an artist. I especially like to paint and throw pots. I also grew up playing lots of sports, racket sports and team sports. I miss that now as an adult, so I’m really glad I got to do all that when I was young!