“UL wants to get the best out of me in both my career paths”

Tuesday, 1st August 2017

Jessie Barr - PhD student in the PE and Sports Science department

I am a 2nd year PhD student in the PE and Sports Science department. My PhD is in sports psychology looking at mental health in elite athletes, more specifically, the stigma around mental health that athletes perceive. I’m also a full time athlete in the 400 metre hurdles, and I competed at the London 2012 Olympics.

When I was thinking about doing a PhD there was no question of where I was going to go. I chose UL because I did my undergraduate here and I knew I would be returning to an excellent training group. On my return to Limerick after completing an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology in the UK, I met with my current supervisor Tadhg McIntyre, a prominent sports psychologist in Ireland, and I knew a PhD was the right direction to take in my academic career.

UL expects a lot from their students but provides excellent support to help students achieve their endeavours. The PESS department is very supportive, especially to postgraduate students. We are placed in offices with people who are at the same stage in their studies to benefit from peer support and we are only down the hall from our supervisors.

I’ve been very lucky to have been awarded with one of UL’s prestigious sport scholarships and with the work of the UL Beo initiative I am well supported in my training and study. It can be tough to balance my academic and athletic work but my coaches and supervisors are on board so I have support all around; they want to get the best out of me in both my career paths.

UL is Ireland’s sporting campus, the sports facilities cannot be matched anywhere. To be able to drive in to campus and have everything you need within the gates of UL, you don’t really get this anywhere else. The track is 2 minutes from my office as is the Sports Arena. I don’t have to drive for an hour to get to training so there is no time wasted in my busy schedule.

The academic facilities are equally as good at UL. The PESS department has excellent facilities that I will avail of for my studies. I am so lucky that I have everything I need in such close proximity.

The PhD has already opened doors for me in terms of exposure as a researcher and as a potential future practitioner. I am realising how seeing a degree from UL on a CV is very attractive to employers. I don’t see myself solely in academia but I see myself working as a scientist practitioner; I want to continue my research but also engage in practical work with athletes. When I originally thought of academia I thought I would just be a lot of writing, but it also involves attending conferences, workshops and other CPD opportunities. I really enjoy this aspect of the PhD, speaking and meeting different people in different fields. Sports psychology is starting to finally be recognised as a critical aspect of performance and is constantly growing in interest and popularity. I am excited to be involved in the continued growth and expansion of the discipline in Ireland and my PhD at UL is preparing me for whatever my future career path may be.