An interview with Dr Faith Matcham

Dr Faith Matcham is the NIHR Maudsley BRC Research Champion for diversity and inclusion. Faith also co-ordinates the major depression study within RADAR-CNS, which uses data collected from wearable devices and smartphone sensors to predict health outcomes in people with major depressive disorder, epilepsy and MS. She tweets from @faith_matcham

Please can you give us an overview of your role(s) – both within the BRC and in other projects?

At the NIHR Maudsley  BRC, I am the Research Champion for diversity and inclusion. I spend half a day a week working with colleagues to develop and deliver initiatives to help improve access to BRC activities and opportunities to the wider community, to improve the experiences of staff and students currently part of the BRC, and to support professional development of our staff and students.

These initiatives could be anything from seminars dedicated to D&I issues to larger scale interventions to try and improve the accessibility of research, or a research career, to more people from different backgrounds and with a range of protected characteristics.

When I’m not working in my capacity as Research Champion for D&I, I am a research associate for the Remote Assessment of Disease and Relapse  -- Central Nervous System (RADAR-CNS) IMI funded project, which is led by Professor Matthew Hotopf, CBE. I coordinate the major depression study within RADAR-CNS, which uses data collected from wearable devices and smartphone sensors to predict health outcomes in people with major depressive disorder.

What is your favourite part of your BRC role?

I really enjoy working with people from all the different clusters in the BRC, doing research in areas I’ve no personal experience of. It’s fascinating to hear about what’s happening across the BRC and I love learning about the exciting new discoveries in different fields of research.

Can you give a brief overview of your career? What are you most proud of?

I did a BA in Psychology at University of Sussex, and then an MSc in Health Psychology at a joint course between UCL and King’s. Shortly before finishing my MSc I got a job as a research assistant on the Integrating Mental and Physical Healthcare: Research, Training and Services (IMPARTS) project on a one-year contract which I thought would be a temporary job while I figured out what I wanted to do with my career. It turned out to be the start of a career which I feel so lucky to have had!

I spent five years on the IMPARTS team, starting and finishing a PhD looking at the long-term implications of depression and anxiety in people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and also doing a professional doctorate in Health Psychology. As I was finishing my PhD, the RADAR-CNS project began and I have been working as a post-doctoral research associate for RADAR-CNS since 2016.

I used to be most proud of my PhD – it felt like a huge accomplishment, and it was. However, the more I progress in my career, the more joy I get from watching other people’s careers take off. Seeing one of my research assistants develop her own ideas, start her PhD, excel at it, and in the future pass her viva (I’m sure with flying colours), brings me just as much pride as my own achievements have done so far.

How did you get interested in research?

Purely by accident – I didn’t realise it was an actual career until I started in my research assistant role with the IMPARTS team! I worked almost exclusively with brilliant, interesting, and passionate people, all doing things which felt so important and so necessary. I had a lightbulb moment a few weeks into my contract when I realised that this wasn’t just a job for me, but research was what  I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing, and that King’s was the place I wanted to be doing it.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your work / life?

I am not working on any specific COVID-19 projects, but we have integrated COVID-19 questionnaires into our research protocol to start collecting information about COVID infection and changes in our participants’ lifestyles due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. We’ve also been able to publish some interesting papers using the data we are collecting from the wearable technologies to track behaviours and changes in mood during the pandemic.

I find it hard to quantify the effect that COVID has had on my life. I had a baby in September 2019 before the pandemic hit, so my life had already changed immeasurably before everyone else’s did. In a way, COVID made some things slightly easier – I couldn’t complain about not getting to see my friends as often as I used to, because nobody was seeing anyone anyway. But I was at home with a six-month old baby without the support from family and friends I had hoped for. It has also been really hard not seeing my son develop the relationships with his grandparents that we were all looking forward to, as we’ve not been able to see them much at all.

Working from home has made the transition back to work easier than I expected; I have been able to catch-up at my own pace, reassured by knowing that everyone is finding things difficult. Although the more time has passed working from home, the more I miss my friends and being surrounded by people; it was the people that drew me into a research career in the first place. But I’m hopeful that things are getting better, and am excited about 2021 bringing back some kind of normalcy.

What does an average working day or week look like for you?

Very varied! My week will typically be split between project management tasks, managing my team of research assistants, putting together presentations, doing data analyses, teaching, writing papers, preparing for conferences, writing reports, or doing D&I tasks!

What are you working on at the moment?

In my D&I role I am working on developing a set of recommendations to build in to the upcoming BRC renewal.

In my research associate role, our RADAR-CNS project is coming to an end, so I am working on creating and cleaning the datasets for analysis and starting to write some of the first papers which will address our research aims.

All about you

Favourite book / TV series / box set of the last year

My favourite book has probably been ‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters. I’m about a decade too late, but I just watched The Fall and couldn’t stop thinking about it!

What is your go-to karaoke song?

Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.

Best discovery of lock down 1, 2, or 3

I think my best discovery of lockdown is the Houseparty app! It’s definitely helped me stay connected with friends.

How would you spend your perfect Saturday?

We would have a family breakfast with pancakes and then take our son to feed the ducks and visit a zoo or a farm, where he can point at animals and make lots of loud animal noises. After he’s gone to bed, then it’s time for home-made pizza, wine, and movie night! The non-lockdown version would include meeting friends and their children at the zoo (there would still need to be animals involved for the toddler’s benefit!) and then maybe substitute pizza night for some drinks with my friends!


Tags: BRC Interview Series -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 19 Apr 2021, 11:00 AM

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