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Translating mental health and substance use prevention research to school communities

8 July 2022
Researcher Spotlight: Dr Emma Devine
We spoke to Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Emma Devine, about her journey to research translation and application, and two projects she manages at the Matilda Centre.
Dr Emma Devine

Dr Emma Devine

What is your background and how did you come to join The Matilda Centre?

I started out studying psychology and completed a Bachelor of Psychology and then a Masters in Psychological Science at University College Dublin.

I initially pursued psychology because I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but this all changed during my Masters when I completed a research project that explored the impact of positive and negative social media experiences on the mental health of adolescents.

The project was my first introduction to research, and I found that I really enjoyed the process of trying to answer questions and advance our understanding of human behaviours and emotions.  

I went on to do a PhD in Psychology at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at Australian Catholic University. There I investigated the links between aggression and mental ill-health over time in the context of adolescent friendship groups. During my PhD I had the opportunity to further explore my interest in mental health research by working on other studies that, for example, focused on the impact of friendships on mental health and the effects of leader mindfulness on follower mental health.  

In 2021, I joined the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow. This role has been an incredible opportunity to continue researching mental health, expand my research interests to also include substance use and prevention, and to gain experience in the development, evaluation, and dissemination of prevention programs, all while working with incredibly talented and supportive colleagues.

Can you tell us about the projects you are working on?

I manage two projects at the Matilda Centre. The first is Learning with FASD which is a website developed in collaboration with researchers, FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) experts, and education experts to provide primary school educators with evidence-based resources to help them understand and support children with FASD in their ongoing learning. Learning with FASD was officially launched in March 2022 and it has been great to see people accessing and using these important resources.  

The second project is Positive Choices, which is an online portal that provides schools, parents, and students with centralised access to evidence-based and up-to-date alcohol and other drug education resources. Compared to Learning with FASD, Positive Choices is more established, having launched several years ago now. One thing that I have really enjoyed about working across two projects at different stages of their development is the diversity of tasks that comes along with it and being able to apply learnings from one to the other.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

One of the things I find most rewarding about my job is that I get to be heavily involved in research translation. Research translation is all about bridging the gap between the knowledge acquired through research and its application to policy and practice, and I think researchers have an important role to play in bridging this gap. Both Learning with FASD and Positive Choices provide lots of opportunities to be involved in research translation and it is really exciting to see the discoveries made at the research stage be used in real world contexts to better improve the health and wellbeing of others.

Positive Choices

Positive Choices logo
Helping Australian schools and communities access accurate, up-to-date evidence based alcohol and other drug education resources.
positivechoices.org.au

Learning with FASD

Learning with FASD logo
Evidence-based resources to help educators understand and support children with FASD in Australian primary schools.
learningwithfasd.org.au

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