Jessica Webster 

PhD researcher - Psychology, Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment (IHN)

Jessica got an unexpected opportunity to start her PhD journey just when she needed it most. 



Jessica is studying the trajectories of adolescent mental health and well-being. She looks at how wellbeing changes during teenage years, looking at factors that protect wellbeing and how these might differ in high-risk groups (e.g. those of different ethnicities and with special educational needs). Her project will co-produce resources, guidelines and interventions that will be publicly accessible and support mental health support teams in Birmingham. 

A sudden change of direction 

Jessica carried out her undergraduate and master’s studies at Aston University and went on to work in a school. She began to explore the idea of educational psychology but on the day of a rejection, she received an email from her master’s supervisor about a research project that they were recruiting for. Within 2 weeks Jessica had left her job and started her PhD journey.

 It must have been fate. I feel so lucky that I was looking at a different career path and by coincidence the opportunity to undertake a PhD fell into place.

The supportive community helped to overcome anxieties and imposter syndrome 

Before her interview, Jessica had a meeting with her now supervisor to discuss the pre-defined project and answer any questions she had.

Reaching out to talk to people such as potential supervisors and staff is a really good idea. Aston University is a fairly small university compared to others, but you definitely experience the benefits of that through the friendly community here from staff to students.

The Graduate School were vital to Jessica’s integration during the first few months from setting up of IT, understanding new processes to training opportunities. The training offered, from data management to developing soft skills, has normalised anxieties she may have felt.

The support on offer stops imposter syndrome from developing through open conversations, training and everyone being so approachable.

Jessica attended a welcome event for postgraduate researchers at the IHN which provided a supportive network alongside the opportunities provided by the Aston Postgraduate Research Society (APRS). Conversations with other PhD and postdoctoral researchers in her office has also helped.  

Undertaking a PhD is a very scary, personal challenge. I went from working in a school which was a very fast paced environment to a much slower paced environment where I manage my own time and tasks. This was a big change, but the support here has been great to navigate that.