An ECR reflects! (Kirsty Dunn)

Published: 13 April 2023

In our third interview we chat to Dr Kirsty Dunn, Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, about her experience of being an ECR in SHW

In our third interview we chat to Dr Kirsty Dunn – who leads the SHW Athena Swan early career researcher career progression working group – about her experience of being an ECR in SHW. Kirsty is a lecturer in clinical psychology in the Mental Health and Wellbeing group. Her research centres on the health and wellbeing of people with intellectual disabilities and of family carers and using record linkage to answer these questions. Kirsty is also currently setting up a grant writing training group for ECRs at all career stages in SHW. If you are interested in getting involved, you can get in touch with Kirsty at

Photo of a blue table with a laptop, coffee, plant and notepad

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your former self, as an ECR starting out, if you could back in time?

If I could go back in time, I would advise my former self to be more proactive in seeking out my own opportunities. When I first started working as an ECR I knew that there were certain development activities that I wasn’t participating in, such as co-supervising a PGR student and being involved in writing a grant. However, I wasn’t sure how to go about obtaining these types of experiences and didn’t feel confident asking for help to achieve these goals. Since becoming more proactive about this I have found that when I’ve approached more experienced researchers to ask for their guidance and support to identify and obtain these opportunities, they have been happy to help. I wish I had started doing this earlier!

What is your favourite and least favourite part about working in academia?

Favourite – Working with interesting and passionate people. Feeling that I am contributing to positive change within our society.

Least favourite – Issues around short-term contracts!

Do you have any go-to routines or habits that you find helpful for writing/reading/other research activities?

I find project management software helpful for keeping on top of what stage different projects are at, and what needs to be prioritised each week. I also write to-do lists on post-its at the start of each day, otherwise I’d be lost!

Have you had any mentors in your time as an ECR, and how have you benefited from these relationships?

I have a formal mentor that I was paired with when taking part in the Aurora Leadership Program, and have also benefited from the advice and guidance of a number of more informal mentors. Having someone other than my line manager to talk through challenges or ideas can been really helpful. It’s nice to hear from people with different career journey and different perspectives on an issue.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in academia?

When I started school English literature was my favourite subject and I wanted to write books. Now, it’s hard to imagine working outside of the university environment. Perhaps a research support role?

Read our previous interviews with ECRs

Find out more about the aims and activities of the SHW Athena Swan ECR group

First published: 13 April 2023