Newsroom Higher Degree by Research Enabling Success at James Cook University in Singapore

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Higher Degree by Research Enabling Success at James Cook University in Singapore

Media Releases

Tue, 13 Aug 2019
Higher Degree by Research Enabling Success at James Cook University in Singapore

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology) candidate Victor Wong is the first recipient of the SPD Study Award.

(Victor Wong with his Doctoral research advisor, Senior Lecturer in Psychology Dr Bridget McConnell)

James Cook University in Singapore offers a place where students can grow and learn to make a difference to people and societies.

As a testament to this vision, Victor Wong, a Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology) candidate at James Cook University in Singapore, has become the first recipient of the SPD Study Award, receiving the opportunity to take up a career as a social service professional with SPD.

SPD is a local charity set up to help people with disabilities of all ages to maximise their potential and integrate them into society. It is this reason that spurred Victor to apply for the award.

“It is an honour to be the first recipient of the study award from SPD,” remarked Victor. “Receiving the award has greatly motivated me towards increasing my understanding of the demographic that the organisation serves. I am excited to become a part of the organisation to improve the mental health care of people coping with disabilities.”

He adds, “It is my aim to use all the experience and training that I have received at James Cook University in Singapore to aid me in making significant and long-lasting contributions to the organisation.”

Prior to pursuing his postgraduate studies, Victor worked as a full-time school counsellor under the Ministry of Education. This experience gave him the opportunity to work with many youths and their caretakers, exposing him to the challenges of the role in the process. He elaborates, “I experienced limitations in understanding the impact of complex and dynamic past experiences on the mental health of patients. I realised I was limited in my clinical knowledge and skills to help them.”

In a bid to overcome these limitations, Victor learnt important knowledge and new clinical skills that would push him towards providing better care for patients.

Dr Joanna Barlas, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, expanded on this sentiment, saying, “Mastery of both clinical and research skills is a hallmark of the clinical psychology profession and of the training provided by James Cook University in Singapore.”

Despite the demanding nature of the Doctor of Psychology (Clinical Psychology) program, it is the support, encouragement and compassion of the lecturers,  clinical supervisors and his Doctoral research advisors that has helped Victor grow and develop as a clinician and as a researcher.

(Victor demonstrating his VR research procedure with his research advisor, Dr McConnell)

As the key component of his Higher Degree by Research studies, Victor is conducting research on specific phobias – a class of anxiety disorder that presents with intense fear and anxiety towards objects, animals, situations or environments. Examples of this include fear of spiders, fear of heights, and fear of tight spaces.

Under the guidance of his research advisor and behavioural psychologist, Dr Bridget McConnell, Victor seeks to understand how the environment plays a part in an individual picking up these fears, and how those conditions affect the effectiveness of treatment afterwards. The research makes use of virtual reality technology, with the hope that other researchers may be encouraged to use modern technological advances in psychological research as well.

Dean of Research for the Singapore campus of James Cook University, Professor Dean Jerry, commended Victor for his initiative in applying for the award, and noted that such resourcefulness is a key tool for research candidates.

Professor Jerry commented, “It is great to see that Victor has applied for this award, as an important part of being a researcher is understanding the need to apply for awards and grant funding. Receiving awards like Victor has looks great on a CV, as well as signals to future employers that the student has the ability to pitch their research and skills in a societally relevant way.”

Find out more information about our Psychology courses here.

For further information on Psychology programs and areas of research strength in Psychology at James Cook University in Singapore, view our booklet here.


Research: Professor Dean Jerry
Media: Pinky Sibal