Tom Shepherd

From a very young age I had an intense love for music. Having an eclectic taste for a diverse range of genres meant music became the media through which I could express myself  – something which seemed impossible for me to do in more traditional school subjects, and despite my best efforts, I had minimal ability with a paintbrush or any other art form. Expression through music became more prominent for me as I learnt to play the guitar and in my teenage years and early 20s – I played in numerous live bands, across multiple genres, composing set lists of both covers and self-written songs. I recently learnt to play the piano and the ukulele to satisfy my need to be able to further explore different styles of music.  

My academic career began at Keele University in 2004, when I began a dual honours degree in Psychology and Criminology. In the same year I was coerced into participating in Keele’s then annual contest `Keele’s Got Talent’, by my newly acquired university friends. This pitted me against the Keele drama, comedy and music societies who all performed very well-rehearsed acts in the event hosted in the Student’s Union. I performed a cover and a song I had written five years earlier, and to my complete shock I took first prize – a DVD player and a box of beers. My parents still use the DVD player today, the box of beers didn’t last long enough to leave the Students Union.  

After my undergraduate studies, I started a MSc in research methods, something which I thought would not only be the postgraduate qualification to bridge me towards a PhD but also to provide the methodological insight to underpin further research work. I received a distinction award and consequently decided to pursue a research career. I was a research assistant in the School of Psychology working on projects with populations with chronic long term illness, including Parkinson’s disease, McArdle’s disease and Autism, further developing methodological expertise and awareness. I was also a teaching fellow in this time and taught on a range of theoretical and research methods based modules teaching both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Highlights for me at this time were teaching research methods and ethics as an international lecturer at Ludong University, China. And being invited to a summer congress in Berlin for career neuropsychologists, for which there were only 40 places for the whole of Europe.  

I began a PhD in 2011 and used a series of clinical trials to compare the effects of different types of dopaminergic medication on memory and mood in patients with Parkinson’s. In addition, I used qualitative methodologies to explore with Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers, the barriers to participating in clinical trials in a bid to develop more accessible research for patients and their families.  

Towards the end of my PhD studies, I moved to the School of Medicine, where I now work as a Lecturer in Global Health. The idea of developing interdisciplinary and cross-sector research partnerships and consequently innovative methodologies with the primary objective of helping to improve the health of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people is an exciting prospect.