Meet the lecturer: Professor Pauline Heslop

Meet Professor Pauline Heslop, Programme Director for the MRes Health and Wellbeing.

Tell us about your journey into academia…

I suppose I’ve had a less ‘traditional’ route into academia than some of my colleagues. I started my working life as a nurse, specialising in working with sick children, but that was brought to an abrupt halt by a car accident. I wasn’t able to return to nursing and felt at a bit of a crossroads, not sure what else I wanted to do. I opted to go back to studying, which was hard financially, but absolutely the best thing for me. I studied for a degree as a mature student, then was awarded a scholarship to do a PhD, so I have lots of empathy for people trying to juggle home and family life, living on a tight budget, and seeing friends taking different directions in their own lives. It can be done though – I was awarded my PhD nearly 20 years ago now and have been working at the University of Bristol since. 


What’s your favourite thing about teaching on postgraduate taught programmes at Bristol? 

The MRes Health and Wellbeing course, for which I am the Programme Director, combines all my interests – it is research based, focuses on health and wellbeing from a range of different perspectives, and encourages students to think ‘outside the box’. It is one of the five South West Doctoral Training Partnership interdisciplinary pathways that are taught in partnership with the University of Bath, University of the West of England and University of Exeter. This means that students have the opportunity to take optional units from across the partnership, according to their interests. That is potentially a huge benefit to students, and past students speak highly of how this has helped them to develop their research skills and interests. 


What are your top tips for prospective postgraduate students?

Thinking about my own experiences and those of the students I support, I’d give my three top tips as the following: 

  1. Believe in yourself enough to make it happen. When we set out to learn anything new it can be hard and frustrating at times, but with effort, most of us can achieve what we sometimes don’t think we can….remember those first driving lessons? If you trust in yourself that you can study a postgraduate level, and work hard at it, most people can achieve great things.
  2. Work hard but maintain a sense of balance…this is a course about health and wellbeing after all!
  3. Take advantage of the opportunities on offer. The University of Bristol provides a wealth of study support and social opportunities for students, so take advantage of them if you can and you will have a richer experience of university life.  

And finally, I’ll sneak one more in…life has changed considerably due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we have all had a chance to rethink what is important to us in life. That might be social contact, a sense of community, a need to feel valued and to have a role to play in society etc. Hold on to those thoughts of yours – they are absolutely about health and wellbeing, the topic of this master’s. 


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