Forensic psychology students share latest research

Last month, students from Victoria University of Wellington’s Forensic Psychology Master’s and PhD programmes came together to hold the Forensic Psychology Student Annual Conference.

The event, held at the University’s Kelburn campus, is run by the students. The idea, says Forensic Psychology programme director Associate Professor Louise Dixon, is to give students the chance to showcase their work and learn from each other.

Students present their work to fellow postgraduate students, undergraduate students, and representatives from local organisations. These organisations are companies that have supported the students by providing work placements and other support, and this conference is a chance to thank them by giving them access to the latest student research, Associate Professor Dixon says.

“These students are the next generation who will complete the research that will be used in real-life applications of forensic psychology, so it’s fitting that they get the chance to practice sharing their work before completing their degrees” Associate Professor Dixon says. “This is also a chance for the postgraduate students to show the undergraduate students what is possible.”

Eight students presented their research at the conference, covering topics such as intimate partner aggression, child sexual exploitation offenders, children’s memory and witness credibility, male student experiences of self-harm, adolescent engagement with the Youth Justice System, gangs in New Zealand, and the contribution of culture to forensics. Daniel Wegerhoff, Elsemiek Griemink, and Phillippa Dean received prizes for their presentations – Daniel on gangs, Elsemiek on child sexual exploitation offenders, and Phillippa on adolescents and their engagement with the Youth Justice System.

As well as student presentations, conference attendees also heard from several guest speakers, including Dr Juanita Ryan from the Department of Corrections, who spoke to the students about career opportunities available in their field, and Associate Professor Rachel Zajac from the University of Otago, who spoke about how psychological research can be used to improve criminal investigations.

“It is so important that professionals who shape practice and policy in the real world can share their first-hand experience of how research can be impactful to engage students to go onto make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders,” Associate Professor Dixon says.