Isabella Nizza is changing her career and pursuing her academic dreams thanks to the opportunities and financial support offered by Birkbeck. She used to work as a project manager in IT and design training courses, but is now building her academic career in health psychology as one of Birkbeck’s Anniversary Scholarship students.
Having left school in Italy at age 19, Isabella was apprehensive about starting her undergraduate university course in her forties, but her fears were unfounded. When studying for her BSc in Psychology at Birkbeck she even published an academic paper about why people are reluctant to carry organ donor cards.
She said: ‘Although I was an expert in project management methods, I did not find my work challenging, so I decided to do something truly for myself and study at Birkbeck. A part-time course at Birkbeck was the natural choice as I was still working and I knew I couldn’t handle a full-time degree. I felt intellectually alive and gained infinite pleasure from my undergraduate course. I was taught by people who knew their subject and were active researchers in their field.’
Isabella really valued the diversity in the classroom, both the range of backgrounds and ages of the students. She added: ‘I felt that I might be too old, but soon realised that my age at Birkbeck was not a factor. If you really want to study and succeed, you are never too old.’
Her undergraduate studies involved working with Professor Jonathan Smith, and she was the first author of an academic paper co-written with him about the experience of women who have not signed up to be organ donors.
Following an MSc in Health Psychology at King’s College London, Isabella applied for an Anniversary Scholarship from Birkbeck for further studies. She was successful and is delighted to be able to conduct her PhD Psychology research as a fully funded full-time student.
Isabella said: ‘When I received the Anniversary Scholarship for my PhD I was over the moon. It is a golden opportunity and I am so grateful to Birkbeck. Without this funding, I would not have been able to continue my studies. It is recognition of my hard work and potential, and shows that academic staff believe I can achieve excellence.’
Isabella’s PhD is about chronic pain and the experience of patients attending self-management programmes. She plans to work in academia once she has completed her PhD.