Name, Credentials: Jennifer A. Veitch, Ph.D.
Job Title: Principal Research Officer
Company / Organization: National Research Council of Canada
City, State: Ottawa, Canada
B.Sc.[General, 1984] and a B.A.(Hons.) [Psychology,1986], University of Manitoba: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
M.A. [Ergonomic Psychology, 1987], Queen's University: Kingston,Ontario,Canada
Ph.D. [Environmental psychology, 1992], University of Victoria; Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
2009 Career Article by Dr. Veitch on APA website: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2009/06/veitch.aspx
2012 GradPSYCH Article & Video about Dr. Veitch's work: GradPSYCH - March 2012 - 11
How long have you worked for your current company or organization? 23 years
What are your primary duties in this position? NRC is Canada's principal federal government R&D agency, and focuses particularly on applied research relevant to Canadian industry and national interests. I work in the part of the organization devoted to the built environment. I conceive, obtain funding for, conduct, and report on research relating to the relationship between people and their physical environments, mostly work environments. I am particularly interested in how light and lighting affect people; and conversely am also interested in how choices we make affect building energy consumption. I also participate in teams to support projects led by colleagues, which may be outside my personal research interests. "Report on" means mostly reporting to the sponsors (both other government departments and private industry), but can also mean journal and conference papers, and presentations aimed at influencing how people design and operate buildings. We also serve as members on technical and standards committees to try to have our work built into recommendations, codes, and standards of various kinds.
What do you enjoy about your work? What are the perks and drawbacks? I have great colleagues and work in multidisciplinary teams, which means that we can conduct studies that would not be possible elsewhere. There is excellent technical support and ours are unique, world-leading facilities -- again, enabling very interesting work that I would not be able to do in academia.
There are drawbacks: Outside academia one must accept that there is no academic freedom; there are organizational priorities that influence which projects one works on. We also don't have the constant flow of new people coming and going (there is no teaching component to our work), so we miss the vitality that students can bring.
Career path: how did you land this position? What do you see in your future career plans? I came to NRC for what I thought was a 2-year postdoctoral research appointment, and was offered a continuing position. At that time there were few academic jobs in Canada, so it was an easy choice to stay. I expect to stay at NRC until retirement (normally this occurs at around 35 years), although in this life nothing is certain. After retirement I expect to stay active in environmental psychology and lighting research in some capacity, either as a volunteer in professional associations or as a paid consultant.
What career advice would you like to share with graduate students seeking careers in your field? 1. Have some generalizable skills -- for example, research methods, statistics, interviewing -- that you are able and willing to apply to any reasonable topic. 2.Develop excellent communication skills: write well in your research papers, but also learn to summarize your work for a non-specialist audience. Be able to explain your work to your grandmother in a few minutes, or to write it up in 500 words or less without jargon. 3. Be open to new opportunities. Although I landed a job that exactly follows my doctoral research, that was just lucky. Even at my stage, if I were to need a different job, I fully expect it would be in a different area -- when you are highly specialized, there are not many openings.
Ways I am involved with SPSSI: Read newsletters / mailings / website
What is the importance of SPSSI for psychologists working outside of academia? Professional organizations and the networks they link to keep you up to date on knowledge as it develops, give you people to turn to when you need advice (this is more important when your colleagues don't share your expertise), and could lead you to new jobs. SPSSI is special in this regard because of its focus on application for social good, which fits with my environmental interests.