Joint PhD research success

“Doing a Joint PhD will never be easy, but that’s what also makes it so worthwhile. Having interuniversity and interdisciplinary supervisors is incredibly stimulating and helps me be creative” says Monash Warwick Alliance Joint PhD candidate, Simon van Baal.

Currently researching the link between impulsivity and self-control, Simon is a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at Monash.

“I decided to pursue a PhD when I started to get interested in intertemporal choice paradigms (trading off monetary rewards that arrive at different time points).

My time at the Cognition and Philosophy lab at Monash granted me the opportunity to attain a broader view of what constitutes impulsivity and self-control.”

Now working towards a Joint PhD through the Monash Warwick Alliance, Simon’s research investigates what constitutes impulsive behaviour and a lack of self-control, when they occur, and how people can alleviate problems related to these phenomena.

“My research contributes to knowledge on a fundamental part of human behaviour. Impulsivity and a lack of self-control are detrimental to society and individual goal achievement because they limit a person's potential to maintain a policy that is in line with what they want to achieve.”

Simon holds a MSc Behavioural and Economic Science from the University of Warwick and says the Joint PhD has given him the chance to maintain his ties with the UK.

“It’s allowed me to continue collaborating with my connections at Warwick, while being able to work in a vibrant lab with people that bring new perspectives at Monash. I’m also lucky to have supervisors (Professor Jakob Hohwy and Professor Antonio Verdejo-Garcia at Monash, and Associate Professor Lukasz Walasek at Warwick) who are willing to be flexible such that we can put our heads together regularly.”

Simon’s dedication to his research is evident in his most recent achievements.

“My supervisors at Monash and I recently received funding from the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria to implement the behavioural interventions we developed for a chatbot designed to increase compliance with COVID-Safe behaviours.

I also worked with Professor Hohwy to publish a preprint titled “Risk perception and personal responsibility during COVID-19: An experimental study of the role of imperative vs reasoning-based communication for self-isolation attitudes” that investigates the effects of different communication styles on self-isolation attitudes.”

Further to these outstanding achievements, Simon continues to work on a number of other projects, including a conceptual paper that discusses how we should define impulsivity and self-control, an experimental paper that examines the effects of various framings on intertemporal choice and several experiments that examine decision making relating to staying home during the pandemic.

On giving advice to other students that may be considering a Joint PhD, Simon says he wished he had been more curious as an undergraduate.

“I would advocate looking closely at how researchers try to tackle a certain problem, which they usually give away in the introduction of their papers. It can be illuminating to see how researchers come up with experiments or arguments to approach abstract (or specific) problems. If anything, it’s a good question to ask a researcher, and it may spark a great conversation that will build a connection with that person. Entertaining a good relationship with the teaching and researching staff may give you opportunities in academia, so this is always advisable if you want to keep that door open.”

Discover what a Monash Warwick Alliance Joint PhD can do for you