Discover SIM GE

Doing Research To Benefit Patients With Dementia

Psychology grad’s career goals revolve around helping people that need help, even if some don’t have the insight to recognise that they do.

“PSYCHOLOGY is an intriguing subject, about the human mind and how people behave. My course in Psychology taught me to appreciate both the individual and society as a whole,” says Russell Chander, Senior Research Assistant at the National Neuroscience Institute.

Russell, 27, specialises in dementia research. In his student days at the SIM-State University of New York at Buffalo, he showed a strong interest in social psychology and in abnormal psychology. In his current work on dementia, he is able to mesh both interests. “My research is about dementia in elderly patients. I assess their memory and ask questions on how their memory slips away gradually,” he says. “Singapore society faces the prospect of an aging population where dementia will be a big issue.”

He hopes his work can be of benefit to these patients. “I do want to further my career in psychology and neuroscience, and do a combination of clinical work and research. My current job is certainly a step in that direction in being a research job that still has a good amount of clinical exposure with patients. Essentially, my career goals revolve around helping people that need help, even if some of them don’t have the insight to recognise that they do,” he adds.

Studying At Buffalo

In his Junior College days he wanted to be an engineer but he soon discovered that Psychology was more intriguing. “Of all the subjects that I considered, Psychology appealed to me the most as it addressed my interest in knowing how people think and react. The more we understand how and why we think and feel the way we do, the better we can improve on it.

“I also took up Communications as a second major partway into my first year as the course material covered a lot of skill sets that I thought were useful for any person. These skills include public speaking and writing. This programme took me out of the purely knowledge-based system that I was used to, and placed me in a system that nurtured critical and flexible thinking, communication, and presentation skills. These are skills that have served me well inside and outside of campus.”

Studying at Buffalo gave Russell the opportunity to meet instructors and students from the US and other countries. “I’ve learnt a lot from their shared experiences and cultures, and I’ve learnt to be more culturally accepting and tolerant,” he adds.

As a student Russell participated in the SIM Psychology Society. “It was during this stint that I got to meet other individuals who have similar aspirations and interests in Psychology. I also managed to get an internship that helped me get a better feel of what I wanted to do after graduation.”

Besides the Psychology Club, Russell also served as president of the SIM Muay Thai club. Through Muay Thai, he kept himself physically fit, as well as learning more about teamwork, leadership, and camaraderie with fellow practitioners.

Leisure Pursuits

Now that he’s out of campus life, Russell runs to keep fit. “Running helps clear my mind when I’m stuck on a problem that I can’t seem to figure out. By focusing on the run and not on the problem, I can later re-visit the problem from a fresh perspective and think of something new.

“I enjoy video games when time permits. Sometimes I give in to my indulgences and go for action and shooter games, like Left 4 Dead and Battlefield, but I most enjoy games where there’s a greater need for me to think and strategise, such as the Portal series and Assassin’s Creed.

Dystopian Futures

“More often than not, I prefer reading as a quiet hobby. My favourite genre is dystopian novels, because they serve as warnings to us by painting hypothetical scenarios on what our world could become if we let the wrong people into power who make bad decisions.

“In this genre, I particularly enjoyed Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. There are also some psychology-themed books (not course readings) that I enjoyed for their in-depth look into human behaviour, like Liespotting by Pamela Meyer, and The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

“Apart from these, young adult novels are a bit of a guilty pleasure, like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.”

If he has to pitch any one book to someone to read, it would be The Pig That Wants to be Eaten by Julian Baggini. “This book postulates 100 short and easy to understand thought experiments on philosophical topics that everyone should think about at least once in their life, but hardly ever do because it’s too difficult,” Russell explains. “This book does a good job at making everything digestible.”

Enjoy School

“Enjoy your time in school!” says Russell to those who are struggling with textbooks and assignments and mugging for exams. “Take this opportunity to experience as much as you can in an effort to find yourself and get to know the kind of person you want to become. We should be open to taking such measured risks at any stage of our lives, but it’s significantly easier to do so while you’re still in school.”

He urges young people to “open your eyes to new experiences and the world around you… Once you are able to do this, you will become more adaptable and more able to understand how the world does and should work.”

It’s important to have the patience to listen to opposing arguments on what you know and believe in, he says. “If you live your life knowing one side of the story and never listening to the other, you can never know for sure if what you know is the big picture, or if it truly is the right way, if there even is one.

“A lot of the world’s conflicts and problems arise from the fact that humans don’t, or refuse to, understand and listen to each other. If you can learn to see things from the other point of view, you may understand where they are coming from, or it may even affirm and strengthen your current beliefs. Either way, you benefit,” says Russell.
 

- Posted online, 18 June 2015