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Dr Melissa Aji

Clinical psychologist and researcher

Dr Melissa Aji

Curious about what makes people tick, Dr Melissa Aji has built a successful career as a clinical psychologist and researcher

After school, Dr Melissa Aji signed up for a degree in psychology at Macquarie University “because I’ve always been really curious about human behaviour – it’s so fascinating and complex,” she says.

“I was looking for a rewarding career and one where I can help people.”

After uni, Melissa embarked on a PhD that involved developing a mobile app to help treat insomnia – three years of research that she says was a highlight of her career.

Speaking of sleepless nights, Melissa then embarked on a Master of Psychology before she’d even finished her PhD! “It was a pretty busy and stressful time,” she says, reflecting that she probably wouldn’t recommend that approach in hindsight, unless it was part of a formal combined degree.

Combining practice and research

Nowadays, Melissa splits her time between practising as a clinical psychology registrar at a private practice, and undertaking research at the Black Dog Institute, where she’s leading a project evaluating a digital intervention for children with reading difficulties and anxiety.

“My clinical days will involve seeing clients with a range of disorders like anxiety and depression. Each appointment is 50 minutes and 10 minutes writing clinical notes after seeing a client for record keeping,” explains Melissa of her day-to-day tasks.  “My research days can be varied and might involve team meetings, attending webinars, writing papers, contacting participants and conducting reading assessments,” she adds.

Melissa says her career combining research and clinical practice is super rewarding, although she believes each on its own would also be fulfilling.

If you’re dreaming of a job as a psychologist, Melissa recommends making sure you’re clued up about all the pathways available, as it can sometimes be a tough career to break into.

“If it’s something you are passionate about – then persistence and hard work is key,” she says.

Dr Melissa Aji’s path to becoming a clinical psychology researcher

  • Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), Macquarie University
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Sydney
  • Master of Psychology (Clinical), Australian Catholic University
  • Clinical Psychology Registrar, Sydney Clinical Psychology
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, Black Dog Institute

This story first appeared in Careers with STEM: Science 2024. 

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