Stephanie Tobin headshot

Posted August 21, 2019

Stephanie Tobin is a Senior Lecturer at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia. Her research focuses on belonging and information needs in the context of social and other digital media. She received her PhD in social psychology from Ohio State University in 2004. Before joining QUT, she held academic positions at the University of Houston, the University of Queensland, and Australian Catholic University. 

What led you to choose a career in social and personality psychology?

I fell in love with social psychology when I took a research methods in social psychology class in my junior year at the University of Florida. Through talking to my professor (Donna Webster), I found out about doing an honors project and started working in James Shepperd’s lab. I loved his creative approach to research, with manipulations involving freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and jumping back and forth across a line. From there, I went to Ohio State University for graduate school and worked with Gifford Weary. It was great being part of such a large group of social psychologists and learning more about the field. I went to four different lab meetings and looked forward to MPA and SPSP every year. The main appeal of a career in social and personality psychology for me is that I find it interesting. The work also feels important and relevant to society. 

What made you join SPSP?

I joined SPSP in my first year of graduate school (1997). I joined the email listserv, started collecting issues of PSPB, and received an SPSP student travel award before the SPSP convention even existed (I used the funding to attend APS). I went to the first SPSP in 2000 and up until 2018, I had been to every single SPSP conference, even when living overseas. Being a member and attending the conference is a great way to stay up to date on what is happening in the field and catch up with people.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I love the immediacy of teaching. So much of research is delayed, but with teaching, you can communicate ideas and see in real time how students respond. I feel energized when I see students engaging with the content.

Do you have a favorite course to teach?

My favorite class to teach is Introduction to Social Psychology. I've been teaching it for 18 years, across 5 different universities, with class sizes ranging from 20 to 500+. It's easy to provide relevant examples of the different theories and effects, which helps to engage students. It never gets boring. There is always something new happening in the field or the world to incorporate.

What do you enjoy most about the research process?

I like the beginning and end stages the most. I like the initial flash of an idea and working out how to develop and test it with collaborators. And I like the end stage when I can consolidate everything into a presentation or paper and share it with others.

What led to your interest in studying social media use?

It started over drinks with colleagues in 2011. We were discussing Facebook and came up with an idea for a study, which we further developed at a writing retreat. It was exciting to jump into a new literature that had a great deal of multidisciplinary activity. My interest is sustained by the volume and complexity of research in this area, as well as the high level of interest among the general public.

What advice would give to someone interested in a similar career path?

Talk to people and apply for things. So many opportunities and ideas arise from conversations and connections. It's easy to get discouraged when things aren't working out or you think about all the competition out there, but if you keep putting yourself out there, you'll probably find something that works for you.