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How I Spent My (Home Team) Summer: Work-from-Home Edition (Part 2)

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the learning doesn’t stop. Four students share their learning and research journeys with the Home Team.
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

Over 12 weeks, a group of students from various educational institutions stepped out of the classroom and into the world of applied psychological research, taking on a variety of topics as interns with the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC). 

With the guidance and support of their supervisors and fellow interns, an internship that began with awkward Zoom-calls soon blossomed into a valuable learning and bonding experience, one made even more memorable by remote working and research. Here’s what they learnt! 

Sarah Tan is a final-year student at the National University of Singapore (NUS) who’s pursuing a Major in Psychology. She conducted her research on the non-compliance with Circuit Breaker measures and proposed strategies for Enforcement Officers and Safe Distancing Ambassadors to enhance their effectiveness.

PHOTO: Sarah Tan

Why did you decide to work on the topic of COVID-19 enforcement operations? 
The rising number of cases of physical and verbal abuse against the Enforcement Officers and Safe Distancing Ambassadors was puzzling to me, as they were just carrying out their responsibilities. I was also curious about the differences between the public’s reaction towards COVID-19 safety measures and officers locally and overseas. 

Through my research, I provided possible reasons why people were non-compliant with Circuit Breaker measures and proposed strategies to help mitigate the negative reactions of these individuals. Ultimately, my research aims to enhance the effectiveness and safety of future enforcement operations.

Has this internship influenced your future career path?
For sure! I wasn’t sure if research was a viable career option for me because the only research-based roles I’d been exposed to were academic in focus. Additionally, I was always keen on pursuing Clinical Psychology, hence hadn’t given much thought to other paths. However, this internship has enlightened me about Applied Psychology and how it can benefit us. 

What was the most memorable experience of your internship?
It was definitely the opportunity to interview Enforcement Officers. This gave me great insight into their work and helped me realise that many empathise with members of the public. Beyond that, it was very fulfilling to engage with the interviewees, my supervisors and fellow interns, and not just work with numbers or data. 

What are your key takeaways from the internship?
My main takeaway is to always have a growth mindset. I came into the internship very nervous that I wouldn’t be able to produce substantial research. The nature of my project was also very different from what I was used to. However, I soon realised the importance of being teachable. It was important that I learn to ask questions and voice out my thought process when I was stuck as, ultimately, I was at the HTBSC to learn! 

A Psychology undergraduate at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, Julius Goh stepped out of his comfort zone to study emerging criminal deviant practices in cyberspace for his research project.

PHOTO: Julius Goh

Why did you decide to do an internship with the HTBSC?
In general, opportunities for applied research for students of Psychology is Singapore are fairly limited. I hoped to gain insight into how psychological research is conducted and how it can be applied to fight crime.

What was the most challenging part of your project?
I had to overcome my personal sense of moral dissonance, having been brought up in an environment that shuns topics such as pornography. However, this internship taught me that valid research has to encompass challenging subjects, not just the ones we’re comfortable with. 

I’m glad that my findings can bring about a greater understanding – based on foundational psychological theories – of criminal deviant behaviours that have adapted to modern lifestyles. Moreover, by highlighting cyberspace domains where evidence of criminal deviant behaviours are more likely to be found, I hope to aid in future criminal investigations. 

Share your most memorable experience of the internship.
It would be the HTBSC Webinar in July 2020 when we presented our research findings. Prior to this, I hadn’t had much presentation experience, especially to such a huge audience, and over Zoom. 

What advice would you give your younger self who was considering the internship?
Keep an open mind and enjoy the process!

How do you know if someone you meet online is telling you the truth? A Third-year Psychology Studies student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Charlene Seah conducted research on perceptions of lying indicators during one-on-one interactions on online platforms. 

PHOTO: Charlene Seah

Why did you decide to work on the topic of online scams?
Online scams are a growing source of concern; in the first half of 2020, an increase in scams contributed to an overall rise in crime. I’d also seen news reports on victims of online scams, with some being repeat victims. This made me wonder why certain individuals are more susceptible to such scams. After my supervisor highlighted how one’s response to cues in cases of online deception may be a factor, I decided to take this as my project. 

Why did you take up the internship?
I became interested in Forensic Psychology after watching documentaries and shows about crime. I’d also enjoyed my Statistics and research modules in school, and since an internship with HTBSC would allow me to conduct research in Criminal Psychology, I decided to take it up. 
What was the most challenging part of your project?
It was the data collection. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I couldn’t collect responses directly from members of the public, as my seniors had previously done. Despite this, it was very rewarding for me to present part of my research for my school’s Final Year Project. My lecturers were very impressed by my research findings. They even recommended that I explore the topic further, which I’m extremely grateful for.

How was your internship experience?
I enjoyed my time at the HTBSC and the Home Team! When I first started, I didn’t know what to expect, especially since I’m quite shy. However, the atmosphere at the HTBSC was really nice. Everyone was so kind and friendly, ensuring that I didn’t feel lonely. I’m really grateful for this experience. :)

What are your key takeaways from the internship?
My research findings revealed the cues that people generally look out for in detecting lies online and we can help the public to better detect such deception through advisories and preventive messages.

I also learnt the importance of conducting research according to the moment we’re in, in a timely manner. My supervisors and I had expected our main findings to match those of similar studies that had been done previously on the subject of online deception, but this wasn't always the case. This internship has taught me that as circumstances change over time, we need to conduct research on a continuing basis, to better understand and respond to issues. 

Natasha Doshi is a final-year NUS undergraduate majoring in Psychology. Zooming into the challenges of remote working during the COVID-19 outbreak, she offers recommendations about what supervisors can do to combat them. 

PHOTO: Natasha Doshi

Why did you decide to work on the topic of remote working?
It’s very relatable to many of us right now. When we entered the Circuit Breaker, there were a lot of discussions about the struggles of remote working and what supervisors and managers can do to boost the morale and productivity of employees. I wanted to contribute a novel perspective by examining the issue through a psychological lens. This helps supervisors not only know what to do, but to also understand the reasons why the recommendations work. Ultimately, I hope to help organisations cope with a way of working that’s no longer just temporary, but slowly becoming our new normal.

Why did you decide to do an internship with HTBSC?
I was curious about how research outside of classroom is done, and was really excited to step out of my comfort zone to explore how conducting research on real cases was like with HTBSC.

Share with us the most memorable experience of the internship. 
It would definitely be the HTBSC Webinar in July 2020 when the interns presented our research findings to our supervisors and other professionals in the field! I’d never planned or executed a Webinar before, so it was new to me! 

From planning, publicising and finally executing it, the entire experience was really memorable. It also brought the interns even closer together because, although we were all novices, we found a way to do it together, with teamwork.

Share what you’d tell your younger self about an internship with the Home Team.
Go for it! After this internship, I realised how useful research can be when you apply it to real-life issues. I learnt and grew so much from this experience, so I’d tell my younger self to take a leap of faith and just apply!

I had a really great time, and the 12 weeks of my internship really flew by. The people here are extremely helpful and friendly, and I love the workplace culture at HTBSC! 

Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC)
Based at the Home Team Academy, HTBSC provides support to Home Team officers by conducting pioneering research into areas where behavioural sciences can act as an operational multiplier. HTBSC internships are open to Polytechnic and University students. For more information, email MHA_HTBSC_COMMS@mha.gov.sg.

Read Part 1 of How I Spent my (Home Team) Summer: Work from Home Edition

Internship Opportunities with the Home Team

Keen to learn more about internship opportunities with the Home Team? Check out MHA Internships

Written by

Vivian Moh


11 September 2020

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