While she is graduating with her MA in Clinical Psychology at fall convocation, Aliya McNeil is already working toward her PhD in the same discipline, here at Waterloo. She was recently awarded the Vanier Graduate Scholarship — one of the country’s most prestigious scholarships — to support her doctoral research and work.

The Vanier scholarship is awarded for both the potential of a candidate’s research and their established record of leadership. McNeil’s graduate research is rooted in the intricacies of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), seeking to unveil the complex layers behind the frequent and intrusive thoughts people encounter.

During her master’s research, McNeil uncovered how fear of compassion and anxious or avoidant attachments play a significant role in maintaining OCD. Her ongoing research aims to “better understand how catastrophic appraisals of intrusive thoughts develop and why some people have difficulty de-activating the threat system."

McNeil’s dedication to this area of psychology stems from her observations during her summer clinical practicum in the psychology program, where she had a firsthand view of how OCD affects individuals. “I saw many connections between my research and the lived experiences of people with OCD,” she says. These real-life applications underline the potential impact of her studies, ensuring her work goes beyond academia.

Read the full story in Waterloo News