Founder of Psychreg, Dennis Relojo-Howell, was voted as the winner at the Psychology Zone of I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! last Friday 26th March – making him the first ever Southeast Asian to win the UK’s online science competition.
A British-Filipino, Dennis grew up in a slum in Manila in the Philippines. In an interview with the BBC, he shared that: ‘My family did not even have a reliable electricity, running water, or a cooker.’ His father, Rodolfo Relojo, was a security guard; while his mother, Lorna Relojo, worked at a garment factory.
In 2013, he came to the UK to pursue his second master’s degree at the University of Hertfordshire. While studying for his degree, Dennis launched his psychology website, Psychreg. It started as a psychology directory but soon evolved into a platform for a psychology blog, podcast, and open access journal. He has also been organising conferences around the world.
Related: World’s First Blog Psychologist Comes from Southeast Asia
Right now, Dennis is doing a PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh, where he has been awarded a Tweedie Research Fellowship, in support of his research project which explores the viability of blogging as a mental health intervention to promote resilience among adolescents in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Southeast Asia.
Dennis joined I’m a Scientist to inspire the next generation of scientists, particularly psychologists. He shared: ‘My primary motivation for joining I’m a Scientist is to inspire the next generation of scientists – particularly resilience researchers. I had to work at a young age so I can go to university. I worked as a cleaner, street vendor, and sold burgers at a burger van. And then later on I worked at a call centre and started blogging.
Asked for a message for the students who voted for him, Dennis said: ‘For the last four weeks that we have interacted, I hope you appreciate the scientific principles that are embedded within psychology. At the same time, I hope you also realised how diverse psychology is; that it can offer an array of career paths – I chose to be a psychology blogger, but you don’t have to follow my path. No matter which one you choose, remember: the expert in anything was once a beginner.’
I’m a Scientist is an online science enrichment activity that runs three times a year in the UK. School students spend a few weeks interacting with scientists in text-based live chats. At the end of the event the school students vote for their favourite scientist and the winner is awarded £500 to support further science communication.
Dennis will donate his prize to a school project in a slum in the Philippines. ‘As a resilience researcher, I want to empower children and adolescents, and to give them an opportunity to evolve. A good start is for them to have resources – which can propel them to study science later in their lives. Who knows? One of them might be the next brain surgeon!’
The Psychology Zone of I’m a Scientist was funded by the British Psychological Society, where 25 psychologists participated this year.