Walton High School (2003-2010); University of Durham (2010-2014); University of Manchester (2015-2018)
A Levels (English Literature A*, Psychology A*, Biology A, History A*)
University of Durham, Research Assistant
University of Manchester
Favourite thing to do in my job: Telling people that I study sleep and counting down the seconds until they ask me to interpret their dreams. Also, someone asked for this in a chat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIFPUpqS5dc&index=3&list=PL64ScZt2I7wGxZlXAu0r0UPqpvzF23mgc It’s a short, buzzfeed-style, video about what it’s like to have schizophrenia. I heartily recommend it!
I am a proud geek, and film fanatic, who loves getting lost and confusing people with my sarcastic sense of humour.
I live in Manchester as a PhD student. I’m currently in my second year (only over one year to go before I finish…!) and loving every second of it. It is rather amazing to get paid to do what you love.
I tend to find myself soaking in the atmosphere of Manchester in between work and the rest of life. Otherwise, Netflix, movies, and writing about anything which interests people (or not) in my spare time.
I spend my days trying to understand how sleep can lead us to see or hear things which are not there or experience strange and threatening beliefs about others.
My work involves me tracking people’s sleep with special watches, questionnaires and diaries in order to understand more about their sleep and how this impact their mood and strange experiences.
Colleagues in my lab look at strange experiences (e.g. seeing or hearing things which are not there) in individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. However, I’m interested in how sleep disturbances might put those who haven’t received a mental health diagnosis (yet) at risk for experiences associated with schizophrenia.
I’m usually fighting with technology to get my experiments running smoothly but for the most part it’s plenty of fun – at least when it works!
I’m also interested in assessing the impact of depriving people of sleep on our ability to deal with the stresses of day to day life. Surprisingly, people seem keen to take part in this study…
My Typical Day
A typical day involves me answering emails from potential participants, setting up watches to track new participants’ sleep, and catching up with colleagues in the office.
I usually start the day by checking over a mass of emails and making sure none of my participants have had any technical hiccups with the watches I use to run my studies. If all is clear on the watch front I will then start to plan my next studies and get new people recruited to my current study.
Usually, I’ll also be thinking about ways to get people excited about sleep research (and see the importance of a good night sleep) so I will also draft articles and brainstorm ideas for how best to communicate my own, and others, research to the public.
What I'd do with the prize money
I would have students plan, develop, and create a video about an area of sleep, or general, science with the aim of educating their peers about the topic in a fun and creative way.
I would oversee groups of students who would engage in their own science outreach by conveying the main points of an interesting (and / or weird) piece of science (e.g. study or topic) to the public. There are so many bizarre studies in science which we read and tell others about. However, it would be great to tell a wider range of people about those studies in a way that any eager scientist like myself would. What better way to learn than to teach others? Getting others interested in science is becoming such an important part of any career in this area and I feel that it’s important to give students a taste of how fun and rewarding it can be.
My specialisms lie in sleep and mental health but I would be happy to oversee any topic which a group had a passion for. The money would help to produce resources associated with this video and enable students to meet in their groups to discuss and work on the video.
The aim would be for groups to take a topic, or study, which really interests them and to create a 5 minute video to convey that message in a creative and fun way. These could simply take the form of the group talking about the research, writing a song, or putting on a short play / radio interview which gets the main points about the research across. The more creative the better!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Geeky, inquisitive, sarcastic
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Spoken about my research to anyone outside of academia. It is so much fun to hear people’s views on sleep and what I’m doing.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Occasionally, by which I mean once or twice when it completely wasn’t my fault – honest.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Space cowboy, or as that’s apparently not a real job outside of 90s references, I would probably have trained as a journalist instead.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Probably Muse to rock out to and The XX to chill out / work to (that was two, whoops!)
What's your favourite food?
Guylian chocolate – if you have never heard of them you are seriously missing out
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Probably what I’m doing currently: travel to America, meet amazing new people, and get the chance to present my own research to experts in sleep medicine.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Ooo another tricky one. Hmm, probably a magic money tree, more energy, and more time to travel
Tell us a joke.
Three Freudians go into a bar and the bartender says, “Can I see some id?”