What do you do?
I am an experimental scientist who studies the role of human psychology in teenagers and young adults’ physical health. I try to understand how emotions and cognitions impact the experience of physical symptoms such as pain, particularly in young people with illnesses such as chronic pain and cancer.
My goal is both to gain a better understanding of the role of the human mind in physical experiences like pain, and to develop better healthcare provision for young people who survive illnesses like cancer.
Why did you choose this field?
Most people still believe that pain is a direct consequence of tissue damage. Science is increasingly telling us that this isn’t true, and that physical sensations like pain are actually brain outputs that are only loosely tied to what’s going on inside our body. Health is still an underdog topic in the field of psychology, and is therefore an area in which I feel my research can have a big impact.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I never thought I was smart enough to do brain imaging research. Right now, I am finishing working on my first brain imaging paper, thanks to the enormous support and encouragement of my colleagues and mentor. I am still learning to take new challenges even if at first, they seem too big.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I never have that “I don’t want to go into work today” feeling. I get to spend my time asking interesting questions, chatting with interesting people, and travelling the world to discuss things I’m passionate about. I also have the flexibility to head into the lab to see colleagues and friends, or to pick up my laptop and work from my favourite coffee shop. I can’t imagine another job like it!
Best advice for next generation?
You don’t have to be good at everything to be a good scientist. Maybe you’re really good at programming, or at managing a lab, or at asking the right questions. You have unique skills that you can draw on to be successful in your field. And you can collaborate with others who have the skills that you don’t. Also, be open with sharing your ideas. And surround yourself with people who encourage you to share your ideas.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
Twitter. About half of the research projects I’m working on right now are thanks to connections I made through Twitter.