What do you do?
My PhD looks at the experiences of children and teenagers with a genetic syndrome called 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. I visit them and their families at their homes all over the UK. I do mental health interviews and assessments of cognitive abilities like memory and attention. Then I do statistical analysis to see how cognitive performance changes over time and whether that is linked to mental health difficulties.
Why did you choose this field?
I have always been really fascinated with mental health from a young age, and I can pinpoint this to the moment it was explained to me that the churning feeling I experienced when worried about something was actually originating in my brain, not my stomach. I couldn’t believe that something that felt so physical could be caused by the way I was thinking and the emotions I was feeling.
My mum as a psychiatric nurse owned a few textbooks about psychiatric disorders and I would sneak into her room and pore over these for as long as I could despite not understanding much (a fairly lame activity for a 12 year old). I decided to study Psychology at University, and got my own textbooks (it doesn’t quite carry the same thrill when you are tested on the contents). However, I discovered that I really loved doing research, and so applied for PhDs in mental health research.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I think even the idea of doing a PhD was something that I had never been exposed to until my last year of university. I think it would be a great thing to let young people know about this career option earlier and understand different routes into STEM.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I have met so many great people working in STEM, from the amazing families that take part in my research to awesome colleagues that support me in the small and big challenges that emerge. I love how international STEM is – I have had the chance to visit some incredible places all over the world to present my work and collaborate with researchers in different countries.
Best advice for next generation?
Don’t doubt yourself – you are capable of this. STEM may seem like an intimidating place, and it’s easy to feel like you won’t fit in, but give it a go, get some experience, and if you have a passion for it, don’t let anything or anyone stop you.
We need more women and non-binary people in STEM to make sure our voices are represented at every level, and it starts with you.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
As well as STEM going on in our university, they often film TV here too. So I’ve managed to sneak my way into a Doctor Who episode as an extra!