Chickerell Primary School, Berrow Primary School, King Alfred’s Secondary School, King’s College London (Bsc Hons), Imperial College London (Msc), King’s College London (PhD)
BSc in Human Bioilogy, MSc in Molecular Genetics, PhD in Behaviour Genetics
King’s College London (Post doctoral Researcher), Birkbeck University (Lecturer and Senior Lecturer)
Dr Emma Meaburn is a behaviour geneticist based at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, embedded within the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck. She is co-director of the Genes Environment Lifespan (GEL) laboratory and a member of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience (CEN).
Birkbeck, University of London
What topics do you work on?
Individual differences, atypical development, behaviour, educationally-relevant traits, genetics, epigenetics (just a little!), and gene expression.
What methods do you use?
I mainly use genetic epidemiology methods for identifying genotype-phenotype links, and exploring how they work at the biological level. For the most part, this involves the collection of DNA and RNA samples (saliva and blood) from both families and population samples of unrelated individuals. The DNA is then analysed using DNA genotyping arrays and next-generation sequencing (RNAseq and whole-exome) and the genomic differences identified are related to the outcomes of interest using statistical procedures.
Who was your favourite teacher?
This is a tricky question for me. I’m not sure I have one stand-out teacher, but I am enormously grateful to an A-level teacher who equipped me with organisational and study skills that proved critical for my studies. I was generally an engaged and interested student, but had somehow missed out on the practical skill development of how to organise my revision, my time and my priorities. Her practical tips proved VERY useful indeed!
Me and my work
I was adopted as a small child and growing up I was always very interested in (what was at the time) the Nature/Nurture debate. What made me, me? Why did I seem to think and act differently from my adoptive family? Of course, I now know that there is not a singular and neat answer to this question — both nature (genes), nurture (everything other than genes) and their interaction throughout development has shaped me into who I am.
As an academic now working in the field of behaviour genetics, my attention has turned to individual differences. Why and how do we differ, especially in terms of higher level cognitive abilities and behaviours? My research is focused on understanding genetic contributions to individual differences – what do the genetic differences look like, where are they located, and how do they work? If we can get a firm handle on this, we can start to ask important questions such as how does the brain learn, why do some infants develop differently, and what are the specific environments that buffer or magnify genetic risk.
A typical day doesn’t really exist in academia, and it one of the many reasons that I enjoy it — each day is different. For instance, today I am helping a MSc student with their project, working on a much neglected research paper, preparing a lecture and participating in the Learning Zone. Tomorrow is back-to-back meetings, seminars and journal clubs! This blog gives an insight into what I might be doing (or juggling) at any given moment: http://blogs.bbk.ac.uk/bbkcomments/2017/04/04/a-day-in-the-life-of-dr-emma-meaburn/