I went to Heathside School in Weybridge for my GCSEs (1993 – 1998), then Esher College for A-levels (1998 – 2000). I did my undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University (2001 – 2004) and I stayed there for an MSc and PhD (2005 – 2009)
BA, MSc and PhD
I have worked at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge (2009 – 2014), Newnham College University of Cambridge (2010 – 2013), and Royal Holloway University of London (2014 – 2017)
I am now a lecturer at Aston University
I am a psychology lecturer at Aston University
I started as a lecturer at Aston in March 2017 and have recently designed and taught an undergraduate module on Educational Neuroscience. My aim was for the students to learn to think critically about neuroscience research and whether it is informative about how people learn and how we should teach things.
Before coming to Aston I was a researcher at Royal Holloway University of London from 2014 to 2017 and prior to that I worked at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge from 2009 to 2014.
I did my undergraduate studies and PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.
I use a combination of neuroimaging methods and psychological experiments to investigate how we learn to read words. In particular, I am interested in how children learn which spellings correspond to which sounds, something that is quite complicated in a language like English! I also want to know more about how we progress from effortfully sounding out words when we first learn to read, to automatically recognising and understanding thousands of words as adults. I often use made-up languages to investigate these questions, as then I can create a language that has only the properties I am interested in and see how people learn it. I also use brain imaging to understand whether different types of words require different reading strategies, or are learned in different ways.
Sometimes I am giving a lecture, in which case I also have to spend some time looking through the slides and thinking about exactly what I’m going to say beforehand. On other days I might not have a lecture, but I am likely to have meetings with undergraduates who I am supervising for their psychology project. At the moment I also have some essays to mark from the first year students who I am the personal tutor for. Besides teaching, I am currently writing an article on how our brain represents newly learned written words, for example, which brain areas recognise that a lowercase a is the same letter as an uppercase A, or that the A at the beginning of the word APPLE is the same as as the one at the end of the word IDEA. I often also spend time reading other researchers’ papers and giving feedback before they are published, or writing an application to go to a conference.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
reading acquisition researcher
What did you want to be after you left school?
An educational psychologist
Were you ever in trouble at school?
too much talking in class!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The Rolling Stones
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I hope I can continue to have a science career, I hope I always live near friends and family, and I'd love to go scuba diving!
Tell us a joke.
Why was the sand wet? Because the sea-weed!
What topics do you work on?
I am interested in how people learn to read. In particular, I investigate how people learn which spellings correspond to which sounds, something that is quite complicated in a language like English! I also want to know more about how we progress from effortfully sounding out words when we first learn to read, to automatically recognising and understanding thousands of words as adults.
What methods do you use?
In lots of my experiments I teach adults to read new words written in unfamiliar symbols, to simulate the process of reading acquisition in the lab. Using this method I’ve looked at how different aspects of words influence how we learn them, for example how complicated their spellings are or how meaningful they are. I have also looked at whether different teaching methods are more effective than others, e.g., focusing on spelling-to-sound relationships or on meanings. Some of my experiments use brain imaging, particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging, to see whether different types of words require different brain areas, or if our brains represent them in different ways.
Who was your favourite teacher?
I loved my A-Level English Literature teachers, I’d never been in a class where everyone was actually keen to discuss the book/poem before!
Me and my work
I am a lecturer in Psychology at Aston University and my research investigates how we learn to read
Sometimes I am giving a lecture, but on other days I am likely to have meetings with undergraduates who I am supervising for their psychology project. At the moment I also have some essays to mark. Besides teaching, I am currently writing an article on how our brain represents newly learned written words. I often also spend time reading other researchers’ papers and giving feedback before they are published, or writing an application to go to a conference.