questions, questions, questions...
Oakham School, Rutland (87-92)
Maths at Cambridge (93-96) Psychology at Birkbeck (BSc 2001-5, PhD 2005-8)
Before becoming a scientist I spent 8 years working for banks, I worked for Natwest, Barclays and a few others.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Birkbeck, University of London and University of Burgundy, in Dijon France
Favourite thing to do in my job: Making babies laugh
I use computers, games and even computer games to find out how babies, children and adults learn about the world.
I am psychologist which means I am interested in how people think. How their brains work and how they learn things.And I do this by looking at how babies learn. Why study babies? Because it is often best to start at the beginning. As babies know you have to able to walk before you can run, and you have to be able to crawl before that.
All scientists know that the world is very complicated place and we don’t arrive knowing much about it. So there’s a lot to learn and we start straight away. New borm babies can already recognise their mothers voice and the sounds of their mother tongue having heard them in the womb. The first three months of life are spent growing really fast.. and this takes a lot of energy so they sleep and eat most of the day and are still to little to learn much actively but they are starting to look around at the world and trying to figure it all out.
Most learning doesn’t happen in school. You didn’t learn to walk or catch a ball in school. You didn’t learn to speak English in class. You don’t learn about Pacman or Batman in school. Loads of learning happens without you even realising it.. And scientists often didn’t really realise it either. Especially for things that you learn really really early. (like how to tell dogs from cats.) By looking at what babies can and can’t do we can find out more everyone’s knowledge.
My Typical Day
After breakfast I play games with babies, I have a lesson at lunchtime and then triple maths in the afternoon. I have just as much homework as you.
A friend of mine’s son once made a short documentary about a day in my life. I will see if I can find it and upload it to youtube.
What I'd do with the prize money
I’m going to build a baby simulator; a big helmet you can where to experience the world like a baby would.
Imagine having a head so big and heavy that you can hardly hold it up and imagine not being to touch the top of your own head. That’s a bit of what it is like to be a baby. Babies heads are much bigger in proportion to their bodies than ours. They are much heavier too which is why heads of really tiny babies have to supported to stop them flopping around and why it takes a long time before babies can even sit up. I want to build a large helmet that you can wear to get a feeling of what that must be like.
However, that is just the beginning.. Babies can’t see very well, they understand the language of the people around them, they don’t know what all the objects are, very little makes sense. It’s a very disoriententing time. This is one of the reasons why babies are always bursting into tears. By building in headphones and distorting goggles I want to make the baby simulator I want to try and make the baby simulator give some idea of what this must be like. But without making it too scary.
This may change if anyone gives me a better suggestion..
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Gleeful, childish infantologist
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I am currently studying time and space through the medium of babies. This is the closest I will come to being Dr. Who.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Bungee jumping in the dark at a music festival
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I always wish for a hippo in my bathroom. It’s a good scientific test of the wish making powers of who-ever is granting the wishes
Tell us a joke.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.