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Associate lecturer, University of Essex

Bio
I completed my undergraduate degree Psychology and Philosophy (2011), followed by a 1+3 ESRC-funded Masters in Psychological Research (2012) and PhD (2015) - all at the University of Sheffield. I then took up a postdoctoral position at the University of York with Prof Jonny Smallwood and a second position with Prof Peter Totterdell at the University of Sheffield. I spent a year working at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge as a member of their Impact team (public engagement) before being appointed as a lecturer at Essex in December 2019.

Research
I have wide-ranging research interests which are united by their focus on emotion and well-being, particularly the relationship between cognition and emotion. I use diverse psychological approaches and methods, often working at the intersection of psychological disciplines including cognitive psychology, affective science, neuroscience, clinical, and social psychology.

Much of my work to date has examined the state of mind-wandering which is estimated to occupy as much half of waking thought. My research in this area seeks to answer the overarching questions of HOW and WHY we mind-wander; this has included examining the heterogeneity of mind-wandering and its links to both positive and negative outcomes as well as understanding its neural and cognitive basis. The central question I’m interested in is: When, why, and for whom are unconstrained cognitive states such as mind-wandering, functional or dysfunctional?

I have a keen and developing interest in sleep including: bi-directional associations with well-being/emotion; link to clinical disorders (especially in adolescence); interplay with mind-wandering; and understanding anomalous sleep experiences such as sleep paralysis.

I also research ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) which is a complex emotional state experienced by some people in response to triggers that typically include: whispering, soft-speaking, and close personal attention. ASMR has received substantial public attention but has only recently been the subject of scientific study. My interest in ASMR lies in what it can reveal about individual differences in the generation and experience of emotion.

Public Engagement/Science Communication
I’m passionate about engaging the public with research and communicating science. I’ve run a number of public engagement and outreach events focused on my research including collaborations with the Wellcome Collection, Museums Sheffield, Guerilla Science, and arts charity Ignite Imaginations. I regularly communicate my research in news articles, podcasts, and tv/radio.

Experience

  • 2019–present
    Lecturer, University of Essex