I teach Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and I also research autism. I am from France but I moved to Edinburgh 4 years ago. I’m not good at recognising faces, BUT I can bend my left elbow the wrong way around because it got broken when I fell off of a cannon at age 4.
I come from a tiny hamlet in France, halfway between Lyon and Geneva. It is so small that there my neighbours include cows and chicken. My mum is Spanish, so I’ve also spent a lot of time in Spain (that’s actually where I got my elbow broken, in Grenade). Now I live in Edinburgh with my friend Eva. Our flat is full of gorgeous houseplants, and we gave a name to each of them. Our building has a garden where we can meet our neighbours’ cat and dog.
I like travels, books (especially old ones), music (especially classical and jazz), films, dancing (especially ballet and swing), food (maybe because I’m French), and pretty much any animal. I’m passionate about the environmental crisis, so I’ve been vegetarian for years (though I’m afraid I’ll never be able to give up on cheese), and I’m not buying clothes in fast-fashion brands (it’s not easy, but actually I like to have my own style!). I’m also passionate about feminism, so I always do my best to show that women and girls do belong in science. Before lockdown I really got into climbing and bouldering (climbing without ropes), but with lockdown I turned to yoga instead. I’m not good at either of these but I enjoy them anyway.
My pronouns are:
She / Her
Autism, bilingualism, and the social mind: I research how being bilingual (knowing more than 1 language) changes the way we relate to other people, whether we are autistic or non-autistic.
I also teach Psychology to undergraduate and master students at the University of Edinburgh.
Our mind and our brain are in charge of a lot of things, including making sense of social information, and understanding the point of view of other people. This mental social skill (understanding other’s point of view) is shaped by many things, like knowing more than one language. One part of my research was about understanding how being bilingual actually shaped this mental social skill: Is it learning a second language as a child? Is it being very good at languages?
The autistic mind sometimes works differently from the non-autistic mind. As a result, autistic people can actually have a lot of difficulties with this social skill (understanding others’ point of view). But then what happens for autistic people who are also bilingual? Do we see the same link between this social skill and bilingualism in the autistic mind? Can bilingualism help autistic people, or is bilingualism causing too much confusion? The second part of my research was to answer these questions: I wanted to understand how bilingualism could shape the social life, social mind, and social brain of autistic people.
My Typical Day:
I don’t like to get up in the morning, so the first thing I do when I get to the office is make a cup of tea.
My job now is mostly to teach undergraduate Psychology students and to supervise their own research projects. On a typical day, I can have a couple of hours of teaching, a couple of hours of supervision meetings (with my undergraduate students who do research), and some meetings with my colleagues as well (to discuss all the teaching we have to do!). I also spend a lot of time in front of my computer, either reading, writing, calculating things, or thinking about the best way to answer my own research questions.
I often start work around 9 am, with a good cup of tea and a biscuit. My days may look the same because I’m often either in front of the computer, or in front of my students, but in reality I do a lot of different things!
I spend a lot of time reading about what other scientists did, to get a better idea of what I should do. I also teach Psychology to undergraduate students, and I guide final year students who are learning how to run their own research projects.
Sometimes though, I spend the day with the people of participate in my research! I ask them to complete questionnaires, play special computer games, and then I also ask them to go into an MRI scanner! With the questionnaires I can get information about their life, with the computer games I can figure out how their mind works, and with the MRI scanner I can see how their brain works! I need to meet with a lot of participants to do my research, so there are many days when I spend all my time with them.
When it is time to make sense of my results, I spend a lot of time reading what my participants said, calculating numbers and looking at brain pictures. Finally, when I know what the results are, it is time to write about them so that other scientists, but also doctors, teachers, and everybody else, know about these new discoveries.
Whatever I do during the day, when it is about 6 pm I leave the office, and I go home, or I go and meet my friends!
What I'd do with the prize money:
I will create a series of podcasts or videos with autistic people who do really cool things. I will ask them to talk about their experience, and I will invite students and pupils to directly ask them questions about what they do. I hope that this will help students learn about autism from autistic people themselves, they will learn that all the stereotypes around autism are wrong.
I went to school in teeny tiny villages in France. Then, for my BSc and Masters I went to University in Lyon, a big city in France. During the Masters I also did an internship at the University of Cambridge in England. Finally I came to the University of Edinburgh for my PhD.
French scientific baccalaureate (sort of like A-levels), BSc in Biology, Masters in Physiology, Masters in Neurosciences, and (since July) PhD in Psychiatry.
When I was a student in France, I worked for 5 years as a sales assistant in a lovely shop. During my PhD in Edinburgh, I also became a tutor at the University.
I teach Psychology to Undergraduate and Master students at the University of Edinburgh.
I work for the University of Edinburgh
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Short, passionate, creative
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted to be either a vet or an archaeologist.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
No, people even called me Hermione Granger!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would be want to be a filmmaker, or I would have a bookshop-café
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Maybe Stevie Wonder, I saw him on stage once and it was breathtaking!
What's your favourite food?
Chocolate. Anything with chocolate.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. Have a big house in the countryside full of animals and plants. 2. Be able to travel anywhere and everywhere in the world. 3. Be able to make my own clothes.
Tell us a joke.
What do you call an alligator in a vest? An investigator!