I am a psychology lecturer, which means I teach university students and do research in my field of psychology. I work at the University of Portsmouth.
My particular areas of interest in psychology are evolutionary psychology and animal behaviour. Outside of work I enjoy playing football, table tennis, chess, and the piano.
I investigate how evolution shapes the way humans and other animals behave, espcially how they find partners to mate with.
I specialise in human mate choice, which is how people find partners and what they find attractive in each other. This is really important for all sexually reproducing species, because if you cannot find a partner, you cannot reproduce. I use computer graphics software to digitally manipulate faces, for example to make them older or younger, or masculine or feminine, and more or less attractive. Here is an example of an average face created by blending together several men’s faces.
The one on the left has then been masculinised and the one on the right feminised by changing the shape towards the average male or female shape. And here I have done the same thing to my face:
Whenever we make a judgment about whether someone is attractive, we are unconsciously assessing whether they would make a suitable mate to share our genes with. Animals make the same sort of decisions, so evolution helps us to understand the behaviour of all different species.
My Typical Day:
In the morning I arrive about 08:30, then I might meet students individually to help them with their projects. This includes undergraduates and PhD students. In the afternoon I might give a lecture, or I might do some research: collecting data, analysing results, or writing them up to be published.
Then I collect my daughter from school to get home about 16:00.
In the morning, I get up in time to take my children to school. I cycle with my daughter. At work, my time, is split between teaching and research. So I might have a lecture one day, or individual meetings with students on another. Lectures can be in front of 200+ students, which is quite daunting, and goes on for 2 hours.
Then I might spend the rest of the day doing research. I might collect some photographs which I then prepare for experiments about attractiveness.
Other activities include reading the latest research from other scientists, helping students run their own experiments, writing up my results for publication, presenting my work at conferences. Hopefully not all on the same day though.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I’d like to develop a talk that I take to festivals such as the Cheltenham Science Festival and the Edinburgh Festival. The talk will involve live demonstrations of psychological tricks with lots of audience interaction.
Sevenoaks Prep School.
Sevenoaks School, Kent.
University of Cambridge.
University of Liverpool.
University of Bristol.
4 A levels (Biology, Chemistry, English Literature, Maths)
BA Natural Sciences (zoology)
MSc Evolutionary Psychology
PhD Experimental Psychology.
2002-2005: I worked in scientific and medical publishing in London. It was not as much fun as doing science so I returned to university to do my PhD!
Senior lecturer in psychology.
University of Portsmouth.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Evolutionary psychology enthusiast
What did you want to be after you left school?
After realising that I was never going to be picked for England – in any sport :( – I either wanted to be a lawyer or a scientist. I think I made the right choice.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Nothing too bad, the odd detention here and there. And that incident in the headmaster’s office was never linked to me.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Maybe a doctor in another life.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
U2, Queen, or Radiohead.
What's your favourite food?
Indian and pizza.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1) For my children to be happy. 2) To discover something really amazing in science. 3) 100 more wishes. Ha!
Tell us a joke.
Why did the scarecrow win a Nobel prize? Because he was out standing in his field.