Photo:

Sam Smith

Favourite Thing: Attend conferences to present my work to new audiences – they can actually do something with what I’ve found!

My CV

Education:

Wanstead High School (left 2006), City University (Psychology – 2006-2009), University College London (MSc Health Psychology – 2009-2010), University College London (PhD Psychology – 2010-2013)

Qualifications:

BSc, MSc, PhD, CPsychol, MBPss and I swam 100 metres without armbands once!

Work History:

A terrible bar in Angel, University College London, Northwestern University in Chicago, Queen Mary University of London. I also worked at Harvard University for a bit last year.

Current Job:

Cancer Research UK Postdoctoral Fellow

Employer:

Queen Mary University of London

Me and my work

I am a behavioural scientist / psychologist that tries to encourage people to change their behaviour to prevent cancer

I am a behavioural scientist, also known as a psychologist, with an interest in how humans behave. I am particularly interested in the behaviours that we do to maintain our health, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, eating fruit and vegetables and exercise. This isn’t because I’m really good at doing these things myself (!), but because these behaviours are linked with health outcomes, such as cancer. We think that up to 40% of all cancers that people get are because of the way we live our lives and the environments we live in. If we could change all those things, we could stop up to 135,000 cancers from ever happening. This is an ambitious goal, but it’s why I get out of bed in the morning!

My Typical Day

Entering and analysing data, discussing findings with colleagues, writing reports and presenting to big audiences.

This is a tough one, because my day varies quite a lot. Some of the things that I regularly do are to enter and analyse data, usually from questionnaires returned to me by members of the public. We also collect information using methods like one-to-one interviews, focus groups and online forums; anywhere where people are discussing their behaviour is a place I like to collect data from! So my day may be speaking with people and trying to understand what they think about a particular topic. Because we get so much information, I can’t always make sense of it by myself. So I will also spend time speaking with colleagues about my findings, many of whom have expertise in specialist areas such as statistics, experiments and genetics. Scary stuff if you ask me, so I’m glad we can work together. When we get to a stage where we are pretty confident that our findings are accurate, we will present the new information at small and large meetings of colleagues from other departments and universities. This can be quite intimidating, but also a lot of fun. Particularly if your new findings are interesting and exciting! I usually give about one presentation a week.

What I'd do with the money

The money will contribute to me creating videos for the website healthtalk.org

At the moment I am working with the University of Oxford and members of the public to create some videos for the website healthtalk.org. This website contains a series of links about different kinds of health conditions, ranging from arthritis to cancer. One part that they are missing is information about cancer prevention, specifically how to prevent breast cancer using a particular medication called tamoxifen.

Some women who are at increased risk of breast cancer (perhaps because their mum or sister were diagnosed) are offered the opportunity to take the drug tamoxifen as it has been shown to reduce women’s risk of getting breast cancer. Unfortunately, there is a bit of a trade off because tamoxifen can also increase the risk of other conditions such as stroke and unpleasant side-effects. This makes the decision really difficult for some women, and they need a bit of support. Healthtalk.org provides that support to lots of people dealing with health conditions. I propose to use this money to create some videos for the topic of breast cancer prevention.

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Passionate, enthusiastic and focussed

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Daft punk

What's your favourite food?

I lived on Italian food as a kid

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Scuba diving with sharks (they’d recently eaten)

What did you want to be after you left school?

A sport psychologist

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Not really – the usual antics of a classroom

What was your favourite subject at school?

PE – obsessed with sport as a kid. Never really enjoyed science or maths strangely!

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I worked in Chicago for a year – my desk overlooked Lake Michigan, it was amazing!

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My mentor Jane Wardle, who sadly passed away last year. Google her, she’s incredible!

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

Something tedious – I toyed with HR at some point in my life. Lucky escape!

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1) Concentrate on one thing at a time! 2) Celebrate accomplishments better. 3) Enjoy it when things are going well, and don’t be stressed when things aren’t!

Tell us a joke.

I apologise in advance…A piece of string walked into the bar and asked for a pint of beer. The barman refused, and said, ‘we don’t serve pieces of string in this bar’. So the piece of string asked to use the bathroom before he left. He looked in the mirror, tied himself in a loop and ruffled his hair a little. He went back to the bar and asked for a pint of beer. The barman replied, ‘aren’t you that piece of string I just threw out of here?’ The piece of string replied, ‘no, i’m a frayed knot’

Other stuff

Work photos:

My lab really isn’t interesting to look at! I have a computer and a pile of paper sitting next to it. So here is a photo of my old research group, during my time as a PhD student.