Department of Psychiatry
Tell us a bit about your role
I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Psychiatry, having just completed my DPhil in Psychiatry at Green Templeton College, Oxford. During the first year of my DPhil I grappled with burnout, and during this time I was diagnosed as autistic. This was a life changing moment for me, akin to finding the Rosetta stone to my life. I have now dedicated my life’s work to ameliorating psychological distress in autistic people, hopefully by improving and creating psychological interventions that are better suited for autistic people and the different ways in which we typically think. For example, I am just starting a programme of work exploring the concept of “black and white” or “dichotomous” thinking in autism to better understand autistic cognition, as well as working on a manuscript which attempts to comprehend why autistic people may experience higher rates of post-traumatic stress and psychosis.
The Medical Sciences division has supported me throughout my academic and personal journey, right back from when I first came to Oxford to study for a BA in Experimental Psychology at Harris Manchester College in 2010. I continue to learn and be inspired by the experts around me in a multitude of interacting domains, ranging from data science to psychopharmacology. I love teaching undergraduate students, have supervised a master’s project, and hope that my work will continue to inspire the younger generations, as those above me have inspired me to pursue my goals. I definitely see my role as twofold: to continue my research with the end goal of helping autistic people to thrive and flourish, and to inspire and work with the upcoming generation of medical scientists.
What is the most meaningful aspect of your work?
I work part-time as an Assistant Psychologist for the NHS. This approach, of splitting my time between academic work and clinical practice allows me to be in touch with what autistic individuals want and need. Seeing someone flourish after having some input into their care comes with an unparalleled feeling of joy. I am hoping that this will enable me to ensure that any evidence-based advances in research are translated into clinical practice in a timely manner, beating the oft-cited 17-year gap between research and its translation to clinical practice.
Can you tell us about something you've done, contributed to that you're most proud of?
Ever since Leo Kanner diagnosed the first case of autism in 1943, research into autism has largely been conducted by non-autistic people. This is beginning to change, and I am proud to be an autistic woman advocating for the rights of autistic people and conducting the research, which matters most to the lives of autistic individuals. I recently published a paper about how to co-produce research with autistic adults, imbued with the sentiment of “nothing about us without us”, and I have my fingers crossed that more and more research will have autistic people at the heart of what they do.
What changes would you most like to see in the Medical Sciences in the next 100 years?
Barack Obama, during his Presidency, talked of an “empathy deficit” within today’s society. I hope that the Medical Sciences will revolutionise the human process of empathy and in doing so, increase and transform empathy for people from different backgrounds to our own, such as neurodivergent people or BAME individuals. I would love to see innovations in areas such as neuroimaging to better understand the neural basis of empathy, virtual or augmented reality allowing people to metaphorically step into someone else’s shoes, and more diverse global bio banks that support personalised medicine for everyone. I hope that Medical Sciences can play a major, innovative and creative role in order to reduce inequality through enhancing empathic processes.