Interviews with Scientists: Dr Stacey Bedwell
Dr Stacey Bedwell is a lecturer in psychology at Birmingham City University, and also works at the University of Cambridge as a tutor in cognitive neuroscience. She was awarded her PhD by Nottingham Trent University in 2015 for her work on the connectivity of the mammalian prefrontal cortex. Prior to this, she completed an MSc in clinical psychology and a BSc in psychology at Bangor University. Since completing her PhD, she has completed postdoc projects in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology at Nottingham Trent University.
She is passionate about improving equality for women in STEM and about educating people on the value of animals in scientific research.
We spoke to Stacey to find out more about her current research, how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her work, the importance of maintaining a healthy work and home life balance, and more.
Thanks for speaking with us, Stacey! Firstly, please do tell us a bit more about your current work...
I currently have several roles, which all come under my identity as an academic. I am a full-time lecturer in psychology at Birmingham City University. I am the deputy course director of the foundation programme, lead two modules, supervise dissertations and edit the department blog amongst other teaching responsibilities. I also do research. I am supervising a PhD project mapping decision making using EEG, as well as carrying out my own research into the development of decision making with various collaborators.
As well as my full-time lecturer role, I work at the University of Cambridge as a tutor in cognitive neuroscience. Here I teach once or twice a month, covering areas of my expertise. Additionally, my role as an academic involves external examining courses at other institutions, reviewing for journals and various media engagement.
What was your PhD research focused on?
My thesis title is The Connectivity of the Mammalian Prefrontal Cortex. I investigated the anatomical connectivity of prefrontal networks, with the use of neuroanatomical tract tracers.
What is it about your field of work that excites you most?
The brain amazes me. It’s so complex and is capable of such amazing things, yet we know so little about it.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career so far?
In early 2020, I was selected through the competitive Royal Society Pairing Scheme to spend a week in Westminster.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned in your career so far?
It sounds simple, but remembering the bigger picture is something that took me a while. I now remind myself frequently that ‘nobody is going to die’ if I don’t spend my personal time getting things done quickly, or if I make a mistake. I’ve learned that my wellbeing is more important than my job. This can be a hard lesson to learn, and accept in many cases, but a valuable one.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists today?
Funding is a big challenge for all scientists, not just life scientists. We are constantly seeing great advances in our knowledge and understanding of the world, but these advances would be so much greater if we all had the funding we need to carry out all the research we want to, at the pace we want to.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your research?
The nature of a lot of my research means it needs close contact with participants. Since the pandemic hit, this simply has not been an option. For some of my projects, this means designs have been changed and re-programmed so data can be collected online. For others, it has meant a long period of waiting to get back in the lab.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
Right now, it’s a lot of sitting in my home office teaching or meeting colleagues via MS Teams and Zoom. I usually start my day off with writing a list and then my time is broken up for a range of tasks. Often this will include some time delivering teaching content or recording a lecture, preparing teaching materials, answering emails from students, meeting with research students, working on research projects, marking students work or writing papers.
Outside of your career, what do you enjoy doing most? (eg. hobbies, passion projects, etc)
I love to travel and explore the world. I made it to 30 countries before I turned 30, so I’m now on a mission to make it to 40 before I turn 40.
If you weren’t a scientist, what do you think you would be doing instead?
Before I decided to pursue a research career I was headed towards working in a clinical setting. If I didn’t do a PhD I think I would have aimed for a doctorate in clinical psychology.
Who has been your greatest role model, and why?
My PhD supervisor. He definitely doesn’t know this. His attitude helped me in my realisation that work isn’t life, but it is something you can enjoy if you are passionate about what you do. Throughout my PhD he had a really healthy balance between his work and home life, which I think rubbed off on me. People are often surprised to hear I spoke to my supervisor most days of my PhD, but I never felt pressured.
And finally, what's your favourite science quote?
I’m not sure it’s a quote from anyone in particular, but I love to tell my students that ‘nobody cares what you believe in science’.
Thank you so much for a fantastic interview, Stacey! We wish you all the best with your continued research.
You can connect with Stacey on Twitter - @DrStaceyBedwell
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