Thanks for all the questions everyone! You can find out more about robots and autism on de-enigma.eu
University of Edinburgh (PhD and MSc), Mills College, California (BA), Primary and secondary school in California
PhD human-computer interaction, MSc in Cognitive Science, BA Psychology
Various research and tutoring jobs, campus tour guide and Sutton Trust group leader, waitress, receptionist, HR office assistant, a homewares shop
Postdoctoral researcher on the DE-ENIGMA project (a large project with multiple teams, funded by the EU)
Favourite thing to do in my job: Introducing children with disabilities to interesting new technologies AND giving presentations (couldn't decide)
I'm a workaholic but I do frequently stop for food, and shopping. I read the BBC news website CONSTANTLY.
I generally keep to myself and organise life around my work obligations. I would possibly live at my office if it were larger, if I didn’t prefer real home cooked meals and didn’t need an enormous amount of space to store all my clothes.
I like to go to the theatre and see ballet, and always buy very cheap tickets so I can go as often as possible. I also read (and re-read) mystery novels constantly. My claim to fame is once working out the murderer in an Agatha Christie novel before getting to the end! But it was only that once.
I’m originally from California, and lived/studied in Scotland until recently, when I came “down south” to work in London. I miss Scotland very much, because it has great people, a compelling landscape, and a parade of increasingly weird fusion food full of HAGGIS!
I research technologies for children on the autism spectrum. I sometimes design and build them too!
I am an autism and technology researcher. I don’t research two different things, but am instead in the middle of a somewhat complicated Venn diagram. See my drawing, attached!
I research (and sometimes also design and test) technologies that will be used by children who are on the autism spectrum, usually in schools or for educational purposes. In different projects, the types of questions that I am my colleagues try to answer may be different. We may be creating a completely new technology, working from what is already known about autism, education, and designing children’s technologies. We will build and test pieces of it, and the technology gets bigger and more powerful over time. Often there will be a big study at the end, where we try to answer questions like “Does this game/robot/device do what it is supposed to do? Does it teach children X or help them do Y? What happens when they use it?”
Sometimes, we are trying to use an existing technology (like Zeno the robot) in a new way. other times, we are interviewing or observing people to find out more about how technologies are used now, or how people want to use them in the future. Right now, I work on the DE-ENIGMA project, where we are developing a teaching programme that uses a robot to help primary-aged children on the autism spectrum learn about facial expressions and emotions. We are not done with the project until July 2019, so there are still many questions left to answer. You can read more about it here.
My Typical Day
EITHER in my office, working with videos or large spreadsheets of data, OR in a school, working with children and our robot Zeno.
I started writing this, but it got REALLY long. The longer but still short answer is that my work day looks very different as a research project progresses. We may be reading a lot at the beginning, getting better acquainted with the current knowledge available about our exact topic, and a few months later spending a lot of time testing a technology. After we collect data in a school, there may be months back in the office preparing it, analysing it, and writing about it. Mixed in to all of that are a lot of meetings, giving talks to share about my current work, helping students, going to training courses… It’s very mixed. In this type of research there are rarely routine things that need to be done every day, other than answering e-mails and scheduling things.
My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:
I had never heard of the Christmas Lectures before I took part this year, so I am making new memories!
How does technology threaten your privacy?
Google's data mining probably means they know absolutely everything about me--and thus so do the advertisers to whom they sell the information.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
expatriate researcher hobbit
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
See students at a special school play with educational computer games that I designed and programmed
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My obsession with mystery novels and "fitting together" pieces of information. Also, a childhood of reading National Geographic every month!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A museum curator
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don't like music very much, to be honest.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Visiting Paris and seeing all the sights I had always read about
Tell us a joke.
I didn't buy any Christmas crackers this year so I'm all out of jokes.