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Sophie Scott

Sophie Scott, 1971 to 1983

What do you do now?
I am a cognitive neuroscientist I study how our brains process the information necessary for communication, such as speech perception and production, and emotional processing. I am particularly interested in understanding how our brains change due to circumstances e.g. how people who have lost their hearing cope with cochlear implants. I have also worked with people who have had strokes, to understand how their brains change as they recover. It is a really exciting time to work in this area, as we have fantastic new techniques to look at the human brain and how it works.

How did you get into this line of work?
I did a degree in Psychology, then a PhD at UCL. I worked for a while as a researcher in Cambridge (at an Medical Research Council Unit), then returned to UCL where I applied to the Wellcome Trust for a fellowship. I now have a Senior Research Fellowship from the Wellcome Trust, and in 2006 I was promoted to Professor by UCL.

Has it been difficult in a traditionally mans world?
To some extent in science, a lot of currency is placed on being very verbally confident, to say what you think and not be afraid to ask questions. I think that women can sometimes be a little bit restrained in, for example, seminars, and men thus seem to do all the talking. However I am pleased to note that that seems to be changing, and that there are lots of confident young women coming through. Notably, in my field women are well represented (indeed, a prominent researcher who works in a closely related area to mine also went to Westhome). What can be hard for women in a science career is having children, since your twenties and thirties are spent building your career, and a gap for maternity leave can be hard to manage. However it is not impossible (I have a son), and I see many good female scientists who have families.

What does it take to be successful?
Confidence, courage and commitment. You have to be confident to believe that you can do something, courageous enough to go for it, and committed enough to put the hard work in.

Any advice for Westholme girls today?
You have a great opportunity make the most of it.