1. Have you always had a love for science?
Surprisingly, no! When I was a kid, I was very, very bad at maths, and my teachers told me that I would make a terrible scientist. Instead, I was really into reading and writing stories. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realised that science is actually super interesting, and that I could use my story-writing powers to show other people how great science is.
2. What is your earliest science memory?
There was this interactive science centre in Aberdeen, the nearest city to where I grew up, and my big sister (who’s now a brilliant engineer who works with lasers and light waves) insisted on going and dragged me along with her. It was full of amazing experiments and gadgets, and it was the first time I remember going, “oh, this is actually really cool!”
3. Do you have any favourite women in STEM & why?
There are too many to choose from! I think maybe Beatrice Shilling, who wasn’t content with just being a mechanical engineer, but was also a motorcycle daredevil. She used her knowledge of motorbike engines to solve an issue that WW2 pilots had with their plane engines cutting out – saving hundreds of lives in the process. An honourable mention to the incredible Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician who worked at NASA during the space race and calculated rocket trajectories by hand – like a human supercomputer! She was a black woman working for NASA in the 1950s and 60s and had to deal with racism and segregation, which means we only recently learned how huge her contribution to space travel was.
4. What are you looking forward to about being a Braintastic! Science Presenter?
Because I spent so many years being told that science was boring and difficult, I can’t wait to show kids how fun and interesting it can be. I love talking about all the different things you can do with STEM, and how anybody can get involved.
5. What do you do for work when not presenting for Braintastic! Science?
I write and edit non-fiction children’s books on topics ranging from dinosaurs and sharks to engineering, history and mental health. I also write books for brands like Marvel and Dungeons & Dragons – keep an eye out for me next time you’re in a bookshop! When I’m not presenting or writing, I teach Psychology at London South Bank University, do mental health research with teenagers and transgender people, and host and edit podcasts.
6. What do you like doing in your spare time?
When I get a spare moment, I’m a big reader and love to curl up with a book, as well as trying to write my own novel. I also play Dungeons & Dragons, which is a really fun opportunity to mess around and tell stories with my friends. If you ask me, I’ll tell you I run, too, but I’m very bad at it!
7. Do you have a favourite quote?
“Things are only impossible until they’re not.”
8. What science books did you like reading as a kid?
I had all the Horrible Science books – do those still exist? They were one of the first things to make me realise how fascinating and fun science can be. I recently had the opportunity to work with the author who wrote them, and got completely starstruck!
9. Why do you think it’s important to help young people understand their brains?
Our brains are big and messy and complex and sometimes it feels like you can’t control them, especially when you’re feeling anxious or stressed or sad. You can struggle to focus, or feel upset for no reason, or find it hard to memorise stuff for school, and it can be stressful and scary! Learning to understand your brain helps you realise that your brain isn’t broken or wrong – it’s doing its best, and there are ways you can use your knowledge of the brain to help you talk about your feelings or focus better to boost learning.
10. What one big question about the brain would you like to know the answer to?
Why do only super-annoying songs get stuck in my head? And why is it only ever a little snippet of that song, playing on a loop?
11. Why did you decide on a career in psychology?
I find people fascinating, and I wanted to know more about how and why we think and act like we do. I have ADHD, which means I often struggle to focus, and I wanted to know why my brain was like that – was I just broken? Studying psychology not only taught me that my brain isn’t really broken, it taught me that it’s actually pretty amazing.