SciSoc Spotlight Issue 13 – Dr Emma Cahill

21 December 2020. Dr Emma Cahill is with the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, School of Biological Sciences. A PDF version of this Issue is available here.

Research focus: Neuroscience

In my research, I address the brain mechanisms underlying experience of drugs of abuse, appetitive rewards and also memories of fear. More recently, I have become interested in the relationship of fear and anxiety, and how the two maybe supported by neurochemically and anatomically distinct mechanisms.

What made you decide to pursue research?

I really enjoyed my first experience of working in a lab as an undergraduate Natural Sciences student. It opened my eyes about how actually ‘doing’ the science was way more interesting and engaging rather than just being told about it in lectures. I had thought I wanted to be a science teacher, because I loved learning about things, but then at University I saw that lecturers were getting to teach about things they were specifically interested in and about things that changed a lot as research develops, and to people who (mostly!) actually want to listen and learn, so I thought I wanted to do that instead.

What would be your advice to aspiring researchers?

Be flexible and realistic. Don’t go into research for respect nor money, or because you don’t know what to do next. It is an extremely competitive line of work, all through the career path of a researcher. So you need to become an opportunist, develop a thick skin for rejection, learn how to motivate yourself and keep a level head and a balanced life. Never get put off by anything other people do or say (including my advice here!), you can only give it your best so just get on with it and don’t worry. Explore what interests you; read often and don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’ll get used to feeling awkward the sooner you start.

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