Don’t be afraid to make decisions

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do in the future, and I’m sure many others are in the same boat. It’s certainly not easy deciding what career path to choose. A while ago, I was grateful to have the opportunity to interview someone who has been through her own decision making journey and is now doing a PhD.

Federica Biotti is a PhD student currently conducting research under the title: Understanding face processing deficits in Developmental Prosopagnosia. Her interests are mainly in Facial/Emotional Recognition and Prosopagnosia (also known as ‘face blindness’); which is a condition whereby an individual is unable to recognise familiar faces. Federica-BiottiIt can also include the impairment of recognition of object and animals. Federica is interested in the underlying causes of these deficits, and the relationship between the recognition of faces and objects.

“Once you establish the causes and the symptoms, it’s easier to develop a programme or strategy which can help people.”

Federica’s journey began in Milan, where she completed her Undergraduate degree and Masters. Her campus was outside the city centre (unlike City). However, she said this meant that there were fewer distractions. Federica did not start her PhD straight away when she arrived to the UK. Instead, she completed an internship with Dr Geoff Bird, who is currently an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Oxford. Completing her internship on emotion expression in Autism, Federica met Dr Richard Cook (Lecturer at City).

“He asked me if I was interested in doing a PhD with him, and I loved the subject. Of course, it was related to what I was studying at the time on emotion expression and face recognition.”

Federica currently juggles her duties of working on her research and being a lecturer. When I asked her what she found challenging within her many roles, she was very explicit in saying that time management was an obstacle when it came to getting jobs done. Her solution to this is understanding her limits, and planning her weeks in advance. This allows her to do fun things such as going traveling. Federica also talked about the importance of a well-designed study, which has enabled her to effectively balance research and assisting students.

“Even if you don’t find something, you know that the result is still interesting because it’s not due to a bad
design.”

Whilst completing her PhD, Federica has learned that many of her skills developed during her undergraduate studies, such as writing, are vital for her PhD. She found that becoming an expert in one subject area limited her time to read around other topics, and felt she neglected everything else. She advises students to embrace the time spent as an Undergraduate, as we are able to gain knowledge of everything within the field of Psychology. However, Federica is grateful that her topic is quite varied. She appreciates that there are different researchers from several disciplines of Psychology that are interested in face perception.

Federica’s advice to students:

“It’s very hard at this point as an undergraduate to decide on what you want to do and as you know, Psychology, for example, is an immense subject. Sometimes it’s not just about finding what you want to do but finding somebody you’d like to work with. You’ll like the person and of course the type of research but also, if you get along with somebody or if you have the opportunities, just take it. There is always time to change your mind. This is always true in life and there shouldn’t be a limit. In psychology, there are many different open doors, so don’t be too afraid of making decisions because they are not definitive.”

Best gift you ever received? Camera – A passion that I didn’t know I had. My dad gave me a camera when I was younger. I developed this passion for photography. I love travel photography.

Which of your five senses would you keep if you could only keep one? Vision

What would you like to invent? Transport machine – You can go from one side to the other side of the world very quickly.

Written by Sandra Ku

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