Department of Education
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I am Director of the GenOmics And Life Stories (GOALS) group and our research explores two main areas: the development (and correlates) of life stories and personal identity, and genomics in education.
Our interest in life story research is primarily focused on associations between aspects of narrative identity and successful adult living (eg employment, social support and life satisfaction). This is an emerging area of research for me and will be a major focus for the GOALS group over the coming years.
My background is in twin research and in applying behavioural genetic research to education. I am particularly interested in exploring the risks and benefits associated with using findings from genetic research (eg polygenic scores) to inform educational policy and practice. My twin research has been funded by the British Academy, NIH and the Nuffield Foundation.
Potential PhD students, post-docs or visiting scholars in either of these areas, from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, are welcome to contact me directly to discuss project ideas or collaborations with GOALS.
I am currently the Department's Director of Research and Impact Lead, as well as Programme Leader for the MSc Psychology in Education (BPS accredited conversion programme).
In 2005, I completed a PhD at the Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. My research focused on using a twin design to identify environmental influences on individual differences in child behaviour. From the outset I was particularly interested in the types of experiences that make children in the same family differ from each other, even after controlling for the effects of genes (known as non-shared environment). Many of my studies and publications have been in this area. Most recently, in a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation, I have begun to use qualitative methods with monozygotic twins to try to identify the experiences that really make a difference. The results of this study have informed some of my current projects, and those of my PhD students, which are designed to understand the experiences that lead us to make certain vocational decisions, and the implications of this for wellbeing and flourishing.
In 2013, I published a book called G is for Genes with Professor Robert Plomin. In this book we made a case that behavioural genetic research was relevant for, and useful to, education. Work on this book was funded by a Post Doctoral Fellowship from the British Academy. Since then genetic science, through Genome Wide Association Studies, has made enormous progress and I believe that this progress needs to be considered by educational policy-makers and practitioners. Some of my most recent research, therefore, is focused on understanding the ethical and societal implications of polygenic scores and genetic screening or testing.
I work closely with the Twins’ Early Development Study (TEDS) team at King’s College London and am also a peer reviewer for several academic journals.