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Rebecca Lowndes

A Laidlaw Scholar case study

It’s made me consider the possibility of a career in management.

Rebecca Lowndes knows about vision in two senses of the word. Her research project as part of the Laidlaw Scholarship focuses on how the brain maps vision in low-light conditions. Rebecca has also always been clear about her own long-term vision; to gain a PhD while undertaking research in this field. That is until the scholarship made her think about other career possibilities:

“The key aspect of the Laidlaw Scholarship that attracted me was being able to undertake independent research from a project’s inception to its conclusion, something that I haven’t experienced before. While I knew that there was an element of management involved, that wasn’t the primary focus for me. However I have loved the leadership side of the programme. It has challenged me, taught me how to work with others and has even made me consider a future career that involves management – something I hadn’t considered up until now.”

Rebecca, who is doing an Integrated Masters Degree in Psychology, has always been fascinated by vision and this increased when she met and lived with a friend with Rod-Cone Dystrophy (a visual impairment that affects around 1 in 40,000 births) in her first and second year at York. Rebecca decided on her research topic for the scholarship as she hopes that it, along with similar studies, will one day help people like her friend.

Spending a lot of time during her degree working and volunteering as a research assistant within the psychology department has provided Rebecca with an insight into the world of working in research, but until being accepted on the scholarship she had never worked on a project from beginning to end.

One of the most challenging things she has found while undertaking her research has been the amount of coding she has needed to use: “The nature of the project means that I have to do a lot of coding – something that I haven’t done so much of as part of my degree. However I used some of the Laidlaw funding to do a Matlab online coding course which has provided me with a useful new skill. I feel that I have learned so many new things by becoming a Laidlaw Scholar and we’re not even halfway through the programme.”

Rebecca thinks that the research she is undertaking may well have far-reaching implications and could open doors to new ways of thinking about the visual system as a whole. She feels that the combination of research and leadership experience provided by the Laidlaw Scholarship is the right blend and that the programme is invaluable. There is no denying that whatever she goes on to achieve, Rebecca has a bright future ahead of her.