How long have you worked at the Uni? What does your role involve?
Not quite three months. I started on the first of July this year.
I'm a Professor of environmental psychology, and I'm also the director of a centre called the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations, or CAST. The whole aim of the centre is to understand the role that people play in tackling climate change. A lot of what I do is trying to understand how we can change people's behaviour to be more low carbon, how we can communicate climate change better, and engage people in the issue. But I also supervise PhD students and do a little bit of teaching as well.
What would you most like to achieve while at the University?
I'd really like to grow environmental psychology as a part of the department. There's a small group at the moment, but it'd be really great to make that a bit bigger. And also to make more links between environmental psychology and other types of psychology, like health psychology. One of the things that we're interested in, for example, is around eco anxiety. So the idea that people are kind of quite anxious about climate change and environmental issues at the moment, and so that might be having a negative impact on people's wellbeing. So it bridges environmental psychology and health psychology.
And the other thing I want to do, as well, is to try and develop more links between psychology and other areas of the university. I think it's really important that tackling climate change is an interdisciplinary activity, that we bring together loads of different disciplines to try and work together. So actually making links between our Centre for example, and other centres like the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies and some of these other sorts of more engineering and natural science focused groups.
Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at the University of Bath?
I did actually did my Masters and PhD at Bath many years ago. And so I have a very long standing fondness for Bath for a number of reasons. And I think this is part of the reason I was drawn back, because I think there's a really strong commitment to making a difference with the things we do, like the research we do, I think there's quite a strong tradition for problem solving. That's really why I got into doing research in the first place was actually to try and solve problems and provide useful answers to some of the world's challenges, like climate change, for example.
I'm really quite proud to be part of a university that actually does aim to make a difference in the research that it does.
Who was your most influential teacher/educator, and why?
I had some really great lectures during my time at university and I was thinking back to ones that stood out. My undergraduate degree was in theology at Kent, randomly, and one of my lecturers there, Robin Gill, was an amazing teacher who, in my final year, did a module called ‘science and religion’. He really opened my eyes to how different types of knowledge can be brought together to understand the natural world, and humans’ place within the world. And that kind of set me on the course to further study. So I think he'd be one of the people I'd flag as being a really influential teacher, but the other one would be my dad. He was a professor of environmental economics, and he was a really amazing educator. He really was good at explaining complex ideas, and I guess, inspired me ultimately to be a researcher as well.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An architect, actually. I really loved designing buildings and cities; I even did a placement in our local town planning department. But later I started to want more to understand people and behaviour. That's when I got into theology, I guess, and then psychology after that. And actually, environmental psychology is quite an interesting hybrid in a way of bringing in our understanding of the built environment and thinking about how we interact with it. For example, we know that buildings and cities, how they're designed, impact on our wellbeing and our behaviour. So it's quite interesting that now, even though I didn't make it to be an architect, in the end quite a lot of the stuff we do does draw on ideas from architecture.
What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?
That confidence isn't the same thing as being right. That I think actually, a lot of the time, people are way more uncertain and anxious than they seem, and that in some ways, if you just project confidence you'll start to feel a bit more confident yourself. And people will just believe that you know what you're talking about!
What was your first job?
I was a chambermaid in a B&B in Southsea where I grew up. So not very glamorous, sometimes disgusting, and not very well paid. But it was a Saturday morning job, and you’ve got to start somewhere!
Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
Working in climate change, I get really guilty even thinking about travelling anywhere! But one of the places I most loved to visit was Japan for my honeymoon, quite a few years ago. It's an amazing country. It's just so clean and beautiful and friendly. So interesting, with such an amazing history. But with climate change I think I would really be reluctant to get on a plane again. If I could take the train and a boat, maybe one day I'd go back to Japan. Or take the Orient Express. That would be a cool thing to do at some point.
What’s your favourite book and why?
I would say maybe Buena Vista Social Club. I actually just rediscovered them very recently. I would say it's quite hard to be sad when you're listening to that. It is just brilliant music.
When are you happiest?
Sitting in the garden with a good book and a cup of tea.
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and why?
It’s a choice between two - Agatha Christie, who is probably my favourite author, she's quite amazing. Or, a bit randomly, Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor. He’s a great leader and would probably have some quite interesting insights into leadership. I love the Roman era, it's just such an interesting time in history. So it'd be cool to chat to him about Roman life. And also because he's one of the fathers of stoicism, and I’m currently getting into mindfulness a little bit. So that's a similar idea about being very aware of the present situation and just trying to live in the now a little bit more.
Which one superpower would you like to possess?
I asked my children for advice and they said invisibility, and I asked them why, and they said “so that I could steal stuff, and people wouldn't notice”. So I said, I can't say that, that's, that's a terrible answer! And so I was thinking maybe healing, if that counts as a superpower - to be able to heal illness or injury. But I would probably be in quite high demand, which would be a bit exhausting. So it's not perfect superpower.
Tell us your favourite joke
Did you hear that all the toilets were stolen from the central police station last night?
Police say they've got nothing to go on.