Rebecca Dewey

Thanks for all your great questions over the past 2 weeks!

Favourite Thing: Looking at images on the MRI scanner and remembering “that’s inside someone’s head!”



Piggott CE School, Reading (1997-2004), University of Manchester (2004-2008), University of Nottingham (2008-2011)


Masters in Physics (MPhys) and a doctorate (PhD)

Work History:

University of Nottingham

Current Job:

Research Fellow


The University of Nottingham

Me and my work

I want to see how the brain acts when we change its surroundings.

I do brain imaging to see how big certain parts of the brain are, where they are connected to, and which parts of are working when a person does certain things. I want to understand how, for example, a drug changes how the brain works. At the moment, I am working on how deaf people grow up with different brains to hearing people. I want to be able to use those differences to understand more about the treatments we use for deafness, such as cochlear implants.

My Typical Day

I work with computers and brain imaging scanners – I meet people, image their brain and then look at their data.

I don’t really have a typical day. I spend time meeting people, sometimes deaf people, sometimes I need to use a British Sign Language interpreter to speak to them. Then I will ask them to lie down in the MRI scanner so that I can take pictures of their brain. Then I look through the data and use computers and maths to understand what is going on in their brain. Some days I work with computers all day to look at pictures of brains. When I have a large enough amount of pictures then I can compare across different people and if I find something interesting then I will write a report about it and send it to other scientists.

What I'd do with the money

I want to organise events to engage deaf people in scientific research.

Many profoundly deaf people use British Sign Language to communicate. Therefore most events aiming to engage the general public in science are not well suited to them, even with the help of an interpreter, and many of the leaflets etc. that we hand out to the public are not very easy to understand. Last year, I organised an event to showcase scientific research for deaf people. We had several British Sign Language interpreters, and made all the information accessible to deaf people. The event was a great success and we all enjoyed it, but we don’t have enough money to do it again because interpreters are expensive, and an event like this takes a lot of time and organisation. I really want to make this event happen every year!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Want more knowledge!

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Scouting for Girls

What's your favourite food?

Indian food and Chinese food

What is the most fun thing you've done?

When I was at a meeting in California I went jet skiing on Lake Tahoe!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist!

Were you ever in trouble at school?

Sometimes – I was always getting told off for chatting and giggling in class!

What was your favourite subject at school?


What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

I travelled to Japan for 2 months to share my work and experiences with people there at the same time as learning about how they do things.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

Baroness Susan Greenfield

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I’d like to work in politics, making sure that their policies are based on science.

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

I wish that I will always enjoy my job, I wish for a healthy family and I wish to be able to travel the world.

Tell us a joke.

How do you know an elephant has been in the fridge? Footprints in the butter!

Other stuff

Work photos:

Here is my friend Anita helping a volunteer into an MRI scanner. myimage1 Sometimes I get to use the big high-powered MRI scanner, as Matt is doing here myimage2 but not very often! It’s very noisy!

Some of the deaf people I work with have cochlear implants like this man myimage3 and so they can’t have an MRI scan. So I also work with near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS – pronounced “nears”) which can be easier for them. This is what the NIRS machine looks like myimage4.

A lot of my work involves telling people about what I’m doing, and about what I’m finding out. Here’s a picture of a conference I went to in California myimage5 and of me speaking at another conference myimage6 and presenting a poster. myimage7 I organised a conference for some deaf people to find out about research. myimage8 Here is my friend Holly presenting her work on the left, and the British sign language interpreter on the right telling the deaf people what Holly is saying. When I went to Japan to talk to people about my work, this was me going into the research laboratory myimage9 and this was the view from my office window myimage10.