Kate Watkins loved the sciences as a student, but wasn’t sure which area to focus on. By choosing to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge, she was able to study many different subjects. During her second year she studied Psychology and was hooked.
Following a Master’s in Neurological Sciences, Kate became interesting in the neurosciences and the emerging field of brain imaging. For her PhD, Kate studied Cognitive Neuroscience. She used behavioural tests and brain imaging to study a large family with a genetic disorder that affected their speech production. This family led to the discovery of the gene FOXP2, which is important for the development of speech and language. Kate continues to use brain imaging in her speech research, and investigates other disorders of speech and language such as stuttering and specific language impairment. She also stimulates the brain with magnetic fields and electrical currents to see how different brain areas contribute to speech communication.
Kate is passionate about working with the public and has given many interviews about brain imaging and stuttering – particularly when “The King’s Speech” was released. She has worked with the British Stammering Association and runs open days at Oxford for Brain Awareness Week.
About her research, Kate says: “Being a research scientist allows me to be creative and think of new experiments that explore how the human brain produces and understands speech. I hope that by understanding brain mechanisms, we can develop ways of helping people who have problems producing speech fluently.”