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19th December 2013, 9:44am
Lincoln graduate lands role with leading medical research institute
Dr Hettie Roebuck conducting her PhD research A psychologist who developed her research specialism at the University of Lincoln is working to improve understanding of disorders that affect the way the brain interprets sounds, after being appointed as a Post-Doctoral Research Scientist by the UK’s leading medical research organisation.

Dr Hettie Roebuck, who studied for both an undergraduate degree and a PhD at Lincoln’s School of Psychology, is researching Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) at the Medical Research Council’s Institute for Hearing Research (IHR).

APD could affect as many as one in ten school-aged children, yet it is a notoriously difficult disorder to detect and diagnose. Sufferers are unable to process auditory information in the same way as others, which leads to difficulties in recognising and interpreting sounds, particularly speech.

Dr Roebuck’s work, based in the IHR’s section at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, aims to fill in gaps in our knowledge about the disorder. Her research to date has been focused on exploring whether problems in understanding speech that are associated with APD may be exacerbated by attention difficulties. Her findings could prove vital in developing effective diagnostic tests and improving treatment outcomes.

Dr Roebuck said: “In my job, no day is the same. As a post-doctoral researcher, I am trying to address unanswered questions, and to do this I must start by recognising what is missing from our understanding. Sometimes we are interested in behavioural responses and reaction times, and other experiments involve trying to understand how these relate to what is happening in the brain, but each day I am solving different problems and I find this extremely satisfying. Whatever the outcome, I am finding out the answer to a question that nobody has asked before!”

Dr Patrick Bourke, Senior Lecturer at the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, supervised Dr Roebuck throughout her PhD. He said: “It is particularly gratifying to see that Hettie has been asked to develop some of the sorts of tasks she worked on here at Lincoln to further our understanding of complex auditory and linguistic disorders."

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is the government agency responsible for co-ordinating and funding medical research in the UK. Focusing on high-impact investigations, the MRC aims to improve human health through world-class medical research. The council works closely with the NHS and the UK health organisations to prioritise research that is likely to make a real difference to clinical practice and the wellbeing of the population.

Dr Roebuck began her work in summer 2013, after completing her PhD earlier the same year. She was introduced to the MRC when presenting some of her PhD research findings while studying at the University of Lincoln.

She explained how her studies encouraged her to pursue a research career: “While studying at Lincoln, I became immersed in reading about current research, and this highlighted how much we still don’t know! From that point, I knew I wanted to spend my career resolving these unanswered questions.

“If I was to offer advice to other students hoping to follow a similar path, I would say it is important to make the most of volunteer placements and research assistant opportunities. They provide so many new skills and experiences, and for me this was key in reaching where I am today. I think the best thing you can do is be motivated, work hard, be open to opportunities, and above all follow the things you enjoy.”

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