As one door closes, another door opens. With Professor Chris Greenwell’s move to pastures new, the IAS has moved to appoint his successor in the post of Co-Director responsible for the Science Faculty. Professor Alex Easton will take up his post from the start of Epiphany Term 2020-2021. We welcome him warmly, and look forward to new creative opportunities.
Professor Easton graduated with a degree in Physiology from Oxford in 1996 and a PhD in Psychology, also from Oxford in 1999. After post-doctoral positions in Oxford and then Nottingham University, he became Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Nottingham in 2001. He moved to the Psychology Department at Durham in 2004, where he is Director of the University’s Learning and Memory Processes Research Centre. Here he talks about his work, and his involvement with the IAS.
‘I have always been interested in the link between the brain and complex behaviours, and realised early in my career that no one discipline alone could answer the critical questions I was interested in. In moving to complete a PhD in a Psychology department I was in an excellent position to ask questions others were not asking at the time – in my case a series of studies around the role of subcortical brain structures in memory and amnesia – and that combining of approaches has stayed with me throughout my career. Recently I have adapted tasks from animal behaviour studies to better understand the development of particular forms of memory in children (through a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship) and worked with collaborators across Music, History, Chemistry, Bioscience and others to bring together different approaches to provide novel insight to key questions around the nature of memory.
I’ve been lucky enough to work on two projects through the IAS, first in 2010 for the theme ‘Futures’ (leading to a special issue of the journal Learning and Motivation on ‘Remembering the Future: The Influence of Past Experience on Future Behaviour’) and more recently developing the theme ‘Representing Memory’ with colleagues in English and Anthropology (which will run in Michaelmas Term 2021). In both cases the opportunities provided by the IAS to provide space to think and learn, to encounter Fellows with whom to share knowledge and ideas, and to offer facilities to house and organise meetings and workshops has allowed small ideas to flourish and grow and lead to significant new collaborations and approaches to key questions.
Although interdisciplinary approaches can be highly rewarding, there remain significant barriers (from the effort required to arrive at a common language to the effort to find and build a network of people with a common interest). I am keen in my role within the IAS to provide the help people need to overcome some of these barriers, by helping people find the right expertise within the University to giving them access to the skills required to develop a successful network and grow a project from an initial idea to a fully fledged research programme.’