Interview with Dr Stephanie Cook – Chief Science Officer

3 minute read

Posted by Chris Platts on 7 March 2018

ThriveMap is delighted to announce that Dr Stephanie Cook has joined the team as Chief Science Officer. We sat down with Stephanie to discuss her background, and what she is doing now.

With a B.Sc., M.Sc., and PhD in Psychology, you are certainly an expert on the subject, what drew you to the topic area?

I was incredibly drawn to Psychology as soon as I started studying it at A-Level. I was fascinated to learn about the mechanisms that underlie both normal and abnormal behaviours in everyday life; from stress and relationships to psychosis and eating disorders.

When I began my degree studies, I was intrigued by how statistical methods can be used to analyse and validate behaviour in relation to theoretical models and hypotheses.

My burning desire to ‘figure people out’ lead to my interest in neuroscience and brain imaging. Our ability to link certain behaviours to activity in the brain through the use of modern technology never ceases to amaze me.

Could you tell us more about your doctorate?

My PhD research set out to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying the influence of odours on perception and behaviour. We all know that pleasant smells make us feel good and lead to approach behaviour, whilst unpleasant smells produce disgust and avoidance behaviour.

The aim of my research was to find out more about what was happening in the brain during these types of effects. I investigated the influence of pleasant and unpleasant odours on preferences for faces and objects, whilst measuring electrical activity and blood oxygen level-dependent activity in the brain.

Your current research is on investigating pain intensity perception in the brain, could you tell us a little bit more about this?

In my current lab, we investigate perceptual and neurometric sensitivity to pain induced by a painful laser stimulus (it feels like a sharp pinprick sensation).

In other words, we explore how accurate people are at distinguishing between high and low levels of pain, and compare this with their bias to report a pain as high or low, regardless of the actual level of intensity. We use a signal detection theory method to calculate separate scores of perceptual sensitivity and report bias, which we then use to calculate whether electrical activity in the brain is more representative of perceptual sensitivity, or report bias.

So far, we have found that electrical potential in the brain at approximately 200 ms following a laser stimulus is slightly more related to report bias. However, the findings are inconclusive and we are still working on the data.

What are you doing with ThriveMap, and what excites you about the project?

I’m working with ThriveMap on developing a method to improve and validate the questionnaire, ensuring that it accurately and reliably measures cultural fit in the workplace. We’re also working on developing a new questionnaire measuring fit with the physical work environment.

It’s really exciting for me to use my skills to work on a product that will be disseminated and used by industrial organisations. It’s also interesting for me to explore working styles, leadership styles, and cultural fit, as it helps me to reflect on my own experiences in the workplace and what I want from my future career.

Whilst my expertise in Psychology and data analysis can help ThriveMap develop their product, working with them provides a fantastic learning opportunity for me.

Thank you very much to Dr Stephanie Cook for taking time out of her crazy schedule to speak to us about her latest adventure.

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