Dr William Brown

As a youngster - much to the chagrin of my teachers - I spent my hours drawing superheroes chronicling the origins of their superpowers. In my early twenties I thought this was all I could do. When I discovered STEMM from two behavioural scientists my mind opened to the diversity of life and its origins by natural and sexual selection. The idea that the ‘superpowers’ of living organisms, including humans, could be explained by Darwin’s fundamental insights made me see the world anew. I now spend each day considering this view of life and how I can test evolutionary hypotheses. My training was in evolutionary psychology, which is a discipline at the nexus of the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. I feel fortunate to have helped to contribute to this field to some small extent.

As a Senior Lecturer in Psychology I spend days teaching, conducting research and administrative matters. My main area of interest is how behaviour (e.g., physical activity) or stressful environments can change development at molecular (e.g., epigenetic dysregulation) and phenotypic levels (e.g., subtle deviations from perfect symmetry). We may not be able to easily change our genes, but the epigenome is amiable to change.

Social communication is a challenge given my disability of autism spectrum disorder, as I am unable to read the intentions of others. Fortunately, I spent time researching the nonverbal cues associated with cooperativeness, but it is difficult for me to decode relevant nonverbal information. Another challenge that I face in my science is writing for groups of people from their perspective. These issues have caused problems for me in my scientific career, but I have learned to accept and forgive my shortcomings. My family and friends have helped me greatly and I know I would not be where I am today without their loving support.

The highlight of my career has been publishing research and helping students that others may have discounted. I feel that believing in others helps them reach their true potential. My early scientific mentors’ belief in me helped me become the first person in my working class family to receive a PhD. I hope that someday my work could make a real difference to people’s lives.