Dr Magdalena Ietswaart

Faculty of Natural Sciences

Role: Senior Lecturer, Psychology

Research interests: I am a neuroscientist and study the normal human brain, the atypical brain, the damaged brain, and the ageing brain. I want to know how the brain works and what it tells us about how we experience the world, I research how we can protect the brain across the lifespan and how we can help when things go wrong.

Why do you think a positive research culture is important?

I think that in academia we live and breathe a high-performance lifestyle delivering on the university’s research strategy of the day. We each do this for decades on end. We need the right culture. A culture that invites positive behaviours, is energising and inspiring. A positive culture makes our delivery sustainable and avoids breaking people. We make that culture. Remember: culture eats strategy for breakfast! 

What aspects of Research culture are most important to you?

The recent series of research culture conversations sums it up perfectly for me; what does a healthy research culture look like, what does (researcher) success look like, what does good leadership look like (and do we recognise diversity in leadership), what does a supportive environment look like, what does an inclusive environment look like.

Can you give an example of an action you have taken to improve research culture?

I try to lead by example providing a supportive environment for my own researchers and the ECRs who come on my path and also bring together researchers from different disciplines across the university to develop synergies. I speak up and challenge when I think we can be better. I put myself out there if I think I can make a difference. I am active in various formal and informal EDI activities at the university and beyond.

What is something that you personally would like to do next to improve research culture?

Across my work, I have fully embraced being brave, as I try to influence change. I am putting myself out there almost like an ‘activist’ researcher. I feel that Research Culture Champions at Stirling are not self-congratulatory champions (as in winners), but rather we champion (as in the verb). This means to challenge, question, push, energise, carry, shake things up or disrupt the status quo, to try out and see where it leads us; always trying to be better and supporting people processes and policies (and foremost the resulting behaviours) to be as good as they can be.

I champion good research culture because the UoS is a community of problem solvers so we need everyone to be active in fixing what are everyone’s problems. At every level and in every behaviour we ought to ask ourselves: have we done enough and is there more we can do? Personally, I hope to bring connections, as culture is made between people and across the entire organisation.