Dr Lara Wood

Lecturer in the Division of Psychology

Dr Lara Wood

Lara is a Psychology Lecturer with a special interest in what makes us human. Her research looks at how we compare to other primates, such as chimpanzees, and how children develop uniquely human skills and attributes.

Tell us about your career…

I studied Psychology at Sussex University and then worked as a project manager for a volunteer abroad organisation, which took me to Romania and East Africa. I have always been fascinated by what makes us human and how we compare to other animals. I am particularly fascinated by our closest living relative, chimpanzees, and so applied to postgraduate study at Durham University. While studying, I travelled to Texas to observe captive chimpanzees. I was awarded my PhD in 2013 and then worked at Edinburgh Zoo for the University of St Andrews, studying capuchins, squirrel monkeys and even human children that were visiting the zoo!

The last four years have been busy for me – I got my PhD, moved city, had my first child, got married, moved city again, got my job at Abertay and am now expecting my second child!

Inspired by…

So many awesome women inspire me in different ways. Within my subject area, I am inspired by Jane Goodall, a British Primatologist. In the 1950s Jane was recruited by Louis Leakey to study chimpanzee behaviour. At the time it was unheard of that a British woman might be sent somewhere like Tanzania to engage in scientific study. Jane was one of the first-ever humans to witness and document the remarkable behaviour of chimpanzees, demonstrating just how human-like they were. In the many years that have followed, Jane has worked tirelessly to promote conservation, animal rights, sustainable human development and education.

Advice for young women…

Happiness is the most important thing! Women’s choices should not be dictated by others’ expectations or predefined roles, but by what makes them excited, inspired, fulfilled and passionate.

Don’t be afraid to be ambitious in your work and your personal life. Women can have it all if that’s what they want. That might require some compromise from you, potential partners and children, but ultimately I think it makes everyone happier.

Make the most of every opportunity you are given and work with people you get a good vibe from rather than necessarily the most prestigious.

International Women’s Day…

Reminds us of all the awesome women in our lives and in society. It is hopefully a point of inspiration for young women.