Dr Natalia Lawrence and Ms Jenny Willott MP

Dr Natlaia Lawrence Dr Natalia Lawrence and Ms Jenny Willott MP

Dr Natalia Lawrence is a Research Fellow in the Wales Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (WICN) School of Psychology, at Cardiff University. Natalia’s research investigates how our brains process emotions by looking at responses to simple rewards or punishments and by analysing more complex mood states induced experimentally. In 2009, Natalia was paired with Jenny Willott MP, Liberal Democrat Member for Cardiff Central, the constituency for Cardiff University.Natalia discusses her experience:

“I wanted to join the Pairing scheme because, as technology continues to advance, the potential for scientific research to improve lives and provide clear answers to important questions is progressing rapidly. We need efficient and transparent communication between scientists and policy-makers to ensure that society understands, accepts and subsequently enjoys the benefits from this scientific progress.>

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of participating in this scheme and felt it was a real privilege to enter the “Corridors of Power” in Westminster, mingle with MPs and get to know Jenny. It gave me a wonderful insight into this unique world (something of a parallel universe!) and revealed the important role that science and scientists play. The scheme has given me some ideas about how to get more involved in policy, raising issues with my MP and communicating research findings to the media. On a more personal note, Jenny and I got along very well and will hopefully stay in touch.

The week in Westminster was fantastic and its timeliness made it all the more exciting; sandwiched between the David Nutt affair and the Copenhagen Conference on Climate change, it occurred at a time when the relationship between science and politics was headline news. The Royal Society worked hard to put together a detailed and comprehensive schedule of talks and events during the week.

After the Week in Westminster, Jenny visited me in the lab and this was my turn to introduce Jenny to my World, and I tried to make it as interesting and fun as possible! I showed Jenny our brain imaging centre, let her experience a ‘mock’ MRI scan, and then showed her a real brain imaging study in action. I explained how I use brain imaging technology in my research, e.g. to tease apart conscious and unconscious motivations to eat. One of my research students talked Jenny through her project and showed her some of the Psychology tests we use. Jenny seemed genuinely interested and asked lots of questions.”

Applying for this scheme

The 2014 scheme will open for applications from scientists from 22 April to 23 May.

Format of the scheme

Week in Westminster
Programme of activities for the scientists, including a day with the MP or civil servant.

Reciprocal visits 
A visit to the MP's constituency or the civil servant's office and a visit to the scientist's research facilities.