It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It – an interview with Kasia Pisanski

Research fellow in psychology, Dr Kasia Pisanski, will be joining her University of Sussex colleagues in vocal communications to show how ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’ that counts, at Lucky Voice karaoke bar in Brighton on 5 September as part of the British Science Festival.

‘The moment I dissected my first insect, I was in love’

What first sparked your interest in science?

My fascination with science and research came late, in the final year of my undergraduate studies. The moment I conducted my first experiment and dissected my first insect, I was in love.

What’s it like to have a ‘eureka’ moment?

When I discover something that at first seems to make little sense, I know I won’t be getting much sleep until it does. I keep a notepad with me always, including at my bedside at night. There is nothing quite like that “Aha!” moment when a solution pops into your head seemingly out of nowhere, while you’re cooking or even having just awoken from a dream. The reality is that your brain has been working on that solution behind the scenes for days or weeks, and in that moment, all the pieces just come together.

What will the audience learn at your event?

Our research group studies vocal communication in mammals, including humans. On the evening of 5 September our guests will be submerged in a vocal learning experience! We will take them on a little journey in which they will learn about the evolution of vocal communication in other animals, similarities between animals’ calls and human speech, how dogs understand us and finally, what their own voice says about them.

What’s important about your area of research?

Our research helps us to understand how and why animals and humans communicate vocally. This broad area of study ranges from mapping the anatomical and physiological correlates of mammalian vocalisations to understanding how people modulate their own voices in different social contexts. In addition to having obvious practical applications (e.g., telemarketing, predicting dating or voting preferences, etc) our research brings us closer to understanding the origins of human language.

Which scientific discovery or invention has made the greatest difference to your life?

The internet!

Which scientific mystery would you most like solved?

Like almost everyone else I am intrigued by the BIG questions, particularly about the origins of the universe and our role in it.

Which scientists (alive, dead or fictional) would you invite to a summer picnic?

Charles Darwin would be at the top of my list.

Dr Kasia Pisanski will be joining her University of Sussex colleagues for It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It as part of the British Science Festival.