Faculty of Science

Sobana Wijeakumar


Sobana Take10

Sobana Wijeakumar

Assistant Professor, School of Psychology

I am lucky to be in the company of colleagues who are thoughtful, available and helpful collaborators.


1. Describe your research topic in ten words or less?

Cognitive development in children. 

2. Now describe it in everyday terms?

My research looks at how an important cognitive system called executive function emerges, adapts and changes across the first few years of life. Executive functions collectively represent the ability to hold and update information for short periods of life, supress or inhibit irrelevant information or distractors and shift between goals or rules. Thus, it comes as no surprise that this system is important for higher cognitive operations, related to social interactions, predictive of academic achievements and eventually, high-quality life outcomes. To understand this system, I use experimental games and brain imaging, and construct computational models to predict behaviour and brain function.


3. What inspired you to pursue this research area?

I was always fascinated by individual differences in babies and children and how that can lead to fascinating outcomes as adults. I decided to make a series of choices to get to the bottom of this trajectory.


4. What are some of your day-to-day research and knowlege exchange (KE) activities?

Mentoring students on formulating research questions, data collection, designing analyses and interpreting results. I also write papers and routinely engage in debate and discussions with colleagues who I work with.


5. What do you enjoy most about your research and KE activities?

The freedom to pose questions and try to answer them. 


6. How have you approached any challenges you’ve faced in your research/ KE activities?

There are many challenges when one combines the world of infants and toddlers with experimental games and brain imaging. Each challenge is different. For resolving theoretical debates - I am lucky to be in the company of colleagues who are thoughtful, available and helpful collaborators. For resolving challenges with design – consistent and rigorous reading and trouble-shooting is needed. For working with participants - I am once again fortunate to be able to mentor creative, curious and hard-working students. 


7. What questions have emerged as a result of your recent work?

How do cognitive behaviours transfer across generations?


8. What kind of impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope that our research will shed light on the contextual factors that impact executive functions in the first five years of life – parental cognition, home environment, start to schooling, stress.


9. How do you link your research with your teaching?

I incorporate recent findings from my own work into my taught content. I firmly believe that enthusiasm and passion that comes through sharing your research journey with students is unmatched by anything else.


10. What one piece of advice would you give your younger, less experienced research self?

Take chances – you will be fine.





Faculty of Science

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD