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Prof Happé elected Fellow of the British Academy

Professor Francesca Happé has been elected Fellow of the British Academy, in recognition of her academic distinction.

Francesca Happé is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and Director of the MRC Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s.

Professor Happé joins over 900 scholars as a Fellow of the British Academy, the UK’s expert body for humanities and social sciences. Each year, up to 42 UK-based academics who have achieved acclaim in publication and research activity are elected by their peers to the Fellowship. The rigorous electoral process sees only one or two distinguished scholars elected in most disciplines, despite there being several hundred academics active in each field. 

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Happé said: ‘I’m really delighted to have received this great honour, and to join my esteemed colleagues at the SGDP, Professors Judy Dunn, Temi Moffit, Robert Plomin and Avshalom Caspi as a Fellow of the British Academy. I’m grateful to all my students, postdocs and collaborators, who have worked so hard with me to better understand people with autism in order to make life better for those with autism.’

After studying Experimental Psychology at Oxford, Professor Happé completed her PhD on autism and worked as a research scientist at the MRC Cognitive Development Unit, University College London (UCL). She subsequently spent a year in Boston on a travel fellowship, studying social cognition following acquired brain lesions, before moving to the SGDP Centre at the IoP in 1996.

Professor Happé’s research focuses on Autism Spectrum Disorders, and studies the neuro-cognitive basis of typical and atypical social cognition. She is also actively engaged in studies of abilities and assets in people with autism, and their relation to detail-focused perceptual and cognitive style. As well as cognitive methods, her research involves functional imaging, study of acquired brain lesions, family studies of the broader phenotype and, most recently, behaviour genetic methods. Professor Happé has been awarded the British Psychological Society’s Spearman Medal, the Experimental Psychology Society’s Prize, and in 2011 the Royal Society’s Rosalind Franklin Award. She also won the King’s Supervisory Excellence Award in 2011, and is currently President of the International Society for Autism Research.

Professor Happé is also giving the joint British Academy/British Psychological Society lecture at the British Academy on 23 September 2014, entitled: ‘Mind-reading’as a gatekeeper in development: Neurotypical and autistic pathways to learning. 

Professor Happé is one of two academics at King’s to be elected Fellows of the British Academy this year: Professor Paul Gilroy, Department of English was also elected a Fellow. 

The British Academy, which counts the likes of Karl Popper and C.S Lewis among its roll call of past Fellows, aims to recognise, inspire and support high achievement in the humanities and social sciences, and to promote their role and value both in the UK and internationally. As elected Fellows, Professor Gilroy and Professor Happé will play a vital role in continuing the Academy’s activities and in sustaining support and public interest in research across the disciplines. 

A full list of this year's British Academy Fellow is available online.