Professor Ann McNeill
Professor of Tobacco Addiction
Deputy Director UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies
President-Elect Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco European Charter
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I enjoy people watching and am fascinated by what influences people to act in certain ways and why sometimes things go awry. I read zoology and psychology at university and was particularly influenced by theories of evolution and sociobiology.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
Human behaviour is even more intriguing when it involves taking risks and addiction introduces another layer of complexity. I was first introduced to smoking research in 1985 and became hooked. Every day brings new challenges as understanding and reducing smoking involves psychology, behaviour change, physiology, toxicology, pharmacology and politics to name a subset of the disciplines involved. My current interests are how we can reduce smoking, across all social groups and how smoking influences mental, as well as physical, health, among lots of other questions!
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
I have provided the evidence base for some key tobacco control policies introduced in England. However, even more rewarding is enthusing others to get involved in smoking or tobacco control research particularly when they first dismiss the issue as boring compared with other subjects. I so enjoy the energy and new perspectives that fresh minds can bring to this subject area.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I have lots of professional role models, starting with my PhD supervisor, Professor Robert West and including colleagues I have interacted with throughout my career. These include people at the IoPPN, and colleagues working nationally and globally, and include advocates in the field. I am humbled by their intellect, dedication, enthusiasm and good humour.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
I am grateful to those who have continued to believe in my abilities over the last 30 years, put me forward and supported my decisions. Rejection (of articles, grants etc) is par for the course these days in academia and it’s how you respond in the face of this adversity that’s important. I have a large network of people I enjoy working with and there’s always someone with a good quip to make you smile!
What do you feel is the most enjoyable / rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
The people I interact with through my working day - stimulating, professional, inspiring.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
With difficulty, particularly in the age of email. All aspects are important and rewarding however and can help to shape the future of your research area (such as nurturing future academics and ensuring your field is appreciated). So I try to prioritise all three.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
With even more difficulty and I always want more hours in the day. My family and some very dear loyal friends ensure that I am acutely aware that there is more to life than my work.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Be persistent, courageous, speak your mind and think outside the box. Discuss your ideas and your research, share your enthusiasm with and listen to others, be rigorous and disseminate your research widely. Put yourself forward, particularly if you are a woman. Build up and nurture a network of supportive colleagues.