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Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience

Professor Katya Rubia

Katya Rubia

Job title

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience


Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Date started at King’s


Challenges and achievements

When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?

I realised at one point in my prior philosophy career that everything the way we perceive it, including the Universe, is originating from our brain. Hence I became interested in researching the source of “our” reality, the brain. Later I became interested in the way the brain develops and what can go wrong with this in neurodevelopmental disorders

What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area? 

I am interested in the underlying neurobiology of the normal development of cognitive functions and its abnormality in child psychiatric disorders. I am particularly interested in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), because it is a good disease model to study the (abnormal) neurobiology of a wide range of the most interesting late developing higher cognitive functions that underlie our mature adult behaviour, such as attention, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, decision making and motivation control.

Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding. 

Realising that I have been a pioneer in several of my research fields has been a satisfaction. Also, it has been rewarding to see that my research has contributed to change the public image of ADHD as a brain developmental disorder rather than just “naughty children”. I recently got a European prize for my contribution to child and adolescent psychiatry research, which was rewarding.

Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?

Several, but my favourite is still Albert Einstein. The combination of scientific mind, pioneering thinking and mystical awareness is fantastic

What if any support has most benefited you in your career?

I had great mentors and colleagues. Science is teamwork. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences to be able to work with so many talented colleagues

What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s? 

KCL hosts a large number of excellent scientists in so many different disciplines that makes it a scientifically very multifaceted and enriching place to work in. Also it is highly international which makes it also culturally an interesting place.

How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?

They tend to be so closely interlinked that I do not find it difficult to balance them. The difficulty is finding time to cope with the work load

How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?

I have always found this very difficult. I tend to work late hours and feel I have never enough time for my many other interests outside of my working life. Meditation helps to keep me stress-free and in balance

What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?

I consider flexibility and humility crucial assets in science. It is a humbling experience if your favourite hypothesis turns out to be wrong and you have to rethink, sometimes in the opposite direction. It opens your mind and makes you aware of the relativity of human beliefs. History of science is a pyre of false hypotheses. To quote Konrad Lorenz, the morning exercise of a scientist should be to ditch your favourite hypothesis before breakfast, it keeps you young!


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