Interview with Laura Elin Pigott

The UK’s youngest lecturer talks about an international upbringing that made her at home in academia and the fresh perspective of youth in research

September 29, 2022

Laura Elin Pigott is a lecturer specialising in neurosciences at London South Bank University’s Institute of Health and Social Care and is involved in research at the Queen Square Institute of Neurology, UCL. She was appointed at LSBU at the age of 22, making her the UK’s youngest lecturer.

When and where were you born?
I was born in 1998 in Norway. I’m half-English and half-Norwegian. However, I grew up in Greece after the age of 11.

How has this shaped you?
Being multinational is definitely a big part of who I am. I’m a native speaker in three languages and have had the immense privilege of immersing myself into three different cultures. I think due to moving around when I was younger and never quite feeling “at home” or as if I “fitted in”, school – or at least the academic aspect of school – became a place where I felt comfortable or even at home.

What inspired you to become a lecturer and researcher?
From a very young age, ever since I can remember, I loved to read and I loved learning about new things. I’m a very curious person, especially when it comes to how we, as humans, are built and how we function, behave or even exist today. I started university at 17 and had at that point completed two different curricula simultaneously: one online for international students and one in school with my peers. Looking back, I’d hazard a guess that my parents found me hard to occupy. However, university was what really taught me the ability to think and evaluate for myself. I looked at some of my lecturers and professors and was in awe of their knowledge and how they thought. I think this was probably my first pull towards academia. At 20, when I authored and presented my research at an international conference, I remember again feeling in awe of, but this time also intimidated by, all the esteemed presenters at the conference. But in that moment, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in research. Neuroscience research shapes the way neurological conditions are managed and occasionally can even discover new ones, thereby helping thousands, potentially even millions, of people across decades to come, through the translational properties that should embody research.

Tell us a little about your field of expertise in neuroscience and cancer – what specific area do you research?
I look at high-grade gliomas, the most aggressive form of brain cancer: how it develops and optimal ways to surveil its progression or differentiation from pseudo-progression. This would be essential to optimise cancer management, as high-grade gliomas have a shockingly low survival rate – approximately a 30 per cent one-year survival rate and less than a 14 per cent two-year survival rate. More recently, I have become involved in some epilepsy research with the neurophysiology unit at UCL. Although this may seem like quite the jump, I’m very interested in neural networks, and in both diseases, these are altered. One day I would like to look at the fundamentals of our neuronal connections; I find this particularly interesting as it underpins everything in our being, from how we function to who we are as individuals.

Do you think universities ought to be doing more to encourage undergraduates into considering careers in academia?
Seeing [a lecturer] with whom many students can identify, because of their age and enthusiasm, can show them that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to. Age should never be a prerequisite to achieving one’s ambitions in life. Being young brings a fresh perspective. It’s crucial for research: challenging ways of working is just as important as experience. Young researchers such as myself question what previously may have remained unchallenged. This may be seen as naivety, but I would argue that it is essential to the advancement of our knowledge and research practices.

How could universities do that?
By actively diversifying academic staff, universities are promoting a fairer and more equal workplace and, by extension, a fairer and more equal world. The academic workplace provides the representation for our future generations. How can we expect our next generation and workforce to grow and develop if we remain stationary? And likewise, how can we expect academia to develop if people like myself, from a younger generation, don’t exist [in the workforce]?

Do you think students respond to you positively as a young lecturer?
Ways of learning have changed over the past decade, but as a 23-year-old lecturer, I can understand the needs that many new and prospective students have. Students want to be able to identify with their lecturers and be inspired by them. By sharing my own journey with them, I’m able to help them think about the possible path of academia but also motivate them to one day become professionals, scientists, key workers and everything in between.

When are you happiest?
I’m at my happiest when I’m challenging myself. I know that sounds ridiculous; but that feeling of being fully immersed in something, when your brain is quiet, and the possibilities of the outcome are endless – that can be a very freeing experience.


2020 BSc in physiotherapy, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

2020-22 NHS physiotherapist (neurology)

2020- honorary researcher, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

2021 MSc in clinical neuroscience, UCL

2021- lecturer, London South Bank University

2022- researcher, neurophysiology unit, UCL


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