Birkbeck psychologist wins prestigious Philip Leverhulme Prize

Dr Tim Smith, of Birkbeck’s Department of Psychological Sciences, has been awarded a £70,000 prize

Dr Tim Smith, of Birkbeck’s Department of Psychological Sciences, has been awarded a £70,000 prize in recognition of the international impact of his research. He is one of only four winners within the performing and visual arts category of this year’s Philip Leverhulme prizes.

The awards from the Leverhulme Trust recognise researchers, who, at an early stage of their careers, have already produced research of an international standard, and show exceptional promise. The prize money may be used to assist them in further advancing their research for example, by enabling them to appoint a post-doctoral research assistant, or to meet the cost of international travel to undertake research.

Dr Smith’s research focuses on eye-tracking and visual cognition – how we attend to, perceive and remember static, dynamic and real-world scenes. His findings from behavioural experiments, eye-tracking, cognitive modelling and electrophysiology have been used to inform art restoration projects, including Tate Britain’s restoration of the flood-damaged nineteenth century masterpiece Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by John Martin.

Dr Smith said: “I am very excited to be awarded a Philip Leverhulme prize in recognition of my work investigating how people watch and understand film and visual media. Researching a topic that falls between two established fields, namely Cognitive Psychology and Media Studies can be risky as it may fail to find an audience in either field. This prize validates my research and gives me the support to move forward with my research and communicate my findings to the broadest audience possible.”

This year 29 Philip Leverhulme awards were made across six disciplines. The prizes were established to commemorate the contribution of Philip Leverhulme, the Third Viscount Leverhulme and former trustee, to the work of the Leverhulme Trust one of the largest all-subject providers of research funding in the UK, distributing over £60m a year.