Sam Wass gained a first-class undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. He spent his twenties working as an opera director, in opera houses in London, Glyndebourne, Berlin, Vienna, Bregenz, Geneva and others, before returning to research. He did his PhD at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck, and his postdoctoral research in Cambridge, at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. He is currently leader of the BabyDevLab at the University of East London.
Sam’s research examines stress, concentration and learning during infancy and early childhood. He uses methods including eyetracking, physiological recordings and neuroimaging (EEG) to understand what causes stress in young children, and how stress influences children's concentration and learning capacities. In particular, he is interested in understanding how young children's stress, concentration and learning capacities are influenced by the environment, and people around them. Sam works with typically developing children, children from particualrly low socio-economic status backgrounds, children born prematurely, and children in early stages of developing conditions such as Autism Spectrum disorders and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Sam has held postdoctoral research fellowships from the British Academy and Economic and Social Research Council, and is a current holder of a €1.5 million research fellowship from the European Research Council. In addition, he has received funding as a Principal Investigator from the Medical Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Rett Syndrome Research Trust and others, and as a co-Investigator from the National Institute of Health Research, the Nuffield Foundation, the MQ Mental Health charity and others.
Sam has active research collaborations with a range of researchers including: Vicky Leong (Cambridge/NTU Singapore), Mark Johnson (Cambridge/Birkbeck), Emily Jones (Birkbeck), Edmund Sonuga-Barke and Tony Charman (IoPPN, London), Oliver Perra (Queen's Belfast), Jukka Leppanen (Tampere, Finland), Stefanie Hoehl (Vienna, Austria), Aleksandra Djukic and Susan Rose (Albert Einstein, New York), Noa Gueron Sela (Ben Gurion, Israel) and Lonnie Zwaigenbaum and Susan Bryson (Alberta, Canada).
In addition, Sam is very active in the public communication of science. He appeared as one of the psychologists in the multi-award-winning Channel 4 series The Secret Life of 4-, 5- and 6-Year-Olds, produced by Teresa Watkins for RDF Television and supported by the Wellcome Trust. He appears regularly on television (BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky) and radio (all channels), and in all national newspapers. Sam has acted as media spokesperson for public campaigns by Save the Children, Nickelodeon, Ikea, Dulux and more.