UCL News


Spotlight on Dr Mark Huckvale

21 May 2015

This week the spotlight on Dr Mark Huckvale, Senior Lecturer, UCL Department of Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences, UCL Psychology and Language Sciences.

Mark Huckvale

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a senior lecturer in the UCL Department of Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences in UCL Psychology and Language Sciences. I am also President of the UCL Science Society. The society is a social club for anyone who works at UCL and is interested in science. We meet five-times-a-year for drinks, a general science talk and dinner. The talks cover a wide range of topics in life, brain, physical and mathematical sciences and are designed for a general audience. The society is a great place to meet people outside your own department - you can find out more on the UCL Science Society website.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I came to UCL as a postgraduate student in 1976, but my employment started in 1983 as a research assistant, then research fellow, lecturer and now senior lecturer. I've tried to develop a speciality in speech and computing, which has led me to all kinds of interesting applications and challenges. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

My teaching has always given me great satisfaction, and I was pleased to receive the Provost's Teaching Award in 2009. By putting all my teaching materials, software and tutorials online, I regularly get great feedback from users all over the world.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

We are running a clinical trial of a new therapy for schizophrenic patients who hear voices. This uses a computer avatar to represent the voice the patient hears, and our software allows the avatar to receive a customised face and voice. We are working hard on turning our research software into a product so that we can spread the use of the therapy to new clinics.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I'm not a great on music, but I am a great fan of science fiction. I feel like I must have seen every science fiction film and read every science fiction novel over the past forty years! Unsurprisingly, I like films in which machines become intelligent and start to talk - since I want to solve that problem myself. The Culture novels of Iain M. Banks are great adverts for a benevolent artificial intelligence.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Did you hear about the hypochondriacs who mistakenly turned up at a champagne party?

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I've always wanted to meet leading politicians because I want to know whether the state of the country is because of conspiracy, or because of cock-up. Can politicians really make a difference to our futures? Or do they just react to circumstances beyond their control?

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stop worrying, it will turn out alright in the end.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Despite being a geek and a nerd, I have somehow managed to raise four normal children.

What is your favourite place?

We've taken a walking holiday in the Lake District every year for many years - but you always come across a new vista that takes your breath away.