UCL News


Spotlight on Dr Maria Kett

2 August 2018

This week, the Spotlight is on Dr Maria Kett, Head of Research at the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre.

Maria Kett

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Head of Research at the Leonard Cheshire Research Centre, and Honorary Reader in Disability and Development in the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare. The Centre is a partnership between Leonard Cheshire, one of the UK's largest disability charities, and UCL. 

Our research is very applied, and my role involves collaborating with a wide range of partners and colleagues on research in the field of disability and international development globally. I currently have projects in Kenya and Tanzania, both focusing on education issues, and will shortly be starting work in Bangladesh and Kenya on employment and innovation. I also teach, supervise PhD students, and all the usual stuff!

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

I have actually been at the Centre since 2003, but I have held several different positions and the Centre has undergone quite a few changes during that time, so it does not feel like it's been that long! I am also really fortunate to do a job that I love, and that I really believe in.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

It is not my achievement alone, but I have been part of a team that instigated what has eventually become the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub, leading on the international development theme. I believe the Hub has the potential to become a game-changer in the field of disability, and I am really excited and proud to be part of this initiative.

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

My to-do list is very long, with lots to finish up (as my colleagues will attest to!), but also lots to start - including preparations for the new MSc in Disability, Design and Innovation, which commences in 2019, so a lot of work to do for that - as well as start the research for the new grant the GDI Hub just won!


What is your favourite album, film and novel?

It's hard to give a single answer for album (Closer or Substance by Joy Division?) or film (Terms of Endearment? Anything with Jack Nicholson in?); but novel is much easier, though it's actually three! In no particular order: Middlemarch by George Elliot; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. Which on reflection, probably makes me sound like a feminist dreamer with revenge fantasies?

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

My ten year old nephew will roll his eyes at this, but here goes:

How do bees keep their hair tidy?

With a honey comb!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

(Countess) Constance Markievicz

Colm Tóibín

E E Evans-Pritchard

Michele Foucault

Barack Obama

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

I'd just sit back and see what happens when that lot get together!


What advice would you give your younger self?

Worry less, and be confident in your abilities, and that staying true to yourself will get you there in the end!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I plan to become a bird watcher when I retire!

What is your favourite place?

The place I love going to most is where my father lives in Ireland - it's a small village by the sea in County Waterford, and has a beautiful cove which is almost always empty. I go to recharge, go for lots of long walks, and swim in the sea (when it's warm enough!).