About Me

I got into autism research as a consequence of a phenomenal string of coincidences, far too long to list here. The short version is that I was 1) diagnosed autistic as a child, then 2) bumped into claims, as part of my linguistics degree, about what autistic people were incapable of, some of which seemed highly likely to be true (doing pragmatics in the way other people do pragmatics) and some of which seemed highly unlikely to be true (having emotions and/or caring about others), before 3) getting very interested in metaphor comprehension in autism for a bit, primarily due to an ongoing battle with a pragmatics lecturer about the value of neuroscience in linguistic research. After my undergrad and masters, I drifted by chance into doing diagram things as an RA for a bit, before (through great luck, and a leap of faith on the part of my supervisors) finding my current PhD in – very broadly – social communication in autism, from the autistic perspective.

Academically, my background is in linguistics, though I’ve done a bit of quite a lot of different bits of cognitive science: psychology, informatics, AI, and now touching on sociology, anthropology, and philosophy as part of my PhD. I enjoy learning new research methods and analysis techniques, and am eternally delighted by clever research design, especially if it’s mixed methods and/or involving the arts. I also like theory development, and am interested in interesting framings of things, the intersection of art and science, and “what-if”/blue skies research and debate – none of which is strictly related to theory development, admittedly, but which feel to me adjacent.

I’m also really passionate about good, clear science communication – partly due to my work with the Winton Centre, who were great advocates of this, but also because I love talking about my research, and other people’s research that I think is cool, and am easily frustrated by misinformation and/or simplifications of complex topics. If you would like me to give a talk (or appear on your podcast, or deliver some training for you, or do a webinar, or…), please do get in touch – you can see some of my previous speaking engagements on my “Talks & Publications” page.

In my spare time I knit (amongst other fibercraft- and artsy-type things), write long- and shortform fiction (as yet unpublished), and am tormented by the horrible beast that haunts my home (my cat) – assuming I’m not being carried away on the winds of whatever entirely-unrelated-to-my-research special interest is currently gnawing at my amygdala, anyway.

Picture of the horrible beast, for tax purposes:

A photo of a seal point coloured (pale cream, with dark ears and face and tail), very hairy cat against a blue wall. She is looking up at the ceiling, and her eyes point away from one another. She is haloed in light, and she looks somewhere between majestic and very silly.
The Bean

Funding: I am currently funded by Medical Research Scotland and Scottish Autism.

Conflicts of interest: None! (If I ever acquire any, though, they’ll appear here.)

Holly E. A. Sutherland
Holly E. A. Sutherland
Doctoral Candidate