Portrait of Fairhurst Merle

We welcome our new W1 professor, Dr. Merle Fairhurst, at the Cluster of Excellence CeTI. Her research focuses on the interaction between sensory signals that allow us to make sense of the world around us and to successfully interact with others. She is a cognitive neuroscientist with strong interdisciplinary ties that facilitate crosstalk with philosophers and received her Ph.D. from the University of Oxford at the FMRIB Centre. She worked as as a postdoctoral researcher at the faculty of Philosophy, Philosophy of Science, and Religious Studies (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich). Also she researched at the Centre for the Senses, Institute of Philosophy (University of London) and at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognition and Brain Sciences (Leipzig). Her projects range from trying to understand what makes touch special to identifying factors that make interacting in a group different to interacting in pairs. As a classical singer, she is passionate about the special cases of sensory perception in music and art.

What is your research interest?

I want to know how we use our senses to interact with our world and with others.

What motivated you to do what you do today?

I like the tricky cases – those strange moments in our day-to-day that are difficult to explain, like why we can feel so connected to another person when playing music together or why a mother’s touch can heal all.

What do you find particularly interesting about CeTI?

Before I even started officially, I already felt connected to an incredible network of researchers and support staff.

What question have you not had an answer to recently and have you been able to find it?

I was asked how touch in group dancing changes the way we feel and move. There is one paper that deals with this already but as this taps directly into my two main research topics (group coordination and touch), I would love to investigate this.

How do you spend your free time?

Mainly running after my five kids but otherwise, in a utopian parallel universe, I would find time to sing (I am a trained classical singer), I would dance more, and I love to bake!