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New Generation Thinker

Newcastle University academic named a New Generation Thinker

Published on: 4 April 2023

Dr Rebecca Woods has been chosen as one of the UK’s 10 most promising arts and humanities early career researchers.

The brightest scholars

Dr Woods was unveiled as a New Generation Thinker on a special episode of Free Thinking on BBC Radio 3

Every year, BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) hold a nationwide search for the best new arts and humanities academics with ideas that will resonate with a wider audience. These New Generation Thinkers represent some of the brightest scholars in the country.

Dr Woods, Senior Lecturer in Language and Cognition in Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, will make pioneering programmes about her research into how play helps language learning and the value of multilingualism.

“Linguistics, the scientific study of language, isn’t a field of study that has great name recognition, so I’m really excited to bring it and its findings to new audiences through BBC radio. It’s a complete privilege to be part of this scheme, from which I’ve already learned so much about broadcasting, public engagement and creativity.

“The other nine Thinkers in my cohort are incredible scholars and communicators and have already broadened my thinking about how children develop their linguistic skills as members of specific cultural and social groups anchored in specific histories. We are products of the societies that we are raised in and children’s language development, even at the earliest stages, is subject to intense political pressures that we need to take time to consider.

“Although my research can focus on some quite narrow developments in young children’s grammar and self-expression, there’s a lot we can learn from child language development about who we are as people, and how we become those people.”

A photograph of Dr Rebecca Woods who has been named a New Generation Thinker
Dr Rebecca Woods

Fascinating insights

The New Generation Thinkers will be provided with unique access to training and support from AHRC and the BBC. They will also spend a year being mentored by producers from Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme, where they will appear and take part in discussions throughout the year. They will also be working on episodes of The Essay to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 next spring.

It is the third year in a row that Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, has produced a New Generation Thinker. Last year, Lecturer Dr Emma Whipday was chosen and in 2021, Dr Jake Morris-Campbell was selected. Previously, Dr Katie Cooper was named in 2016.

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair says: “The New Generation Thinkers programme brings interesting, important ideas to a wider audience, shaping public thought and discussion.

“From fascinating insights into feminism and philosophy, to the way we heat our homes and Viking burial rites, to the most challenging problems of our day, this is research at its most original, vital and compelling.

“These 10 brilliant, original thinkers demonstrate the potential for the arts and humanities to help us to better understand ourselves, our past, our present and our future.”

BBC Radio 3 Head of Speech Matthew Dodd says: “Radio 3 is delighted to join our colleagues at AHRC in celebrating this year’s New Generation Thinkers intake. The research these academics present is key to understanding our past and present, offering new perspectives on the exploration of human history and culture.

“Their inspiring and stimulating ideas on such a wide variety of topics deserve to be heard by a non-specialist audience, and we are pleased to be able to give these fascinating minds a platform to bring their work to as many listeners as possible.”