Dean Burnett (BSc, PhD (pending))
Dean Burnett first discovered a gift for making people laugh when acting in student comedy shows as he studied for a neuroscience degree at the School of Biosciences. Now researching a PhD on memory at the School of Psychology, Dean is also putting his understanding of the mind to use in stand-up comedy.
I first came to Cardiff University in September 2000. Eight years later, and Iím now due to leave. I have been a part of the University for nearly a decade, so Cardiff has been the centre of my life for the whole of the 21st Century so far.
I first came to Cardiff without any idea of what to expect or how university life worked. As someone born and raised in a tiny ex-mining valley community outside Bridgend, university or even city life was alien to me. Cardiff may have been only 50 miles from my home, but conceptually it may as well have been on the moon. I often wonder if I would have managed in other, bigger cities. Thankfully, Cardiff has always provided a relaxed, hassle-free environment while still being an obviously multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city. The fact that someone as naive and inexperienced as myself can be uprooted and left to fend for myself in this city, and not just survive but really make something of myself speaks volumes about the possibilities offered by Cardiff in general and the University in particular.
I came here to study Neuroscience. I was always a very intellectual student at school, but in an environment where athletic prowess was always given preference. Given that my family, as supportive as they have always been, have no background whatsoever in Science and further education, I often wondered why I was so different. What was it about my brain that made me this way? So why not study it further? After searching through UCAS for courses where I could do so, I discovered the Neuroscience was taught at Cardiff.
I was instantly drawn to the University as a whole. Admittedly, Iíd had some less favourable experiences elsewhere, particularly at Cambridge, where after being told by my now obviously inexperienced careers advisor that the majority of people who go to Cambridge are Russian spies I attempted to conduct the interviews in a Soviet accent. Not my proudest moment. But Cardiff struck me as a well funded, dedicated establishment without being exclusive or high pressured, important for inexperienced students like myself. Given that none of my family had even got as far as A-levels, I was truly in uncharted waters, and this was exactly what I was looking for.
I found Cardiff, both socially and educationally, to be a revelation. I really found confidence meeting new friends from all over the UK and the world. Even when I graduated with a 2.1 in Neuroscience, I ended up working for the University medical school. I wanted to pursue my education further still to PhD level, but didnít have any real Ďhands oní experience yet. I worked for nearly 2 years handling the cadavers for the Anatomy course. Perhaps my careers advisors should have been more specific about what it is I should put my Ďhands oní.
During this time, I actually found myself turning to Stand-up comedy. Iíve always enjoyed making people laugh, it was how I survived at school, and I really needed to get away from the morbidity of my day job. I found the Cardiff comedy scene as welcoming as the rest of Cardiff. Not long after I found the exact PhD I wanted, offered by the Psychology school. I interviewed and was, incredibly, accepted, although I wonder if this was because I was the best candidate or because my supervisors just wanted me to stop talking about my current job. From that point on, I have been (probably) the UKís only Stand-up comedy Neuroscientist. Thanks to Cardiff and the University I have gone from a paranoid, inexperienced valley boy to someone who has a degree in neuroscience and is soon to have a doctorate in the same, who has met and married a beautiful woman and now has an extended Indian family, who has appeared on TV, Radio and in countless media, who has performed with stars like Jo Brand and Simon Pegg.
This is what Cardiff does to people, although it probably doesnít do the same for everyone. Your experience may differ. But youíll definitely enjoy it, and Iím glad to have been part of it for so long.