Dr Siobhan Banks

  • Research Associate Professor and Co-Director, Behaviour-Brain-Body Research Centre, University of South Australia

  • Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sleep in Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

In simple terms, how would you describe your research?

My research focuses on the impact of sleep deprivation and shift work on psychological and physiological functioning and how countermeasures may be used to prevent the negative effects of disturbed sleep, in particular, novel technologies, dietary interventions, napping and caffeine. I undertake research both in the lab to understand how sleep loss and irregular work schedules impact health and cognitive performance then also out in the field with industries to help them manage fatigue and create a healthy and productive workplace.

How does your work contribute to defence? 

Service men and women have to perform around the clock in all kids of different environments and emergency situations. They often have to get by with very little sleep and suffer chronic sleep deprivation; impacting both their health and cognitive function. Sleep loss is sometimes seen as a badge of honour and just something to be endured. But there are many ways sleep can be improved and fatigue managed so that military personnel can perform to their best ability and stay physically and mentally healthy. My research also examines how people interact with technology. And in high tempo, high stress, 24/7 environments, with ever increasing levels of task complexity, it is important to make sure people interact with technology in the most efficient ways.   

What excites you about your work?

The people I meet! So much of my research is about people and knowing that I have made a difference to people’s lives is very rewarding.

What advice would you give someone wanting a job like yours?

Follow your passion, reach for the stars and never let anyone tell you that you cant do something. I think too often people think science is dry or only a career that the super smart students can achieve. Instead I have found that its more about having an enquiring mind and tenacity to keep pursuing the answer. I think skills in problem solving, project management, communication and creativity are vital.

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

I really love to cook. All different kinds of food, but in particular, I love making and decorating cakes. I find piping icing can be quite meditative and relaxing. All these delicious calories are counted by hanging out with my two young children who definitely keep me on my toes. They also help to remind me that science is super find and at its heart a creative process.