Emily Brown

University of Birmingham


Evolution and phylogenetic relationships of early cerapodan dinosaurs


Susie Maidment (Natural History Museum); Richard Butler (University of Birmingham); Paul Barrett (Natural History Museum)

PhD Summary

My PhD project focuses on resolving the phylogenetic position of a number of early cerapodan taxa within the ornithischian family tree. The taxa I’m looking at are phylogenetically disparate and don’t form a nice monophyletic group, but they do all share a similar body plan, being generally small, bipedal, and rather morphologically conservative compared to many of their other ornithischian relatives.

What inspires you?

I owe my love of science and nature to my mum (an avid bird watcher) and to my grandma (who studied astronomy later in her life). From a young age we would take regular trips out on wildlife walks and to the Science Museum and Natural History Museum in London. My interest in dinosaurs specifically comes from a single book that I got for Christmas when I was six, which I loved tremendously and read cover to cover again and again.

Previous Activity

Prior to my PhD I completed a MSci in Palaeobiology & Palaeoenvironments at the University of Birmingham. During this degree I completed two independent research projects, one on the completeness of the fossil bat record, and the second on the Early Triassic archosauriform Proterosuchus. I was extremely lucky to have an amazing, supportive supervisory team who encouraged me to present my results at conferences, helped me publish my work, and ultimately inspired me to pursue a career in academia.

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

I really enjoyed the independence and freedom of the research projects I undertook during my undergraduate degree. I have since become extremely passionate about research and contributing to the field of palaeontology. Completing a doctorate was the obvious next step, as it presents a unique opportunity to really explore a specific topic that you are passionate about.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

The project advertised by CENTA sounded extremely interesting and would allow me to work with world-leaders in the field and be based at the Natural History Museum in London, which has always been a dream of mine! I was also really excited by CENTA in particular because of the focus on building up skills that not only allow us to succeed at our PhDs, but also to become better and more well-rounded scientists.

What are your future plans

I hope to continue to pursue an academic career in palaeontology. At the moment I think I would like to be a lecturer of palaeontology at a university as I really enjoy communicating science.