I was born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany in 1966 and spent the first years of my life in the Black Forest area. Just before I turned 10, my whole family moved to Spain due to my father’s job situation. I went on to study psychology at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), graduating in 1985. It was during my first college years that I discovered my passion for neuroscience, and especially for autism. On completion of my studies, I began combining research with psychology consultations, mainly with children and young people struggling with emotional disorders, including autistic children. In my free time, I enjoy country walks, an activity that I share with my whole family, including our dog Suki.
Where Teaching and Therapy Combine
Julia’s teaching and research work in the field of cognitive neuroscience and autism has brought her recognition at a global level. She is an active member of international research groups in the field of facial information processing, including at her alma mater’s Faculty of Psychology at UAM. She claims that her enthusiasm for autism has increased over time and has led her to specialize in the use of facial emotional expressions of preschoolers with autism during nonverbal communication.
She decided upon this subject as the focus of her doctorate degree, which she was awarded back in 2015. This allowed her to become fully aware of how complex the mind is and how varied communication could be. Julia is convinced that society should make an attempt to understand everyone, irrespective of their disabilities.
She has always admired the world of education and originally sought to train as a teacher. However, her fascination with how the human mind works led her to study Psychology instead. During her degree, she began working on a voluntary basis with Professor Jaime Iglesias Dorado’s research team, which focused on facial information processing in primates and typical and atypical humans.
After finishing her studies, Julia began to combine research with working in psychology consultations. In her day-to-day life, she worked mainly with children and young people struggling with emotional disorders, including autistic children. She learned many valuable lessons during this time, the most important of which is that having a disability does not equate to a life of unhappiness for the affected child nor for their families. She asserts that parents and children go through a process of growth, whether their kids have a disability or not.
Although she enjoyed her work and research, Julia still felt a desire to teach. The opportunity finally came when she was offered to join the Universidad-SEK staff in Segovia and share her privileged knowledge with other young, aspiring psychologists. She claims that her time as a professor of biopsychology and neuroscience confirmed her love of imparting knowledge to others. When Universidad-SEK was acquired by IE University several years later and she was offered the opportunity to continue teaching in a multicultural setting, she was even more grateful.
As she puts it, stepping into IE University was like returning to her roots. Julia experienced a form of culture shock when she moved from Germany to Spain and claims that she still feels most at home in multicultural contexts. In other words, IE University was the perfect fit for her. In her view, diversity is definitely challenging, but it represents an added value that makes you grow as a person, no matter how old you are.
Her main aim as a teacher is to help her students understand that our behavior, including mental behavior, has a biological component which is closely related to the environment we are in. She believes that this is essential to achieving a deeper understanding of the construct of behavior, and empowers us to attain a certain control over our behavior and that of others. In her view, these subject areas generally pique the interest of most students, which is what motivates her to continue teaching them.
Aside from her teaching, Julia also serves as a student advisor. She is often assigned to students with a wide variety of learning needs, which also enables her to put her clinical expertise into practice.
Outside of the classroom, she spends her time reading, listening to classical music, and painting; an activity which she shares with her teenage daughter. She also enjoys collecting antiques, from stamps and photos to books, boxes and dolls, which she also restores. However, it is her most recent hobby, quilting, that truly allows her to relax and switch off. Having attended classes for a number of years, she’s now in the process of creating several tapestries and has recently started what’s known as “painting with fabrics.”
Julia believes that the key to achieving success is to do something that excites you. She believes this makes even the most difficult tasks seem a little easier. The ability to convey the passion for what you do is also crucial, whether in a professional context or with the simple things like baking a cake for friends and family.