Lab Director

Dr. Gillian Sandstrom

Email: g.sandstrom (at)

My undergraduate degree was in Mathematics and Computer Science, at the University of Waterloo, in Canada. I worked as a computer scientist for 10 years before deciding to return to higher education. I took two Psychology classes by distance education, volunteered in a lab, and then took the plunge and applied to do a Master’s degree in Psychology at Ryerson University (Toronto), on the topic of Music Cognition. An internship/placement that I completed during that degree led me to move to the University of British Columbia for my PhD, where I started studying conversations with strangers and acquaintances (weak ties). Next, I moved to the U.K. to take up a postdoctoral position at the University of Cambridge. In 2015, I took up my first permanent academic post at the University of Essex, continuing my work on minimal social interactions. In 2022, I started working at the University of Sussex, heading up the Sussex Centre for Research on Kindness.

PhD Students

  • 2022 – 2025, James Laughton.
  • 2020 – 2026, Adrian Martin. Why customers tip or complain in restaurants

Lab Alumni

  • 2018 – 2022, Dr. Shaaba Lotun. PhD dissertation: Social media for social good: Understanding, creating, and harnessing the strength of parasocial relationships.
  • 2021 – 2022, Dr. Josh Moreton, post-doctoral research assistant
  • 2019 – 2020, Dr. Caitlin Kelly, post-doctoral research assistant