Sam Wass gained a first-class undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. He spent his twenties working as an opera director, in opera houses in London, Glyndebourne, Berlin, Vienna, Bregenz, Geneva and others, before returning to academia. He did his PhD at the , Birkbeck, and his postdoctoral research in Cambridge, at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. He is currently leader of the BabyDevLab at the University of East London.
Sam's research examines stress, concentration and learning during infancy and early childhood. He uses methods including eyetracking, autonomic monitoring and neuroimaging (EEG) to understand how stress influences children's concentration and learning, and how young children's stress, concentration and learning capacities are influenced by the environment, and people around them. Sam works with typically developing children, children being raised in low socio-economic status backgrounds, and children in early stages of developing conditions such as Autism Spectrum disorders, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and anxiety.
Sam has held research fellowships from the British Academy and Economic and Social Research Council, and is a current holder of a €1.5 million research fellowship from the European Research Council. In addition, he has received funding as a Principal Investigator from the Medical Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Economic and Social Research Council, and others, and as a co-Investigator from the National Institute of Health Research, the Nuffield Foundation, the MQ Mental Health charity and others.
Sam has active research collaborations with a range of researchers including: Vicky Leong (Cambridge/NTU Singapore), Mark Johnson (Cambridge/Birkbeck), Emily Jones (Birkbeck), Edmund Sonuga-Barke and Tony Charman (IoPPN, London), Oliver Perra (Queen's Belfast) Jukka Leppanen (Tampere, Finland), Stefanie Hoehl (Vienna, Austria), Aleksandra Djukic and Susan Rose (Albert Einstein, New York), Noa Gueron Sela (Ben Gurion, Israel), Bart Boets (KU Leuven) and Lonnie Zwaigenbaum and Susan Bryson (Alberta, Canada).
In addition, Sam is very active in the public communication of science. He appears regularly as an early years expert on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky television channels and on all the UK's radio channels and newspapers. He acted as a media spokesperson for public campaigns for the Department of Education, Public Health England, Save the Children, LEGO, Nickelodeon and more.
He also appeared as a psychologist in the multi-award Channel 4 series The Secret Life of 4-, 5- and 6-Year-Olds, produced by Teresa Watkins for RDF Television, supported by the Wellcome Trust.