What is your area of expertise?

I have a BSc and PhD in Sport and Exercise Science, both of which were completed at the university of Essex. My research is focused on the impact of the natural environment on physical activity participation and the role of physical activity within natural environments (termed “Green Exercise”) in improving health and wellbeing outcomes in a range of populations including children, adults and vulnerable groups.  In particular my recent work is focused on the use of nature-based interventions (such as social and therapeutic horticulture) for the treatment of mental ill-health.

As a woman in STEM, how has working at Essex supported your career/research?

Working at Essex has supported my career in a number of ways. I have been provided with numerous training and development opportunities which have enabled me to develop not only my research and teaching skills, but also my leadership and communication skills. I have also been mentored by female colleagues in STEM who have supported me in my research and teaching roles and provided guidance on career development. Essex also has a women’s network which provides a platform to raise and address issues that women face within the workplace, providing mentors and networking opportunities, access to role models and initiatives to progress and support career development. Essex also has a number of policies which support employees with caring responsibilities, enabling me to work flexibly and balance my career development with family responsibilities.

Describe a project you’ve been involved in that you are particularly proud of.

I was recently involved in a funded project examining the feasibility of prescribing therapeutic community gardening to reduce loneliness and improve mental wellbeing in individuals with mental health problems, working alongside Trust Links, a mental health and wellbeing charity in Essex. This work helped to demonstrate the benefits of nature-based interventions for individuals with mental ill-health and the need for increased availability of services across the UK.

Mental health is an area that I am incredibly passionate about; with growing rates of mental illness globally there is a significant need for alternative models of support and treatment. I feel very privileged to have been awarded this funding and am building on the research and collaborations developed to further evidence the benefits of nature-based interventions for mental ill-health with the aim of impacting healthcare policy and practice.

How important do you think it is for a STEM employer to encourage more women into the discipline?

I believe it is very important for a STEM employer to encourage more women into the discipline. Having more women in STEM disciplines will ensure that a range of perspectives, experiences and priorities are represented within STEM and that the outcomes from STEM research represent and benefit the whole population. This shift is likely to have significant economic benefits. Increasing the number of females in STEM will also provide role models for younger generations of females, encouraging and empowering them to enter the field. These role models are also essential for enabling us to overcome gender stereotypes.