Health & WellbeingDisability Research Group

Around one in five people are disabled. Disabled people thus represent a significant yet often neglected group in society. They face a multitude of barriers in their daily lives, which lead to exclusion on various dimensions and inequalities in socioeconomic achievements. Enabling disabled people to realise their potential, enjoy equal rights and justice, and fully participate in society requires interdisciplinary and creative approaches to understanding, addressing, and removing the various barriers. This includes understanding how the concept disability has evolved historically and is constructed in our societies today; how medical and technological advances can be targeted and employed effectively and ethically to improve the lives of disabled people; how political processes and legal frameworks support and obstruct the rights and representation of interests of disabled people; and how society and its institutions can be designed in inclusive ways.

The Disability Research Group brings together academics from across all four faculties who work on topics related to disability and are interested in exchanging ideas and knowledge. It aims to foster a comprehensive and multi-faceted understanding of how disability is, and can be, approached by scholars and scientists across disciplines. And it provides a platform for developing collaborations and projects in the areas of research, teaching, knowledge exchange and impact.

(Banner image is CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 Tony Baldwinson Disabled People's RIGHTS NOW.)


Core Members


Risky hormones, pregnant patients and the contested science of birth defects’, AHRC UK-German Funding Initiative in the Humanities (2020-25)

This project examines, in collaboration with patient groups, the rise and fall of Primodos, a ‘hormone pregnancy test’ drug that ruled out gestation by inducing menstrual-like bleeding. HPTs were first marketed by the West German pharmaceutical company Schering AG (now Bayer) in 1950. Starting in 1967, HPTs came under suspicion; initially for causing spina bifida and then for inducing miscarriage and a range of birth defects akin to those caused by thalidomide, the notorious sedative that was also used to treat morning sickness. Although HPTs have not been available for decades, new archival findings and scientific evidence have revitalised long dormant patient-led campaigns in Britain and Germany. Against a backdrop of persistent media interest, continuing scientific research, and resumed litigation, our project will cut through the polemic to produce at a subtler, more nuanced historical understanding of HPTs. It will also seek to better understand international debates over the use and regulation of drugs in pregnancy and the spectre of birth defects after thalidomide.

How do voters perceive disabled candidates?’, ESRC New Investigator Grant (2019-22)

This project focuses on voters’ evaluations of disabled candidates and politicians and asks whether voters perceive them differently from non-disabled politicians. It examines how voters perceive candidates’ personality traits and their political preferences and policy concerns and whether, as a result, (some) voters are more or less likely to support disabled candidates in elections. The project will explore these questions with respect to different disability types as well as the intersections of disability and other characteristics, such as gender. Voters’ perceptions and views will be measured through online survey experiments, in which respondents are presented with descriptions or pictures of fictional candidates with varying characteristics and asked to evaluate them. The survey experiments will be conducted in the UK, Germany and Finland—three countries with different electoral systems and attitudes towards disability. The research will generate valuable insights not only for academics interested electoral behaviour or disability stereotypes, but also for disabled (aspiring) politicians, political parties, and policy-makers seeking to address the under-representation of disabled people in politics.

Dr Jesse Olszynko-Gryn

Jesse is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the History of Health and Wellbeing. A Historian of science, technology and medicine by training, he is co-lead with Dr Birgit Nemec (University of Heidelberg) on the UK-German collaborative research project, ‘Risky hormones, pregnant patients and the contested science of birth defects’ (2020-25). He has longstanding research interests in the history of reproductive technologies, health activism and medical film. He is an affiliated scholar with the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where he completed his PhD in 2014.

Dr Stefanie Reher

Stefanie is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Political Science at the School of Government & Public Policy, which she joined as a Chancellor’s Fellow in 2017. She is currently working on several projects about the representation of disabled people in politics, including her ESRC New Investigator Project, ‘How do voters perceive disabled politicians?’ (2019-22). Before moving to Glasgow, she was a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford (Nuffield College), an MSc from the London School of Economics, and a BA from Jacobs University Bremen.

Dr Nicola Cogan

Nicola joined Strathclyde in October 2017 having previously worked as a consultant clinical psychologist and clinical lead in mental health services in the NHS. She has over 15 years NHS experience working as a practitioner clinical psychologist in mental health services. She retains an honorary consultant clinical psychologist post in NHS Lanarkshire. She completed a Professional Doctorate in Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy) at the University of Edinburgh. Prior to this she completed a PhD in Psychology and Social Policy and Social Work and MA (Hons) Psychology at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests are in the areas of mental health, wellbeing, recovery and citizenship in applied health and social contexts. She is involved with research adopting community participatory research methods and has an interest in issues concerning transitions from military to civilian life for veterans and their families. She is a member of the International Recovery and Citizenship Collective led by Yale Medical School and has a growing interest in health behaviour change, with a focus on vaccination uptake. Finally, she is interested in the uses of technology in health and well-being interventions.

Professor Ian Cunningham

Ian Cunningham is Professor of Employment Relations in the Department of HRM. He is an Academic Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and in 2010-13 he was Treasurer of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association (BUIRA). Professor Cunningham’s research interests include voluntary sector employment relations, sickness absence and disability management, employee involvement and participation and public sector employment relations during austerity. Professor Cunningham has published in a wide range of HR and public administration journals and has strong research links with scholars from Canada and Australia.

Dr Mark Dunlop

Dr Dunlop is a Senior Lecturer in computer science. His research focuses on universal usability of mobile systems including health and accessibility applications, sensor driven interaction, usability evaluation, and text entry. He has supervised projects supporting text entry for older adults, text entry for people with language impairments, and to support people with mild intellectual disabilities. He is an associate editor for Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, the International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction and ACM CHI. He primarily teaches human computer interaction and app development. Prior to Strathclyde, he was a senior researcher at Risø Danish National Laboratory and a lecturer at Glasgow University.

Dr Petya Eckler

Petya is a Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Media and Communication. Her primary area of research is health communication through social media. She has studied how using Facebook relates to body image and eating attitudes among young women and how hospitals in the United States use social media to communicate with stakeholders. She has also conducted research in international communication (disaster coverage by the media) and advertising (viral videos and online customer reviews). She is the founder and coordinator of the Working Group on Body Image and Eating Disorders, which includes academics, clinicians, health charity professionals, bloggers and people with lived experiences. The group runs the website HealthySocialMedia, where they share updates and research on related topics. She gives frequent interviews to the media, public talks, and presentations at schools, professional groups and others.

Dr Mario Ettore Giardini

Mario is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Health at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. He designs biomedical instruments on the frontier between optics, electronics, and medicine. He works on portable and field clinical equipment, medical equipment for challenging environments, sensing for robotic surgery and digital healthcare. He pursues his activity on a global scale, to empower citizens to manage and improve health, live better lives, and to provide a pathway to healthcare equality and sustainability.

Dr Matson Lawrence

Matson is a Research Associate with the NORFACE-funded CILIA-LGBTQI+ study, based at the School of Education, examining intersectional lifecourse (in)equalities among LGBTQI+ people in four European countries. Prior to this role, he most recently worked on the TransEdu Scotland research and wider TransEDU project based at the University Strathclyde. Funded by the Scottish Funding Council, the award-winning project examined the experiences of, and current provision for, trans and non-binary applicants, students and staff in colleges and universities across Scotland. In 2018, Matson was seconded to the Scottish Funding Council as a Senior Policy/Analysis Officer, with responsibility for overseeing implementation of the Gender Action Plan in colleges and universities across Scotland. Matson has also led Creative Scotland-funded research on young disabled and D/deaf people’s access to arts provision with Birds of Paradise Theatre Company. He has worked extensively with intersectional LGBTQI+ communities in the third and arts sectors, through roles at LGBT Health and Wellbeing and CCC! Intersectional Arts. Matson holds an interdisciplinary Doctorate in Law and Applied Social Sciences from Durham University examining young adults’ perspectives on pornography and its legal regulation, and has been a Research Assistant on several gender-based violence projects.

Dr Gillian MacIntyre

Gillian is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Work and Social Policy. She joined the University after completing a PhD exploring the transition from childhood to adulthood for young people with learning disabilities at the University of Glasgow. Much of her teaching and research interests focus on the area of adult social care, with a particular interest in learning disability and mental health. She currently holds the role of Course Leader on the BA (Hons) in Social Work and am committed to ensuring her students have an excellent learning and teaching experience during their four years on the course. She also coordinates the service user and carer network in the School in partnership with colleagues at Glasgow Caledonian University. The network has a remit to influence all aspects of teaching and education across our social work programmes and has involvement in relation to selection, teaching and assessment as well as course monitoring and review.

Dr Donna McCormack

My research is situated at the intersection of post- and anti-colonial studies, queer theory, and the medical humanities. In much of my work I formulate post- and anti-colonial, critical race and queercrip ways of analysing contemporary fiction in order to both critique systems of violence and to open up space for imagining what is possible. My focus is the body in the context of health and illness and trauma studies. I work across literatures from North Africa, the Caribbean and Canada. I am currently working on a monograph entitled Vital Death: Organ Transplantation in Contemporary Fiction.

I recently completed an AHRC Leadership Fellowship on Transplant Imaginaries: Haunted Times, Segregated Spaces and Embodied Ethics, which focused on organ transplantation in contemporary fiction. My long-standing interest in organ transplantation in memoirs and fiction (novels and films) is both a concern with how narratives of transplantation may be reimagined, and an analysis of how new bodily imaginaries may offer alternative ways of thinking belonging, community and nation. Indeed, this intersection of visceral body and community boundaries is at the heart of my research.

My first book Queer Postcolonial Narratives and the Ethics of Witnessing (Bloomsbury 2014) examined the relation between familial and national violence and trauma in Moroccan, Canadian and Trinidadian literatures. Exploring how trauma may be passed on through the generations without language and through the use of the senses, this book offers a theory of sensory knowledge as a mode of bearing witness to unspeakable and unspoken familial and national traumas. It explores the endless collective work necessary to remember these often silenced histories.

I also have a strong interest in monsters and am a founding member of the Monster Network. I have written on Richard Goldschmidt’s theory of hopeful monsters, and I am interested in alternative evolution theories as forms of anti-colonial, anti-racist, and anti-homo- and transphobic resistance. I am currently developing a project on Queer Fish.

I am currently the coordinator of the Nordic Network Gender, Body, Health

Professor Matthew Smith

Professor Matthew Smith joined the University of Strathclyde and the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) in 2011, after completing a PhD and post-doctoral work at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Medical History. His research and teaching have focussed on three primary areas within the history of health and medicine: mental health and psychiatry; allergy and immunology; and food and nutrition. He is working on two projects at present: the first, funded by an AHRC Early Career Fellowship, is on the history of social psychiatry in the United States; the second, ‘Out on the Pitch: Sexuality and Mental Health in Men's and Women's Sport, 1970-Present’ was funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Award. Currently, he serves as the Vice-Dean of Research for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HaSS). Previously, he served as Co-Director of the CSHHH, the Director of Research for History and Deputy Head of the Department of Humanities.  He is also a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland and a Fellow of the RSA and the Royal Historical Society. In 2012 he was named an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker.

Dr Angela Turner

Angela Turner is a Teaching Fellow in History. Her teaching and research interests lie in the fields of health and social history. She has a keen interest in the history of disability, the history of industrial injury and rehabilitation, the history of disability sport and oral history. She teaches a number of undergraduate courses relating to her research interests and is an active member of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) and the Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC).  In 2011-15 she was a researcher on Disability and Industrial Society: A Comparative Cultural History of British Coalfields, 1780-1948, a Wellcome Trust Programme Award project which looked at industrial injuries and diseases in three British coalfields between 1780 and 1948.