Dr Elizabeth Kirkham (PhD, MSc, BSc(Hons), AFHEA)

Postdoctoral Research Associate; Teaching Fellow

  • Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
  • Division of Psychiatry
  • School of Health in Social Science

Contact details

Address

Street

Kennedy Tower
Morningside Terrace

City
Edinburgh
Post code
EH10 5HF
Street

Medical School
Teviot Place

City
Edinburgh
Post code
EH8 9AG

Background

Dr Elizabeth Kirkham is a psychology researcher with expertise in mental health, affective and cognitive neuroscience, and science communication.

She originally studied for a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience at Durham University. During this time she also worked as a research assistant in Criminology, and it was this experience that led her to seek out a career in research. 

She later studied for a PhD in Psychology at the University of Sheffield. During this time she won an award for science writing (PubMED and The British Library's Access to Understanding 2014), and subsequently worked as a freelancer writer for eLife alongside her PhD study. Elizabeth's PhD research was focused on early life stress and its impact on how the (human) brain processes emotional information. She investigated this topic using electroencephalography (EEG) and psychological questionnaires. 

Dr Kirkham joined The University of Edinburgh in 2018 as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences. During this time she worked on the MRC Pathfinder project examining what people with mental illness want researchers to do with their data. She then worked with the same team on the EU Horizon 2020 CoMorMent project where she continued her previous investigation of opinions about sharing mental health data, and also took on a science communication role writing summaries of CoMorMent articles. In January 2023 she began an additional role as a Teaching Fellow in Clinical Psychology.

Qualifications

PhD Psychology (2017), University of Sheffield. 

MSc Cognitive Neuroscience (2011), Durham University.

BSc(Hons) Psychology (2010), Durham University.

Responsibilities & affiliations

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research summary

Elizabeth is interested in the psychology and neuroscience of mental illness, with a focus on the impact of early life stress. She takes a participatory approach to research, in order to ensure that a broad range of people with mental illness are included in the research process. Her recent work examines obsessive-compulsive disorder, with a focus on how it develops and how it responds to treatment.

Current research interests

Elizabeth's current research interests focus on combining neuroscience and psychology to investigate the psychopathology of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She is also interested in how early life stress relates to OCD and other mental health conditions and has recently published on the relationship between school closures and perceived stress amongst school pupils who experience bullying. Elizabeth seeks to involve people with mental illness in her research, and has conducted a number of studies examining how mental health data science can be maximally effective in driving the improvements sought by those who live with mental health conditions. With colleagues, she has co-produced best practice guidelines for mental health data science which are available to all researchers.

Past research interests

Elizabeth's first research was in the field of Criminology, where she examined topics such as the police's approach to victim-survivors of sexual violence and the effectiveness of Rape Crisis counselling for people who have been sexually assaulted.

Knowledge exchange

Elizabeth has extensive experience in science communication, and has written lay summaries of published articles by the journal eLife and later for the Horizon 2020 CoMorMent project. She played a key role in Depression Detectives, a citizen science project which sought to bring together depression researchers and non-researchers who live with depression. Elizabeth also has experience organising regular meetings of a stakeholder advisory group, and has run a number of consultations in which she asked people with lived experience of OCD to help shape her research ideas. 

View all 5 publications on Research Explorer

Papers delivered

Kirkham, E.J. (2019, May). Attitudes to data sharing in the UK: a comparison of mental and physical health. In S. Chan (Chair) The more we know, the less we fear: the role of public engagement in reducing stigma. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the British Psychological Society, Harrogate, UK.