School of Health Sciences and Social Work


Photo of Dr Karen Burnell

Dr Karen Burnell

  • Qualifications: BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD
  • Role Title: Senior Lecturer
  • Address: James Watson West 2 King Richard 1st Road Portsmouth PO1 2FR
  • Telephone: 023 92 844407
  • Email:
  • Department: SHSSW
  • Faculty: Faculty of Science


From 2000-2003, I read Psychology at the University of Southampton (BSc 1st Class). I was then awarded a 1+3 ESRC postgraduate award to complete an MSc Research Methods in Psychology, followed by a PhD, which I completed in 2007. My thesis was a narrative inquiry entitled ‘The Reconciliation of Traumatic War Memories throughout the Adult Lifespan: The Relationship between Narrative Coherence and Social Support’.

After a brief stint in the commercial market research sector, followed by a Research Assistant post at the University of Reading, I joined University College London as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2008. At UCL, I worked on the SHIELD (‘Support at Home: Interventions to Enhance Life in Dementia’) research programme, led by Professor Martin Orrell. In this role I helped to develop and manage one of the psychosocial interventions within the programme, which was a multisite pragmatic Randomised Controlled Trial concerning peer support for family carers of people with dementia alone and in combination with reminiscence group work. I also served as the Qualitative Methods Advisor across the programme.

I joined SHSSW in 2011 as Lecturer (now Senior Lecturer) in Health Sciences Research. In my role I continue to work in the area of health and wellbeing in later life, with a particular emphasis on understanding how challenges in life are overcome and how help can be best given.

Teaching Responsibilities

I am Qualitative Tutor for Advanced Research Techniques Unit for the Professional Doctorate course and also provide lectures on methodology and aspects of lifecourse development, ageing, quality of life, and wellbeing, across the degree programmes within the School. 


My research interests include the impact of war experience of formerly serving military personnel and the role of social support in coping with these experiences. And, more generally, the physical, mental, and emotional changes that occur throughout the adult lifespan, with a particular focus on how events in life challenge perceptions of the self (identity) and world, the impact of these challenges for wellbeing, and how these challenges can be overcome through psychosocial and narrative interventions to improve health and wellbeing in later life. 


Research profile

Explore my research profile, publications and activities on the Portsmouth Research Portal

View profile