Meet the Research and Development Team

Professor Alex Copello, Associate Director of Research

Alex is the Associate Director for Research and Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust and Professor of Addiction Research at the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham. His career combines clinical and academic work. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods his interests include the study of psychosocial approaches to addiction and mental health problems, the impact of addiction upon families and friends and the development and evaluation of family and social network based psychological interventions for addiction and mental health problems.  Alex’s research has led to major impacts on addiction treatment in the UK in recent years. He was Principal Investigator in the MRC funded UK Alcohol Treatment Trial, the largest multicentre trial of alcohol treatments conducted in the UK that informs effective and cost-effective delivery of psychosocial interventions for alcohol problems. He led the development of a social and family intervention (Social Behaviour and Network Therapy) used in the trial and shown to be as effective as a more established individual treatment. His 5-Step family intervention work in primary care and specialist NHS services with colleagues in the UK has been recommended in the NICE guidelines for drug problems as well as in guidelines for commissioning services for carers. His work on integration of substance misuse treatment into mental health services has been quoted as a model of good practice in national guidelines and recommended for wider implementation. Alex has received NIHR and MRC research funding over the past few years as chief or principal investigator for a number of psychological intervention trials. Alex publishes regularly and widely in international academic scientific journals.

Emma Patterson, Head of Research and Development

‘Emma has overall responsibility for the strategic development, delivery and operational management of the Research and Development function as the Head of Research and Development within the Trust. Her role was developed to ensure that R&D is developed, delivered and initiated across the organisation to ensure that service users have access to the most innovative treatments/care pathways and access to research that is relevant to them and their carers.  Working alongside the Associate Director for Research, she is responsible for ensuring the Trust delivers the strategic ambition to, ‘Drive research, innovation and technology to enhance care’.

Emma joined the Trust in 2015 and has a wealth of knowledge and experience in R&D having spent 15 years as a Senior Manager in the NHS, leading Research, Clinical Audit and Medical Education at various Trusts across the West Midlands.  Immediately prior to joining the Trust, and whilst the Manger of the West Midlands (South) Local Clinical Research Network, she successfully engaged with all key stakeholders to merge twelve research networks (total budget of £29 million) into one highly functioning research delivery network now known as the West Midlands Clinical Research Network (WM CRN)

Linda Everard, R&D Implementation and Performance Manager

Linda completed a BSc in Psychology in 2005 and went on to work as an Assistant Psychologist in the field of Children’s Mental Health, Specialist Learning Disabilities services and then onto Adult Psychosis Services around the West Midlands. In 2008 she joined the trusts’ Early Intervention in Psychosis service, in a joint research/clinical role, which then led her to manage the DOH funded National EDEN Study, looking into the effectiveness of the implementation of Early Interventions Services across the country. In 2010 she secured the position of Programme Manager for the NIHR funded Super EDEN programme which involved looking at the sustained positive engagement and recovery in first episode psychosis nationally. During this time, she was accepted to do a presentation at the International Early Psychosis Association (IEPA) conference in Tokyo to speak about the research, and specifically about what happens to service users once they leave high intensity Early Intervention Services. Since 2015, Linda has worked as the Research and Development Implementation and Performance Manager in the trust, managing the delivery and governance team ensuring ‘smart’ allocation of resource to support study set up and delivery and ensuring studies meet or exceed their recruitment targets.

Katie Williams, Research Governance Manager

Katie completed a BSc in Human Psychology with Professional Training at Aston University in 2008 and has since worked as a Research Assistant at the Derby Mental Health Research Unit, followed by eight years at the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network West Midlands (NIHR CRN: West Midlands) before joining the BSMHFT’s Research and Development department in July 2016. During her time at the NIHR CRN: West Midlands, Katie supported 12 NHS Trusts and neighbouring Clinical Trials Units with research study set up and research governance, often leading on the governance set up of complex multi-centre projects (one of which was awarded Clinical Trial of the Year 2014 by the Society for Clinical Trials). While in the Trust, Katie has lead on the governance set up of all research undertaken here, including the operational processes of the Assess, Arrange and Confirm Team, and developing a suite of Standard Operating Procedures and Policies.

Donna Allin, Business Admin Manager

Donna has worked at the Trust since 2007, currently working alongside the Research Manager in processing and approving research studies and associated documentation for the R&D Department. Previous NHS experience includes PA work and team support.

Audrey Smith, R&D Team Administrator

Audrey holds a Diploma of Higher Education in Industrial Information Technology. Audrey has worked for the Trust within the R&D department since 2008.  She has held similar posts at other Birmingham based Universities prior to joining the Trust. She provides administrative support to the research team which includes servicing committees, themed research meetings and diary management as well as purchasing of stock and non-stock purchases and book travel for the department. She was instrumental in the organising of research conferences for the department which was attended by national and international speakers and took place over a number of days.

Dr Clare Eddy, Senior Research Fellow

Clare is Vice Chair of the HRA Black Country Research Ethics Committee, and Associate Editor for academic journals including Frontiers in Psychiatry. After a First Class Honours Degree in Psychology she was awarded a competitive scholarship to support a PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience, and joined BSMHFT as Senior Research Fellow in 2009. Since then she has led a programme of research within neuropsychiatry and published approximately 65 peer-reviewed articles on topics such as cognition and quality of life in disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette syndrome and epilepsy. She was awarded funding to conduct brain imaging studies in Huntington’s, and to run the first ever trial of brain stimulation to help with memory problems in these patients. Clare has spoken about her research at many National and International conferences, including those held by organisations such as the American Neuropsychiatric Association, European Huntington’s Disease Network and The Royal College of Psychiatrists. Her ground-breaking research into social cognition in Tourette syndrome was featured on the BBC television program Employable Me (2016).  In addition to exploring how self-other distinction is related to psychiatric symptoms, Clare’s current projects are investigating the relationship between quality of life and social cognition in Huntington’s disease, in order to develop a new scale to measure patients’ social skills. ​​​​​​​

Elsa Benn, Research Fellow

Elsa is a part-time Research Fellow for the Enroll-HD study. She completed a BSc in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and since graduating has trained as a yoga teacher, focusing on teaching towards individuals with psychological and physiological illnesses (Arthritis, MS, Anxiety, Depression, Alzheimer’s, Dementia). Elsa has experience working in a primary care setting, leading on projects such as Bowel Cancer Screening prevention programmes and is particularly interested in how the mind and body interact and how this view can help to ameliorate disease. ​​​​​​​

Shabana Akhtar, Research Fellow

Shabana has worked in Research for over 9 years gaining experience in Dementia, Psychosis, Huntington’s Disease, and Addiction. Whilst working for BSMHFT’s Research and Development department she has completed a Masters in Clinical Neuropsychiatry at the University of Birmingham. Shah is experienced in the set-up of commercial and non-commercial trials from set up to close down as well as being equipped with Phlebotomy and Laboratory skills. Shah is currently on maternity leave.

Nadia Starkova, Clinical Studies Officer

Nadia has been working as a Clinical Studies Officer in the department since 2012.  Throughout this time, she has supported a variety of NIHR portfolio studies including: genetic studies, drug trials, questionnaire studies, commercial trials.  She has worked closely with Early Interventions teams, Dementia services, Mother and Baby services as well as local CMHTs. Nadia completed a BSc in Psychology and is currently finishing an MSc in Mental Health Science. ​​​​​​​

Sarah Bicknell, Research Fellow (Perinatal Services)

Sarah has worked for the Research and Development department since 2018. She is currently working on several NIHR portfolio studies, mainly in the areas of perinatal mental health and psychosis. Her previous research work focused on the development mother-infant interactions, specifically in the context of babies with cleft lip and/or palate, and the impact of this on the psychological wellbeing of mothers. She has previously worked clinically for over 7 years within several NHS trusts, as well as within third sector mental health services.

Helena Heath, Research Fellow

Research fellow for the PHOENIx trial, which aims to improve health outcomes for people experiencing homelessness. Helena has worked in homelessness research and project evaluation for two years and has a background in housing and mental health support.

Dr Analisa Smythe, Research Nurse and Dementia Studies Lead

Analisa has a significant track record of research expertise spanning over twenty years. Her research experience is predominately in staff well-being and dementia research. Her last study aimed to develop and evaluate a sustainable model of peer support to improve retention of newly qualified nurses. She completed her PhD in 2020. She also has an MSc in Advanced Nursing Practice, a PG Cert in Higher Education and an MPhil (Research). She has been awarded five Research Grants since 2010. In 2021 she was awarded the CRN Professional Development award. Analisa qualified as a Registered Mental Health Nurse in 1996 and has worked with in Research and Development for the past 15 years, prior to this she Managed Respite Services for Older People within BSMHFT.

Enid Leung, Senior Research Governance Facilitator

Enid has a degree in biomedical science and understand translational medicine from bench to bedside. She comes with a wealth of knowledge after being in the NHS R&D for 10 years doing research governance and also during this time gained a merit in her Masters of clinical research (MClinRes) postgraduate course. She supports the setup of studies including clinical trials and provides guidance to researchers to any queries about research governance. ​​​​​​​

Jane Dyer, Research Nurse

Jane qualified as an RMN in 1998, after which she spent 13 years working as a Nurse and /or Deputy Ward Manger on Organic and Functional Acute Assessment wards at the Queen Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital.  She completed a BSc in Mental Health Studies & Specialist Nurse Practitioner in Older Adults in 2003 at Birmingham City University. In 2008, she started working at BSMFT’s Research and Development Department. During her time within the Trust’s R&D Department she has led on DOMINO AD trial and the MADE trial and assisted in various other trials such as the BURDET Trial ; training Qualified Nurses in Nursing Homes in relation to nursing people with an organic Illness and AD Genetics and has set up a Database of people in Birmingham and Solihull who have an ICD-10 diagnosis of an Organic Illness, to enable research workers to readily identify people eligible for trials in the future.  She is also a champion for Join Dementia Research assisting people and their carers who are affected by dementia participate in research projects. Jane’s dual role is a Senior Practitioner with the Birmingham Assessment Service; a diagnostic service within BSMHT, since 2009. Her passion and speciality lie in the field of memory problems, in people of all ages.

Ashley Jones, Clinical Studies Officer

Ashley has completed a BSc (Hons) in Psychology at Lancaster University, followed by an MSc in Applied Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol. Her academic research focused on her interest in false memories and she has experience conducting FMRI studies. Clinically, she has worked as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist within a Clinical Health Psychology team in the North West. Ashley started her first paid position within the trust in 2016 at the Memory Assessment Service before moving into the Research and Development post in 2019. ​​​​​​​

Kiranpreet Gill, Clinical Studies Officer

Kiran has recently joined the Trust to assist Dr Danielle Hett and Professor Steven Marwaha in the development of a new research ready platform for treatment-resistant depression which will form an integral part of the Trust’s research on mood disorders. She has obtained a BSc degree in Psychology from Aston University and is currently completing her MRes in Clinical Psychology at the University of Birmingham. Her previous experience includes working in Physical Health Psychology for Stroke Rehabilitation and Behçet’s Syndrome and she is currently working in an adult complex trauma team to research a pilot community based CFT group programme for birth parents who have previously engaged with Children’s Services and had a child(ren) removed from their care.

​​​​​​​Indy Athwal, Clinical Studies Officer

Indy graduated from her BSc Psychology degree in 2018 from Aston University and has also completed an MSc in Health Psychology. Indy has previous clinical experience as an honorary assistant psychologist within community mental health teams and inpatient units; working closely with service users impacted by mental health issues, stroke/acquired brain injury and dementia. Indy has worked in student recruitment, working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds to help bridge the gap in access to higher education and improve knowledge of mental health within the school setting. Through this role she delivered many interventions and workshops to promote stress and anxiety management. Previously, Indy worked as a Men’s Health Coach to promote access to healthcare and reduce DNA rates in those diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes across the Staffordshire area. Indy has a strong interest in the impact of culture on mental and physical health and completed her masters thesis on ‘Understanding the lived experience of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome/Endometriosis amongst British Indian Women and the implications on relationships’.

Indy joined the department as a research assistant and worked in this role for 19 months, until she recently gaining a position within the team as a Clinical Studies Officer.

Anika Miah, Research Assistant

Anika obtained a BSc Neuroscience degree from Aston University in 2023; as part of her degree, she gained experience in research with particular interest in brain disorders. Her dissertation explored the efficacy and tolerability of different treatment options for generalised anxiety disorder, with a focus on pregabalin as a pharmacological intervention. Anika previously worked as an Honorary Research and Innovation Assistant in the Trust, participating in numerous projects ranging from Covid-19 studies to epilepsy and perinatal studies.

She since returned to the R&D department as a research assistant and is currently working on an addictions-based study: NALPORS.

Keira Hodgetts, Honorary Research Assistant

Keira has joined the Trust as an Honorary Research Assistant placement year student for the Research and Development team, from Coventry University. She is presently completing an undergraduate degree in Forensic Psychology.

Keira is passionate about using her knowledge and kindness to provide those in forensic settings (primarily criminals/ex-criminals) with help and support for rehabilitation. She currently also undertakes part-time work in two separate roles. Outside of university and work, she is a huge lover of concerts and festivals; and enjoys sports, notably football and Formula One. She is also a huge animal lover and spends her time at home with her dog and cat!

Keira: ‘I am so excited to join the Trust for this placement year and cannot wait to learn, grow and be immersed in the wide variety of research the Trust is involved in!’

Dr Opeyemi Odejimi, Mood Disorders Research Project Manager

Opeyemi (Ope) is the Mood Disorder Research Project Manager. She has previously worked as a research assistant at the Trust. She also has wealth of experience as a lecturer teaching both undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as an online tutor. Ope has a PhD and has disseminated her research in journal publications and many conferences.

Louis Brown, Research and Development Assistant

Louis has recently joined the Trust as a research and development assistant; with a focus on research projects regarding Huntington’s Disease (HD) such as ‘Social Cognition and Quality of Life in HD’.

Louis was awarded a First Class BSc in Psychology from Keele University in 2023 and is currently studying a MSc in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience there too.

Louis has experience in various mental health occupations such as, Special Educational Needs Teaching Assistant, Clinical Support Worker in adult and adolescent psychiatric hospitals, and forensic community mental health practitioner roles.

Although this is his first research-based role, Louis gained research experience during his BSc Psychology in which his dissertation investigated the effects of dietary preferences on moral decision making and speciesism.  And two research assistant roles in which he facilitated recruitment and conducting experiments/interviews:
1) the psychological and physiological effects of swearing on pain relief – with Dr Richard Stephens
2) Veganism, identity, activism, and intersectionality – with Dr Sara Vestergren.

Louis’ research interests lie within Mental Health and Psychopathology, VRET (Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy), Cyberpsychology (positive/negative effects of gaming, and gaming disorder), and dietary studies/moral decision making.

Susan Musa, Lead Research Nurse

Susan is a dedicated research nurse with a strong passion for promoting mental health and well-being. She has a wealth of experience working on various studies on the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Portfolio and has joined the R&D department as a Lead Research Nurse working on mood disorder studies.

Susan holds an Adult Nursing Diploma and a BSC in Midwifery from Birmingham City University. She embarked on her career as a research nurse in 2020 when she joined the NIHR West Midlands Clinical Research Network. She supported different studies across the West Midlands working on both commercial and non-commercial studies in different specialties within the NHS.

Susan says: ‘with my dedication and skills, I strive to contribute to the development of innovative interventions and evidence-based best practices aimed at enhancing health outcomes for all individuals’.     

Rebekah Amos, Mood Disorders Research Fellow

Rebekah has a strong research background in psychology and mental health. She obtained a first-class BSc in psychology at the University of Manchester in 2011 and subsequently went on to obtain a distinction in a masters of research- psychology in 2014. Rebekah was awarded her PhD in psychology at the University of Liverpool in 2023. Her PhD “Understanding wellbeing and psychopathology in sexual minority adolescents in the UK: A multi-methods investigation” explored the relationship between mental health outcomes in sexual minority adolescents growing up in the UK today. She has worked with clinical psychologists, data scientists, medical and health professionals throughout her research pursuits.

Her research interests surround mental health and illness, its onset and maintenance over the life course. She has a particular interest in minority groups and work focused at reducing social disparities which subsequently impact mental health outcomes. Her methodological expertise spans big data analyses, systematic reviews and qualitative methods. Rebekah would like to work towards interventionist methods and longitudinal research.

Rebekah has joined the team as a research fellow for BSMHFT, with a focus on mood disorder research. She is working towards the mental health mission and the development and roll out of a digital platform, as well as associated academic outputs as part of the mood disorder research stream.

Marivjena Menka, Reseach and Development Assistant

Marivjena’s current role as a Research and Development Assistant involves supporting with research delivery and actively promoting and assisting research activities within the Research and Development team.

Marivjena holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Psychology from the University of Essex and a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Clinical Neuropsychiatry from the University of Birmingham. Over the past five years, Marivjena has served in various clinical and research roles.

She has worked as an Assistant Psychologist at Psychiatry UK, involved in diagnostic assessments for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults. Prior to this, she provided support and interventions for adults with neurodegenerative disorders, developmental disabilities and complex mental health conditions as an Assistant Psychologist for Towerview Care.

Marivjena has also worked as a Research Associate at the University of Birmingham focusing on child and adolescent abuse research and as a Research Assistant at the University of Essex where she contributed to participant recruitment and data management. Marivjena has publications in reputable journals, showcasing her commitment to advancing knowledge in the field.

Hannah Ogejuma, Research and Development Assistant

Hannah has obtained an MSc in Public health from the University of Northampton. Hannah has also completed research as part of her academic studies, including a secondary data analysis for her MSc, which she explored the factors that can contribute to the misuse of prescription-only painkillers in adults living in the UK.

Hannah has joined the Trust as a research and development assistant with a focus on research projects regarding UK Minds. Her current role as a Research and Development Assistant also involves supporting with other research delivery and actively promoting and assisting research activities within the Research and Development team.

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