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Dr Karen Burnell
BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, CPsychol, AFBPSS, FHEA

Associate Professor of Applied Psychology

Department of Social Sciences and Nursing

Karen Burnell


Karen is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Chartered Psychologist by Research, and an experienced research leader. At Solent, Karen is also the University Research Lead for Social Research and Policy as well as Course Leader for MRes Psychology. Karen also supervises PhD students and is Doctoral Coordinator for PGR students whose work concerns social policy.

After graduating with a First Class degree in 2003 from University of Southampton, Karen successfully applied for a 1+3 ESRC postgraduate award to complete an MSc Research Methods in Psychology, followed by a PhD, which she completed in 2007. Her thesis was a narrative inquiry entitled ‘The Reconciliation of Traumatic War Memories throughout the Adult Lifespan: The Relationship between Narrative Coherence and Social Support’. Since 2007, Karen has worked as a research assistant post at the University of Reading, a postdoctoral research associate at UCL from 2008-2011, a lecturer, and then senior lecturer at University of Portsmouth from 2011-2018. Karen joined Solent University in the summer of 2018.

Research interests

Karen specialises in applied psychology, with a particular focus on veteran studies, psychogerontology, mental health and wellbeing, and research methodologies. Over the years, Karen has explored the role of social support in mental health and wellbeing and, more specifically, peer support. At the heart of all of Karen’s research is the exploration of informal support networks and psychosocial interventions. While predominantly engaged with qualitative methods, Karen also has experience of designing and managing complex Randomised Controlled Trials to evaluate psychosocial interventions, as well as evaluation more broadly. Karen, is currently exploring how heritage can impact mental health and wellbeing, and has recently co-edited one of the first interdisciplinary books on the topic: Archaeology, Heritage, and Wellbeing: Authentic, Powerful, and Therapeutic Engagement with the Past.

Karen’s research has been funded by the ESRC, Forces in Mind Trust, Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, and the MARCH Network (a UKRI funded network). Karen is also a member of the Expert Review Panel and Steering Group for the Forces in Mind Trust’s Mental Health Research Programme and acts as Secretary to the panel for the British Society of Gerontology’s Averil Osborn Award for Participatory Research. Karen is a member of the Editorial Board for the journal Quality in Ageing and Older People, and regularly peer reviews for European Journal of Psychotraumatology, Journal of Military and Veterans' Health, Qualitative Methods in Psychology, Pilot and Feasibility Studies, Ageing and Society, The Lancet, Aging and Mental Health, Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, Cochrane, and JBI Evidence Synthesis. Karen also holds an Honorary Senior Lectureship at City, University of London.



Mental health, wellbeing, research methods, psychosocial interventions, social research, social policy,

Further information

Karen has a strong track record in attracting research funding, and a strong commitment to collaborative work.

  • Developing guidelines for involving people experiencing mental ill-health in heritage project (MARCH Plus Funding, 2020)
  • Archaeology and Veteran Wellbeing: What’s Next? (MARCH Network Sandpit Award, 2019)
  • What are veterans’ experiences of archaeology for psychological and physical wellbeing? Developing a programme theory for rehabilitation archaeology in the UK (RIKE, 2019)
  • Evaluation of Age UK Portsmouth (Age UK Portsmouth, 2016)
  • Evaluating Veteran Outreach Support in Portsmouth for effectiveness and cost-effectiveness (Forces in Mind Trust, 2014).
  • Peer support for older veterans (University of Portsmouth Research Development Fund, 2014)
  • Evaluation of a Creative Arts Service for people with dementia and their carers (Alzheimer’s Society Innovation Fund, 2013)
  • Kit Bags and Berets – an evaluation of an activity group specifically for veterans with dementia and their carers (Alzheimer’s Society, 2013)