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Our Team

Professor Kathryn Higgins

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work; Programme Director

Professor Kathryn Higgins is a Professor of Social Science and Health at Queen's. She has published widely in the areas of adolescent development as well as programme evaluation/implementation science and methodological innovation. She is an experienced research leader having directed two multi-disciplinary research centres at QUB - the Institute of Childcare Research and the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation.

Her recent appointment as Director of Queen’s Communities and Place consolidates her extensive experience in leading research consortiums around community health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations, particularly children and young people.

Niki McKnight

Programme Manager, Queen's Communities and Place

Niki McKnight has worked in various administrative roles in Queen’s University since 2008. Notably, Niki worked in the Sharing Education Project at QUB from 2011-2015. From 2017-2021 she was Centre Manager in the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation overseeing the operational function of the Centre along with business development.

She is currently the Programme Manager for Queen’s Communities and Place and led the inception and development of the Community Engagement Charter at Queen’s University.

Professor Brendan Murtagh

School of Natural and Built Environment

Brendan Murtagh is a Professor of Urban Planning and chartered town planner who has researched and written widely on social economics, contested cities and urban regeneration, including his recent book on Social Economics and the Solidarity City (Routledge, 2019).

His current research projects include commercialising the social enterprise sector (Innovate UK 2019-); the social economy after peace (Swedish Research Council, with the University of Uppsala 2020-); Marine Coastal Heritage (EU Horizon 2020 led by Dr Wesley Flannery 2018-); and Car Dependency and Public Health (Medical Research Council led by Dr Ruth Hunter 2020-).

Professor Tony Gallagher

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Tony Gallagher is Professor of Education and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Between 2005 and 2010 he was Head of the School of Education and between 2010 and 2015 he was Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and External Affairs.

His main research interests lie in the role of education in divided societies, collaborative school networks, and in the democratic and civic role of higher education. He has worked on education issues in a large number of divided societies and currently has projects in Israel, Lebanon, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Cyprus, and the cities of Los Angeles and Jerusalem.

Dr Grace Kelly

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Dr Grace Kelly is a Visiting Research Fellow with an established body of work in complex social issues such as poverty and inequalities and has been involved in a wide range of impactful, evidence-based community engaged research. She was a researcher on the first poverty and social exclusion study in Northern Ireland, which provided a baseline measure of poverty in the region for the first time (Bare Necessities, 2003).

She was also involved in the second poverty and social exclusion study a decade later, carrying out a major qualitative study into family life in a context of poverty and austerity policy (Daly & Kelly, 2016). Some of her more recent completed projects has included improving the emotional wellbeing of disabled young people, investigating children and young people’s social attitudes, lone mothers’ attitudes and motivations to employment, education and training in a context of labour market activation policy and addressing the social harms associated with substance use.

Dr Andrew Grounds

School of Natural and Built Environment

Andrew Grounds is a Senior Research Fellow with an established track record for delivering high impact research in areas that include urban regeneration, social economics and finance, peace-building and community planning.

To date he has completed a series of University collaborations and community action research projects with a host of partners that include The Executive Office, The Strategic Investment Board, the Department for Economy and Innovate UK. At the Innovate UK KTP awards 2020 he was nominated as a national finalist in the Future Innovator category.

Dr Gareth Robinson

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Gareth Robinson is a researcher at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work whose primary focus is the transformative potential of education in divided societies. He is a member of the Centre for Shared Education and has been involved in supporting interschool collaboration, both locally and internationally, for a number of years. His portfolio of research explores the relational structures that support teacher collaboration and school improvement.

His academic contributions are framed by relational sociology and his interests include school networks, complexity theory, systems thinking, and social network theory.

Dr Gavin Duffy

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Dr Gavin Duffy is a lecturer and Programme Director of the MSc Educational Leadership Programme at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast. Gavin is a member of the Centre for Shared Education at the School and a member of the Centre for Leadership, Ethics and Organisation at the Queen’s Management School and a member of the Queen's Communities and Place research team.

Gavin’s main areas of research include shared education and the role of education in divided societies; effective collaboration between schools; school improvement and teacher professional development; educational leadership; school exclusion and education in custodial settings.

Dr Emma Loudon

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Emma Loudon is a research fellow in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work. She recently completed her PhD on the experience of families living with parental mental illness. Her key research interests include mental illness and wellbeing and innovative methodologies for participatory research with children, young people, families, and communities. She has a particular interest in conceptual frameworks addressing multiple perspectives. Emma is currently working on the CLIP study.

Emma has also engaged in teaching in the School of Nursing and Midwifery focusing on the complexity of mental illness over the lifespan and the impact on families and carers.

Alistair Stewart

Queen's Public Engagement

Alistair Stewart is Head of Public Engagement at Queen's University.

The Public Engagement team implement the University’s Social Charter, which commits Queen's to:

  • Providing leadership locally and globally
  • Promoting a positive impact on society through our research and education
  • Pursuing equality and social justice

Aileen Cummins

Queen's Public Engagement

Aileen Cummins has been a member of the Public Engagement Office at Queen’s University since December 2016.  She is the Community Impact Officer, responsible for promoting the work, research and values of the University to the community, voluntary and political sectors.  Aileen has previously worked as Queen’s University Public Affairs Manager.

Aileen is the former Head of Community Development at Ulster GAA with responsibility for Community Development, Club and Volunteer Development.  She previously served as Community, Health and Wellbeing Manager during her 11 years at the sporting body.  

Aileen is a qualified teacher with three years teaching experience gained before leaving the profession.

David Piekaar

Administration Support, Queen's Communities and Place

David Piekaar holds a degree in Music and English, and a Research Masters in Musicology from Queen’s. Having worked previously in electoral, housing and music sectors, he returned to the University as a staff member in 2005, and since then has worked as clerical/administrative support for many research projects within the Centre for Effective Education and Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation.  Currently he provides programme support for Queen’s Communities and Place.

Áine Brady

Queen's Communities and Place; Market Development Association

Áine is the local coordinator for the QCAP pilot community in the Market. She works connecting the community and the university to deliver outcomes across the initiative. She previously spent 10 years working in the Children & Young People’s Unit in Belfast City Council and before that worked for a number of NGOs in the children’s rights sector. Áine has been the Chairperson of the MDA since 2017 and is responsible for the strategic direction of the organisation and management of the staff team.   

Patrick McNally

Queen's Communities and Place; Market Development Association

Patrick McNally is QCAP’s local programme support for the pilot community of QCAP in the Market. He has been a professional footballer since the age of 16, playing for clubs such as Celtic FC and Cliftonville and is currently captain of Portadown.

Patrick has a keen interest in communities and the issues that affect them and limit opportunities. He has worked with children and young people throughout his sporting career and is very committed to exploring how sport and psychical activity can benefit mental health, particularly that of young men.

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