Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School
(023) 8120 8979

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend BSc, MSc, PhD

LifeLab Programme Manager

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend's photo

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend is LifeLab Programme Manager within Southampton Education School at the University of Southampton.

Kathryn previously had a successful career as a research scientist with a degree in Genetics & Microbiology (Leeds Uni 1994), and an MSc and PhD in Human Genetics (Newcastle Uni 1999), with papers published in high impact journals such as JCI, Nature Genetics and Am J Hum Genetics. She then retrained as a secondary school teacher, which consolidated her interest in Science, Scientific education and Scientific literacy.

She has developed an understanding of the importance of effective and stimulating science education from an early age, so that school children develop their powers of scientific thinking and have some insight into the broader scientific context in which the national curriculum for science is situated.

She is the programme manager for Southampton's innovative LifeLab initiative which aims to promote scientific basis of lifelong health in school children and their families.

LifeLab was nationally recognised by a finalist in the 2012 BBSRC Social Innovator of the Year award.

Research interests

The main research project for LifeLab has a core focus on science literacy for health literacy in relation to lifestyle-related non communicable diseases (NCDs). 

LifeLab Southampton is an innovative educational intervention which shows adolescents first-hand how their diets and lifestyles lay the foundations for a healthy life, and how their own health is linked to the health of children they may themselves have in the future. Building on BRC-funded research into lifelong effects of the early life environment, it engages students with ongoing investigations in a University Hospital research institute. The context-specific learning experience and direct contact with researchers improves students' science and health literacy. LifeLab comprises modules of work involving curriculum-linked lessons in school before and after an activity day at LifeLab Southampton.

My research interests are focused on three themes:

  1. The urgent need to promote healthy lifestyles in young people in order to prevent chronic diseases in them and in their children, and to reduce health inequalities. Purely school-based health promotion programmes have only achieved modest effects, which are often not sustained. In partnership with colleagues in Auckland, we have developed a novel approach building on educational research showing the importance of context-specific, innovative, interactive learning. It integrates contextual learning resources for schools with hands-on experiences at a university/hospital lab. Students learn about the science underpinning NCD risks by conducting authentic practical investigations, meeting scientists and engaging with scientific research. Curriculum-linked teaching and learning resources designed jointly by science educators, researchers and clinicians, are contextualised in on-going research enabling students to explore scientific data, re-imaged for 11-14 year olds. Associated teacher continuing professional development explores pedagogical and scientific thinking to support engagement. The results of our pilot project showed improved knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards not only their health and the health of their future families, but also towards engagement with science (Grace et al Health Education, Vol 112 Iss6). We have recently been awarded funding through the BUPA foundation to carry out a cluster-randomised controlled international trial to be carried out concurrently in both locations (Southampton and Auckland) to assess whether this methodology produces sustained attitude and healthy behaviour change over two years, in different cultures.
  2. The differences in the culture of science research and the culture of science education and how to effectively bridge the gap between these two communities, this is the focus of the funding from the AZSTT project.
  3. LifeLab provides an ideal vehicle for a wide audience to engage with the local schools' community and provides opportunities to explore how to measure and evaluate this impact on the different groups - this work is funded in part by the University's professional development unit (PDU) via Roberts' funding for ECRs and in part by the Public Engagement network at the University.

Research group

NIHR Nutrition Biomedical Research Centre

Affiliate research groups

Mathematics and Science Education (MaSE) Research Centre, Mathematics, Science and Health Education Research Centre

Research project(s)


Public Engagement

The University of Southampton recognises public engagement as vital to its role in society locally, nationally and internationally.

"Connecting our students and staff with the community deepens, complements, and challenges our learning and research, benefiting both the institution and the wider society." Professor Don Nutbeam, Vice Chancellor

LifeLab provides an ideal vehicle for a wide audience to engage with the local schools' community and provides opportunities to explore how to measure and evaluate this impact on different groups. We run;

  • continuing professional development training sessions for teachers around the research behind LifeLab.
  • training sessions for scientists who then have opportunities to discuss their research with school students as part of the "Meet the Scientist" session.
  • Research seminars for teachers and students to showcase the variety of research being undertaken at the University of Southampton and Southampton General Hospital.


LifeLab is actively involved in a variety of events which run across the campuses e.g. National Engineering and Science Week and the Southampton General Hospital annual open day.


Sort via:TypeorYear


Book Chapter

  • Woods-Townsend, K., & Dattani, M. T. (2008). EMX2 and HESX1 and type II schizencephaly and septo-optic dysplasia. In C. J. Epstein, R. P. Erickson, & A. Wynshaw-Boris (Eds.), Inborn Errors of Development: the Molecular Basis of Clinical Disorders of Morphogenesis (Oxford Monographs on Medical Genetics). Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.


My main role in undergraduate teaching has been the development and delivery of one of the University's new Curriculum Innovation (CI) modules (

The module ("Education for Health and Wellbeing") draws heavily on the experience with the LifeLab project, and an appreciation and understanding regarding innovative methods of teaching. By teaching our undergraduates about the effects of lifestyle choices, and supporting them to design lessons to teach school students those same messages, the module enables both generations to understand the science behind the health messages they are faced with daily, and empower them to want to choose to make healthier lifestyle choices for their own lives and the lives of their future families.

Students commented:

"Excellent lecturers who seemed to care about us as students always there to help and a welcome change to my other experiences with lecturers, very well laid out module"

"Very enthusiastic and provided a well thought out & innovative module"

"The module was brilliantly organised and featured such a wide variety of information and tasks. The assessment techniques were refreshingly different to other modules"

Dissertation through Flexible study MA (Ed)

Involvement with the LifeLab project has encouraged teachers to consider taking up a masters course with the Southampton Education School.


Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend
LifeLab Mailpoint 847 Level D, Room LD150, South Lab and Path Block Southampton General Hospital SO16 6YD Telephone (external): 023 8120 8979 Telephone (internal from UHS): x8979 Telephone (Internal from UoS): 71-8979 Email:

Room Number: SGH/LD150

Share this profile Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings