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The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School
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Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend BSc, MSc, PhD

LifeLab Programme Manager

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend's photo

Dr Kathryn Woods-Townsend is the 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.

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.

I am the Programme Manager for the LifeLab project and have driven forward this project since the first Wellcome Trust grant was awarded for the pilot study.  My current research focuses on two key themes:

  • What elements are required for a successful educational intervention to bring about behaviour change?
    • For school students – what are the key motivational drivers and what additional support do they need? (LifeLab+, funded by the NIHR EACH-B grant)
    • How can we expand and provide these opportunities for different ages? (Early LifeLab, funding applications submitted)
    • How can we take the model of LifeLab and roll it out in different contexts (utilising our relationship with LENScience, University of Auckland and seeking out further opportunities)
    • How can we motivate teachers to buy into this initiative – what are the drivers for teachers who are focused on responding to subject specific pressures? (LifeLab+, funded by the NIHR EACH-B grant; partnership with Southampton City Council)
  • What are the impacts on researchers of participating in public engagement activities?
    • As a University Public Engagement Associate (visit Kathryn's PER profile) I value the importance of public engagement and am interested in evidencing the nature of the impact on researchers themselves of undertaking public engagement activities.

Other research projects

Engaging Adolescents with Changing Behaviour (EACH-B)

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)


University of Southampton

  • Director, LifeLab - an educational module and facility enabling adolescents to experience the science behind health messages (2009 to date)
  • Member, Centre for Adolescent Health Research, University of Southampton (2019 to date)
  • Member Faculty of Medicine Research Management Committee (2015 to date)
  • Member of the University of Southampton’s Arts and Culture Strategy group (2019 to date)

External to University of Southampton

  • Member, UKactive Kids Council (Children and Young People’s Health advisor) (2018-20)
  • Member, UK Preconception Partnership (2018 to date)
  • Member, Royal Society for Public Health Sector Advisory Panel (Education) (2019 to date)
  • Member Southampton Cultural Education Partnership (2020 to date)


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.



Science and Engineering Day

Hospital open day 2012

Public engage

PE Network

Meet the Scientists 

My main role in Education and Teaching has been to be in charge of the development of the LifeLab project; I was employed at the inception of the project and have taken the overall lead in the design and delivery of the programmes of work for school students and school teachers. I worked with both the Royal College of Paediatrics and Children’s Health (RCPCH) and the Royal Society for Public Health to gain nationally recognised accreditation/endorsement for the LifeLab materials. LifeLab was awarded the 2019 RSPH Hygeia Centre of Excellence award.

Postgraduate teaching

I am a Module Leader for the ‘Teaching the Teachers to Teach’ module on the MSc Allergy. This module uses innovative teaching methods and was designed with an imaginative blend of theory and interactivity to have a transformational effect on students’ approach to learning and teaching. This module is accredited by Advance HE and students who successfully complete it are eligible for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA).

Staff and Student Development

I designed and delivered a new, consistently oversubscribed, science communication training course for both PGRs and staff. To date, 284 PGRs and staff from across the University have been trained, from all faculties and all levels (from UG, PhD, technical staff through to associate deans).

Student Supervision

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.

MEd 1 student completed.

Dissertation title: What are secondary schools’ students’ self-perceptions of health?

PhD: 2019 Taylor Morris PhD

Dissertation title: Supporting women to improve their diet and physical activity behaviours during and beyond pregnancy

PhD: Ravita Taheem (current)

Dissertation title: Optimising Local Government Policy to Tackle Childhood Obesity

PhD: Heather Mozley (current)

Dissertation title: Exploring Perceptions of Widening Participation and Student Diversity in a UK Medical School


Award winners

Course page for MSc Allergy

MEDI6218 Teaching the Teachers to Teach


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

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