Dr Jennifer Leigh

Reader in Creative Practices for Social Justice,
Co-Lead of Future Human Signature Research Theme,
Co-Chair of Visual and Sensory Research Cluster,
Co-Chair of Staff Disability Network,
Lead of the Summer Vacation Research Competition
Dr Jennifer Leigh


Dr Jennifer Leigh is an interdisciplinary academic with a particular interest in using embodied, reflective, and creative practices for social justice. Before joining academia in 2010 Dr Leigh qualified as a science teacher with a specialism in chemistry and had 10 years of experience as a body-worker, movement therapist, and movement artist. She worked privately, within schools, for Primary Care Trusts, SureStart Centres, Local Education Authorities, charities, and with organisations including the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Her PhD is from the University of Birmingham, and used creative methods within a phenomenological exploration of how young children perceived, expressed, and reflected on their sense of embodiment through movement. Dr Leigh has written extensively about reflection, reflexivity, and embodied reflective practice. She developed Embodied Inquiry as a process of using embodied approaches in order to study, explore or investigate a topic, and has collaborated with Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

 Dr Leigh’s recent work includes addressing and highlighting experiences of marginalisation in academia, science, and society due to intersectional factors including disability, gender, race, and caring responsibilities. She has been profiled in Nature, Nature Chemistry, and co-authored a series of articles for Nature Reviews Chemistry on Pregnancy in the lab, Planning a family, and Listening to fathers in STEM.

Her recent books are; Women in Supramolecular Chemistry: Collectively crafting the rhythms of our work and lives in STEM (2022, Policy Press, available open access), Embodied Inquiry: Research Methods (2021, Bloomsbury), Ableism in academia: Theorising lived experiences of disability and chronic illness in higher education (2020, UCL Press, available open access), and Conversations on embodiment across higher education: Teaching, practice, and research (2019, Routledge). Her next books include Borders of qualitative research: Navigating the lands where qualitative research, therapy, education, art, and science connect which will be published by Policy Press in 2023, and How to thrive in laboratory life: A toolkit from the Women in Supramolecular Chemistry network which will be published by Routledge in 2024 as part of their Insider Guides to Academia series. 

Research interests

Dr Leigh’s research interests centre around embodied experience, how innovative and creative research methods can add depth, richness, honesty and emotion to experience, and include reflective practice, reflexivity, the ethics of research, the boundaries between research, therapy, art and science, and how these relate to work and practices.

Recent funded projects include the role of qualitative approaches in enhancing interdisciplinary teams’ reflexivity and creativity in the gendered environment of supramolecular chemistry (Royal Society), inclusive and accessible laboratory spaces (Royal Society of Chemistry), increasing the visibility of Black women in chemistry and SciComm in a collaboration with EFeMS (Royal Society of Chemistry), increasing inclusivity and equity in research culture (Future Leaders Fellows Plus), and science outreach and public engagement (Royal Society of Chemistry and Royal Society).



  • Education in a Global World – SOCI5014


Externally, Dr Leigh has a number of roles, including:

  • Vice-Chair (Research) Women in Supramolecular Chemistry (WISC)
  • Co-Lead National Association of Disabled Staff Networks (NADSN) STEMM Action Group
  • Athena Forum Disability Champion
  • Women in Academia Support Network (#WiASN) Research Working Group
  • Empowering Female Minds in STEMM (EFeMS) Advisory and Strategy Boards
  • Wellcome Trust’s Inclusive Research Design and Practice Expert Advisory Group.
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