about us

There are a few core principles that all our research projects have in common, guiding us to make sure those who are impacted by the research have a say in it and that our work is relevant to the front lines of current practice.
Our work is supported by many people and organisations, but our core research team is formed of experienced academics and early-career researchers. Meet them below.


Below you'll find some key principles that underpin how we work


The origins of our work are in studying the mental skills elite athletes use  to achieve their goals, thrive under physical and mental challenges, and maximise potential. Inspired by this approach, we believe every person and group has a set of unique strengths that can be recognised, utilised and enhanced that can help them to overcome challenges.


We've learned that applied research works best by forming strong partnerships with community organisations, services, and local government. We’re committed to working with our partners to co-produce mutually beneficial research that addresses  important societal challenges. We recognise how much there is to learn from our partners, and the value that different perspectives and expertise bring.


Being psychologically-informed means basing one's work on relevant psychological theory, working from and contributing to the evidence base, engaging in regular meaningful reflection, and above all, nurturing relationships between agencies, staff teams, and with clients.

empowering communities

Long-term changes are achieved by tapping into our internal motivation – finding the inner drive to move in a positive direction. We are passionate about helping people help themselves.

prof Jennifer CUmming

Professor and Project Lead

Prof Jennifer Cumming is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Birmingham (UK), a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), and a member of the International Association of Youth Mental Health.

Prof Cumming’s research focuses on community-based approaches to developing practical and culturally-tailored interventions for athletes and, more recently, individuals who are traditionally considered ‘harder to reach’ including young people who are homeless or at risk for homelessness.  She has published over 100 academic papers and book chapters since 2001.  

Ben Parry

Doctoral Researcher

Ben is a PhD student researching the outcomes and process involved in Positive Youth Development (PYD) programmes, such as MST4Life.

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Richard Whiting

Research Associate

Richard is a Research Associate delivering, developing and evaluating our projects. As an MSci Psychology and Psychological Practice graduate, he has a special interest in mental health, community psychology and intervention fidelity.

Dr Sam Cooley

Research Fellow

Dr Sam Cooley's research has focused on the application of outdoor learning in developing group work skills and as a Research Fellow helped develop, deliver and evaluate the MST4Life and associated programmes.


As a chartered psychologist and trainee clinical psychologist, Dr Cooley has expanded this interest to explore the therapeutic utility of natural spaces.

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Saul Shrom

PhD Student and Research Assistant

Saul is a PhD student investigating the role that a tennis players’ environment has on their ability to successfully transition into the professional game. He has worked as a sport psychology consultant in high-performance tennis and volleyball, and as a tennis coach, alongside his own playing career. 

His role with the project includes helping to evaluate the fidelity of programmes delivery.

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Dr Mary Quinton

Lecturer in Lifestyle Behaviour Change and Research Fellow

Dr Mary Quinton is a Lecturer in Lifestyle Behaviour Change and Research Fellow at the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, and is programme manager for the MST4Life programme.

Dr Quinton's research interests include social inclusion and social connectedness in homeless young people.

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Fiona j. clarke

Research Associate

Fiona is a Research Associate at the University of Birmingham, developing, delivering and evaluating the MST4Life programme.

She has a diverse research background, specialising in mental health, nature connectedness and social prescribing.

Her current research focusses on knowledge translation and compassion within a sporting context.

Dr Mark Holland

Senior Lecturer

Dr Mark Holland, alongside teaching at Newman University in the field of sports science, has an interest in how mental skills training can support people's well-being.

Grace tidmarsh

Doctoral Researcher

Grace is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Birmingham in mental health and exercise (focusing on homeless youth) having previously studied sport and exercise psychology and research methods. Grace assists with research for the MST4Life project and teaches on an applied sport psychology module.

Her main research interests are in exercise, mental health, and girls’ engagement within physical education and wider exercise settings. 

Georgia Bird

PhD Student and Research Assistant

Georgia is a PhD student (Sport and Exercise Sciences) and conducts observations to help monitor fidelity of the MST4Life programme.


Her research interests include mental health in relation to sport and the potential sport has for preventing and managing mental health symptoms.