Inspirational women in research

This International Women’s Day 2024, we are celebrating the women who work in research and inspire us every day.


At Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP), we work with a multitude of talented female researchers across our partnership every day.  Here is a snapshot of just some of the many outstanding women researchers across our area for International Women’s Day:


Dr Niina Kolehmainen, Reader in Allied Child Health at Newcastle University and Deputy Director for NHIP Academy.


Niina is an allied health scientist leading research into childhood health behaviours, the prevention of multiple long-term conditions and personalised health technologies. She is particularly interested in advancing research and innovations that support young children’s physical activity, sleep and wellbeing to promote lifelong health. Some examples of her work can be found on the CHILD Research Group website.


In addition to this, Niina leads work into Children’s Health and Wellbeing at the National Innovation Observatory, and the Paediatric Community within the national Methodology Incubator. She is also an active senior member of the Reproduction, Development and Child Health Theme for the Newcastle University Faculty of Medical Sciences.


Niina recently launched a multimillion pound rehabilitation trial for children with neurodisability, which spans NHIP partners, known as the CHESS trail.


Niina has a long-standing commitment to supporting others to build research careers. She is the Deputy Director for NHIP Academy, which unlocks career development opportunities for the next generation of health and care researchers. It offers a range of training programmes for individuals looking to establish, progress or navigate their academic career – from internships and pre-doctoral awards to doctoral, post-doctoral and ultimately to professorial awards.



Dr Hamde Nazar, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy Practice, at Newcastle University and Honorary Research Pharmacist for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospital Trust.


Hamde is a qualified pharmacist, registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council. She has teaching and research expertise in the areas of pharmacy practice, pharmacy education and public health.


Hamde has secured significant research funding from the NIHR to undertake research investigating the greater integration of pharmacy to the wider NHS. Her work around clinical services in community pharmacy and hospital to home care has impacted national health policy and practice. This has been bolstered by her engagement with local Trusts, professional networks and pharmaceutical committees.


Hamde is a member of the General Pharmaceutical Council accreditation team contributing to the quality assurance of undergraduate pharmacy education and training across the UK. She is also Chair of credentialling committees for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society supporting the recognition and progression of practitioners. In 2023, Hamde was a member of the UK Parliament Expert Panel for the Health and Social Care Committee to independently evaluate the Government’s commitments for community pharmacy.


Most recently, Hamde has led on the establishment of student-led clinics that are delivered at various locations across Newcastle and Gateshead. This is providing the opportunity for undergraduate health and allied healthcare students to practice their skills, whilst providing a valued service to the local community, particularly to those experiencing health inequalities.



Dr Sarah Sowden, Advanced Clinical Academic Fellow at Newcastle University and Pillar lead at NHIP Academy.


Sarah is passionate about improving the effectiveness of action taken to address health and healthcare inequalities. She works closely with the NHS, Local Authorities and wider system partners to deliver research to better promote health equity and reduce inequalities in health and care access, experience and outcomes. Her role involves leading applied inequalities research at Newcastle University including the UNFAIR and Deep End programmes working as part of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) North East and North Cumbria (NENC) Applied Research Collaboration and Fuse (NIHR School for Public Health research).


Employed across settings to strengthen links between research, policy and practice, Sarah also works as a Public Health Consultant within the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities in the North East region; the area with the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, poor health and early death in England.


Sarah is Deputy Director of the NIHR Research Support Service Specialist Centre for Public Health delivered by Newcastle University and partners, sits on the executive of the NIHR NENC Clinical Research Network and leads the public health pillar at NHIP Academy.  Through these roles Sarah supports researchers, professionals working to improve public health, and the communities they serve, to develop their research journeys.



Katherine McGleenan – Nurse Consultant – suicide prevention research and innovation. Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.


Katherine has worked as a mental health nurse in Cumbria and the Northeast for 35 years in various clinical and leadership roles. Throughout her career, she has worked with people experiencing suicidality, as well as people bereaved by suicide. Before moving into research, Katherine worked as the Suicide Prevention Programme lead for the Northeast and North Cumbria Integrated Care system, leading the development of a regional multiagency approach to suicide prevention.


Katherine is now leading research focusing on personalised safety planning for self-harm and suicidality. She is also helping to build collaboration between researchers in our region to help enhance the scope and impact of our suicide and self-harm research.



Dr Nicola Heslehurst, Senior Lecturer in Maternal Nutrition at Newcastle University.


Nicola’s research focuses on maternal weight and reproductive health, particularly relating to inequalities and health service improvement.


She currently holds an NIHR Advanced (Career Development) Fellowship which uses risk prediction and health economics to explore whether alternative measures of adiposity in early pregnancy would be more preferable to BMI in identifying women who require additional clinical care and weight management support.


Nicola is the PHSI EDI Lead, a member of the FMS EDI Committee, the Fuse EDI Lead for the NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) EDI committee, and a member of the PHSI Executive Committee. She is also the current Chair of the Board of Trustees for the UK Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO), and UK National President for the European ASO and World Obesity.



Professor Catharien Hilkens, Professor of Immunotherapy at Newcastle University.

Catharien obtained her PhD in Immunology at the University of Amsterdam. She then won an EMBO long-term fellowship award to work at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, before joining Newcastle University to start her own research group.


During her PhD and post-doctoral work, she became intrigued by the central role that dendritic cells play in orchestrating immune responses, and she became interested in exploring their therapeutic potential. At Newcastle, with invaluable support from a strong translational environment, she developed a therapeutic tolerogenic dendritic cell product that was tested in one of the first clinical trials of its kind in rheumatoid and inflammatory arthritis patients.


Professor Hilkens is one of the founders of the European network Action to Focus and Accelerate Cell-based Tolerance-inducing Therapies (AFACTT – 2014-2019). She is a management committee member of the Arthritis Research UK Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence (RACE; 2013 – present).

Skip to content