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Miss Ellen Ridley

Research Postgraduate


AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Research Postgraduate in the Department of PsychologyRH015+44 (0) 191 33 42430



I have five years’ experience working as a researcher on grant-funded projects and leading my own research at MA, and then doctoral level. Within roles, I have applied an array of methods to answer research questions about children’s development (in neurotypical and neurodivergent groups) and evaluate impact. I am committed to working on projects that gather and use research evidence to support children, young people and the wider family unit. Alongside research, I enjoy being part of exciting and worthwhile projects that seek to support vulnerable groups in society. In 2015 I worked as a mental health volunteer in the Sri Lankan community. Since 2018, I have been volunteering with the Edinburgh-based charity SuperTroop which provides residential holidays to children and young people with learning disabilities.

Academic background & roles

  • BSc Psychology, Newcastle University, UK, 2012-2015 (First Class)
  • Research Assistant, Durham University (2016)
  • Research Assistant, Sheffield University (2017
  • MA in Research Methods (Developmental Psychology), Durham University, UK, 2017-2018 (with Distinction)
  • PhD, Durham University, 2018-current

Research experience

Following my BSc, I worked as a Research Assistant on grant-funded projects on aspects of cognition and behaviour. In 2016 I worked on a project at Durham University (funded by the Baily Thomas Charitable Trust) exploring music perception in children and young people with Williams syndrome. I later rejoined this project at Goldsmiths University of London, to collect data from a sample of neurotypical children. 

In 2017 I worked on an RCT at Sheffield University (funded by the Nuffield Foundation) which assessed whether a cognitive training intervention was successful in improving academic achievement in mathematics – crucially, before the attainment gap sets in. I worked as part of a team of researchers/collaborators, to collect data from 200 pre-schoolers from socially diverse backgrounds, nurseries in and around Sheffield. 

Research Area

My MA thesis took a cross-syndrome approach to study aspects of social interaction in children and young people with neurodevelopmental conditions (including autism, Williams syndrome, fragile X syndrome and ADHD). This was a collaborative project with Professor Sue Leekam, Cardiff University and was awarded the Masters Award by PsyPAG, British Psychological Society in 2019.

PhD research

I am currently carrying out doctoral research in the Centre for Neurodiversity & Development. The aim of the research is to better understand the factors that impact on social vulnerability in children and young people with Williams syndrome (WS). WS is a relatively rare genetic condition associated with a fascinating social profile - many people with WS have a strong desire for emotional closeness and connection with others, yet some of the other characteristics associated with WS, particularly around judging social situations and modulating behaviour, can be navigating interactions challenging. In recent years, issues of social vulnerability have been emphasised in anecdotal reports by parents and in the academic literature on WS. 

My research has taken a multi-method approach to understand the factors that may contribute to social vulnerability, focusing on the role of social behaviour, adaptive behaviour, anxiety and learning disability. 

The research is funded by a Doctoral Fellowship awarded by the Baily Thomas Charitable Fund. In my research I work closely with the Williams Syndrome Foundation (WSF) and they are a collaborative partner on my PhD.

Research interests

  • Neurodevelopmental conditions
  • Mental health
  • Autism
  • Williams syndrome
  • Social interactions
  • Anxiety

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