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Gemma Wheeler PhD, MDes

Design Researcher


I am a Design Researcher at Lab4Living, an interdisciplinary research cluster with a focus on bringing Design-led research to fields of health and wellbeing. Our work spans a range of health contexts across the entire life course, and is characterised by the use of creating and making. 


I have a broad experience of using Participatory Design methods in complex healthcare contexts, and enjoy adapting my approach to the particular needs and sensitivities to each community we collaborate with. I am interested in the role of creative, empathic, design-led methods in creating a ‘common language’ between patients, family members and healthcare professionals for mutual learning and real-world innovation. 

  • About

    After completing an integrated masters degree in Product Design here at Sheffield Hallam University (2013), I undertook a Doctoral study between the Glasgow School of Art and the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit, Glasgow (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Award scheme). During this PhD study I worked collaboratively with inpatients, outpatients, hospital staff and related charities explore and enhance patient participation in spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

    I returned to Sheffield Hallam University in 2017 as a Design Researcher at Lab4Living. Here I enjoy engaging a range of healthcare service stakeholders (including patients, family members, clinicians, academics, industry experts, etc.) in creative, collaborative research activities.

    These activities, or ‘co-design’ workshops, focus on identifying unmet health needs, mobilizing knowledge and/or developing healthcare products and services. My role involves planning and running co-design workshops, creating context-specific and audience-appropriate workshop tools, analyzing the data gathered and reporting the findings to audiences from design and healthcare. I am involved in bid writing, dissemination and also provide graphic design support for conference posters, websites, newsletters, exhibition spaces, etc.

    Within this role, I liaise with and provide design input to Devices for Dignity, a National Institute for Health Research funded MedTech Co-operative based in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, as well as their associated partners.

  • Research

    • Art and Design Research Centre

    My key project is The Starworks Network, a Department of Health funded initiative bringing together children, families, clinicians, academics and industry experts to explore the unmet needs of children who use prosthetics. 

    I took a key role in planning and facilitating a series of 4 multi-stakeholder full-day workshops across the country, and I am currently the main point of contact supporting ten ‘Proof of Concept’ projects funded by The Starworks Network. I am also involved in planning and delivering the next stage of this project following allocation of further funding from the National Institute for Health Research. 

  • Publications

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