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University of Exeter Medical School

Dr Rachel Collins

Dr Rachel Collins

Postdoctoral Research Associate

 South Cloisters 2.40


South Cloisters, University of Exeter, St Luke's Campus, Heavitree Road, Exeter, EX1 2LU, UK


Rachel Collins is a member of the Centre for Research in Ageing and Cognitive Health (REACH). She changed subject specialism having previously achieved a PhD and postdoctoral research experience in plant sciences. She was then program manager and lecturer for higher education courses in horticulture, arboriculture and forestry. She was also an associate lecturer and residential summer school tutor for the Open University for over 10 years. She has also worked for Alzheimer’s Society as a Day Care Worker and was inspired to return to research supporting people living with dementia and completed a Master’s Degree in applied health research to make the transition. She is a Research Fellow and has worked on a number of projects within the REACH team.


PhD in Plant Molecular Biology (University of Nottingham)
MSc in Applied Health Research (University of York)
PGCE (PCET) in Teaching and Learning (University of Southampton)
BSc in Biological Sciences (University of Exeter)

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Research interests

Dementia, dementia carers, connecting people living dementia with nature and the outdoor environment, continual professional development of practitioners.

Research projects

  • The IDEAL programme

Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life (IDEAL). Funded by ESRC and NIHR.

Improving the experience of Dementia and Enhancing Active Life: a longitudinal perspective on living well with dementia (IDEAL-2). Funded by Alzheimer’s Society.

A large cohort study social science programme exploring what enables people with dementia and carers to ‘live well’.


Identifying and mitigating the individual and dyadic impact of COVID-19 and life under physical distancing on people with dementia and carers. Funded by ESRC.

Additional funding made it possible to investigate how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the IDEAL participants.


Extending active life for older people with cognitive impairment through innovation in the visitor economy of the natural environment. Funded by ESRC-UKRI.

This project is a collaboration with the University of Exeter Business School and part of the Healthy Ageing Challenge. It aims to work with businesses to support older people with dementia and cognitive impairment to access and connect with the natural environment.

  • GREAT CR into Practice

Maintaining independence through goal-oriented cognitive rehabilitation: GREAT into Practice (GREAT-iP), funded by Alzheimer’s Society.

The GREAT programme focuses on goal-oriented cognitive rehabilitation (CR) to support functioning, promote activity engagement and social participation for people living with early-stage dementia. GREAT CR was implemented into NHS services and in a care home setting, using both face-to-face and an e-learning course for practitioners.

Previous research projects

  • Australian Centre for Research Excellence in Promoting Cognitive Health and Preventing Cognitive Decline (CRE).
  • Systematic review into psychosocial interventions for depression in family carers of people with dementia.

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External Engagement and Impact

External positions

School Governor roles:

General and SEND Governor - The Exmoor Federation, Dulverton, Somerset (2017-2019).

Co-opted and Finance Governor -  Willand School, Willand, Devon (2019-2021).

Teaching and assessment roles:

Associate Lecturer and Residential School Tutor for The Open University on Biological and Health Sciences modules (2003-2016).

Observer in Teaching and Learning. North Yorkshire County Council (2012-2015).

External Examiner for FdSc in Arboriculture & Tree Management and BSc in Arboriculture & Tree Management. University of Worcester (2010-2014).

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