We currently have a 10 strong research team. The faculty in this group comprise Professor Pam Briggs, Professor Lynne Coventry (Director), Dr Elizabeth Sillence, Dr Lisa Thomas and Dr. Andrew McNeil.

The work within this group has an applied focus, and our links with industry and user engagement are particularly strong. The faculty team are supported by 4 staff researchers, 3 research staff and 3 PhD researchers.

Academic Staff

James Nicholson

James is a Lecturer in the School of Computer and Information Sciences. James is interested in inclusive cybersecurity and leads the CyberGuardians research project. He is also interested in usable security, social engineering, and everyday surveillance. Previously, James was a senior researcher in PaCT Lab working on the Cybersecurity Across the Lifespan (cSALSA) project. The project explores how cyber-security is understood, and the attitudes and behaviours of people to cyber-security and risk. During his time in PaCT Lab, James also worked on Choice Architecture for Information Security (ChAISe), Digital Economy Research Centre (DERC), and the Horizon 2020 project CYBECO. Prior to PaCT Lab, James worked at Open Lab, Newcastle University on the TEDDI and SiDE projects. James’ work has focused on improving user authentication, both by repurposing existing graphical authentication systems and by evaluating novel ones. He is also interested in user privacy and how groups of users (children, parents, older adults) experience location tracking technologies, as well as how CCTV video can be crowdsourced to de-centralise the surveillance landscape. More recently, he has developed tools and methodologies for uncovering and understanding employees’ mental models of security threats with the aim of improving training programmes and/or organisational policies, as well as practical means for improving users’ protection against these security threats (e.g. phishing).

Lynne Coventry

Lynne Coventry is the Director of PaCT Lab (Psychology and Communication Technology) at the University of Northumbria. Lynne is best known for her work on usable security, particularly biometrics. Her research interests are varied and she is currently involved in research exploring the role of communication technology in the lives of older adults to facilitate mobility and inclusion, the role of trust in student’s use of online information, the usability of medical products and the design of usable security. She is an applied researcher who enjoys working in multidisciplinary teams to solve real problems. She is keen to explore new ways of integrating psychology into design and technology development processes. She has a multidisciplinary background with a BSC in Psychology and Computing Science, an MSc in Software Engineering and a PhD in Human Computer Interaction. While her early career was spent as a research fellow and lecturer at Stirling University, Heriot Watt and Dundee university, the majority of her career has been as a researcher within Industry (both computing and medical products) working to incorporate understanding of people, their use and acceptance of technology into the requirements and design process. Lynne is a founding member of the Scottish Usability Professional Association and previous vice president. Lynne is a founding member of STEPS, and current Editor of Interfaces (A British Computer Society Magazine) and a reviewer for a number of international conferences and journals.

Pam Briggs

I hold a Chair in Applied Psychology at Northumbria University and am a Visiting Professor at Newcastle University. My work primarily addresses issues of identity, trust and security in new social media, seeking answers to three main questions: Why and when do we feel secure in disclosing sensitive identity information about ourselves? What makes us trust an electronic message? How and when do we seek to protect our privacy? In the last five years, I’ve secured over £2m in research funding, have published over forty articles on human perceptions of trust, privacy and security in computer-mediated communication and have developed, with colleagues, a new model of health advice-seeking online. I’m one of the founder members of the UK's Research Institute in the Science of Cybersecurity, funded by GCHQ in association with RCUK's Global Uncertainty Programme and my most recent research awards address both usable and inclusive privacy and security. My latest projects (see projects page) concern cybersecurity across the lifespan (cSALSA), the human side of cyber and cloud crime (CRITICAL) and attitudes and decision-making behaviours around cyberinsurance (CYBECO). I’m also a co-investigator on the Digital Economy Research Centre (DERC) where I’ve been exploring ways to democratise context-relevant data collection and analysis and explore the design of digital platforms for social action.

Elizabeth Sillence

Liz is an Associate Professor within the Department of Psychology teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. She is a member of the PACT (Psychology and Communication Technologies) Lab – part of the Centre for Cognition and Communication. Her research interests are focussed on trust and online interactions particularly within an e-health context. Liz is currently exploring trust exchanges within online health communities and examining the influence of online patient experience on behaviour and decision making. Liz has also written on ethical issues in mobile human-computer-interaction and has a keen interest in qualitative methodologies. She has attracted (as Col) large research council grants both in the UK and jointly with colleagues in the USA. She has published over 20 articles on trust, privacy and online communication and regularly presents her work at national and international conference. She has been a guest editor for the journal of Interacting with Computers and the International Journal of Human Computer Studies.

Santosh Vijaykumar

Santosh is a health and risk communication scientist with research interests at the intersection of public health, behavioural science and new media technologies. Specifically, he studies mobile and social media interventions for addressing global health challenges with a focus on tropical and infectious diseases. Santosh’s research analyses and evaluates the effects of both, bespoke innovations (like crowdsourced surveillance applications) as well as generic platforms (like Twitter and Facebook) on individuals, communities and health systems during infectious disease outbreaks. The research approach involves mixed methodologies, trans-disciplinary conceptualization and collaborations with policymakers, activists and the industry. His work, spanning the US, Singapore, Sri Lanka and India, has been published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Journal of Medical Internet Research, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour among others.

Andrew McNeill

Andrew McNeill is a Lecturer in Psychology at Northumbria University. He gained his PhD in social psychology at Queen’s University Belfast. Following this he worked on the INfluENCE project at Northumbria University, which explored the dissemination of H1N1-related information during the 2009-10 UK pandemic. He then worked on the ACANTO project, which developed a technology for older adults with a view to improving their social, psychological and physical wellbeing. Currently he has a particular interest in the role of technology in post-conflict societies.

Kerry McKellar

Kerry is a research associate currently working on Understanding the relationship between digital accumulation behaviours and GDPR. Kerry is interested in online risky behaviour, health behaviours, behaviour change, teenage risky behaviour online and cybersecurity. Kerry obtained a BA (Hons) Psychology from Northumbria University in 2013, and went on to complete an MRes in Psychology in 2014. Kerry undertook a PhD in PaCT lab completed in 2017 entitled “Developing a brief online sexual health intervention programme for low SES female teenagers.” This PhD explored teenagers’ beliefs, knowledge and attitudes towards sexual health and then inform a sexual health intervention program aimed at reducing the amount of unplanned pregnancies and STIs in the teenage population.

Lisa Thomas

I am a psychologist working in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). I am a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Northumbria University, based in the Psychology and Communication Technology (PaCT) Lab, and Visiting Associate at Newcastle University. Previously, I was the Senior Researcher for three successive multidisciplinary EPSRC projects: IMPRINTS, ReelLives and the DERC (Digital Economy Research Centre). IMPRINTS assessed the UK publics' intentions to engage with identity management technology of the future. ReelLives explored the ways in which individuals could take ownership of their digital identity. DERC aimed to improve digital provisions for the volunteering community. I have a keen interest in the role of technology in life transitions, and I am currently researching the impact of technology use in motherhood; in particular, work-life balance for new parents.

Research Staff

Catherine Talbot

Dawn Branley-Bell

Dawn is a chartered Psychologist specialising in cyberpsychology. She is an elected member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Cyberpsychology Section, and editorial member for the Cyberpsychology Bulletin. Dawn’s research interests include online communication around extreme behaviours (e.g., self-harm, eating disorders, suicidal ideation), behaviour change, cybersecurity, and the application of ‘technology for good’. Dawn was previously awarded an RCUK International Fellowship at the Library of Congress (LoC), Washington D.C as the first external researcher to access the LoC’s Twitter archive. She collaborates on a wide range of multidisciplinary, international projects, and has managed major projects funded by the US Military of Defence (STEPPS), EU Horizon 2020 (CYBECO & PANACEA Research) and Yorkshire Cancer Research. Dawn is a mixed-methods researcher, and holds a Behaviour Change Techniques Taxonomy Certificate for coding competence of complex behaviour change interventions from University College London (UCL).

Matt Dixon

I'm a research assistant in PaCT Lab working on the Cybersecurity Across the Lifespan Project (Csalsa). I studied a psychology undergraduate degree here at Northumbria followed by the psychology MRes course where I began working alongside researchers in both the Psychology and Computer Science departments where I published by first paper - a late breaking work piece for the CHI 2019 conference. My research focuses on a range of security topics. I currently work with older adults, investigating topics such as how older adults perceive issues of security and privacy relating to healthcare technologies. I also work on James Nicholson's Cyber Guardians project where we train older adults to become knowledgeable peers who can assist others in their communities with security issues. Previously, my work has focused on phishing and younger users, particularly how smartphone design features may cause users to be more vulnerable to phishing attacks.

PhD Students

Emma Kemp

Jake Pywell

I joined PaCT Lab in 2015 as I assisted on the ACANTO project while studying for my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree which I completed in 2017. I am now working towards my PhD which I started in March 2018. My PhD focuses around digital mental health interventions for depression and how their implementation could be aided for older adults. This includes a mixed-method approach to investigating older adult’s attitudes towards digital mental health interventions and the barriers that they may face during the uptake of digital mental health interventions and during their use.

Tracy Rogers


Amit Naik

Amit Naik started his PhD at PaCT LAB (Psychology and Communication Technology) at the University of Northumbria in January 2015. His research focus is on Information Security Governance, primarily focussing on the Information Security Policy (ISP) compliance issues and pertinent employee behaviour. He has a multi-disciplinary background, with a BEng degree in Electronics and Telecommunications from University of Pune, India and an MSc degree in Information Security from Royal Holloway University of London, UK. He has worked in the industry for over 8 years, with work experience in wide aspects of Information Technology, starting with desktop support, application support, network support and then moving on to network security, PCI and ISO 27001 Audits and project management. He was also involved in projects where he was responsible for providing design, installation, configuration, and maintenance of perimeter security solutions to state government organisations in India. His research interests are again multi-disciplinary, as he is currently involved with researching socio-technical aspect of Information Security. His interests including various other technical and organisational aspects of information security such as, computer security, network security, reverse engineering, penetration testing, ethical hacking, PCI and ISO27001 audits, Information security governance, Compliance.

Claire Sutherland

I started a part-time PhD in March 2012 looking at opening up the lines of communication over cyberbullying between youths, parents and teachers. I completed my Undergraduate degree at Abertay University, Dundee in 2004 (BSc (Hons) Forensic Psychobiology in 2004, first class). In 2006 I completed a PGCE in Primary Education at Dundee University. I currently work in a primary school in Melbourne, Australia and have started my PhD remotely. My PhD involves researching a clear definition of cyberbullying by focusing on youths, parents and teachers perceptions. It will then investigate what behaviours are perceived as cyberbullying with a final aim of providing intervention strategies which will open the communication channels between cybervictims and adults.

Emma Simpson

Lauren Bussey

I started my full-time PhD at Northumbria University in October 2015. I previously completed a BSc (hons) in Psychology in 2014, and an MSc in Health Psychology in 2015 at Northumbria University. My MSc thesis research investigated the impact of rosemary aroma on the prospective memory of healthy older adults, and featured on the Trust Me I’m a Doctor programme in July 2015. My research interests include improving and promoting healthy behaviours and behaviour change interventions. I am also interested in how the internet can support health and wellbeing, and how online information informs/ contributes toward real life health decisions.

Mohammed Al-Mhari

I started full-time at Northumbria University in March, 2013. I completed my Masters in Internet Computer and System Security in University of Bradford , UK in 2008 and my Project title was Measuring and Managing Risk. I then completed 4 years teaching experience in information security in Salalah College of Technology in Oman. My PhD research involves investigations on employees’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in information security within the higher educational sector in Oman. In my research, I have adopted a mixed methods approach, using both qualitative and quantitative methods to provide a deeper understanding of employees’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviour related to information security awareness. In the first phase of this research, I completed face-to-face interviews with IT and network administrators in two colleges/universities in Oman. The literature review and qualitative results, has resulted in the design of a questionnaire that will be disseminated online to employees in different colleges and universities in Oman. This questionnaire uses a scenario approach to understanding how staff will behave in different situations.

Thanyalak Boonlue

Thanyalak started a full-time PhD at Northumbria University in November, 2013. She previously completed her Undergraduate degree at Chiang Mai University, Thailand in 2002 (2nd Hons.). In 2006, she completed a Master degree with Counseling Psychology at Chiang Mai University, Thailand. After receiving her MS., she had been a registrar officer at Faculty of Pharmacy, Chiang Mai University for 3 years. She conducted a resarch which was about academic outcome of students and admission test scores with her colleagues, and a university lecturer. She currently works as a university lecturer at Social Science Department, Faculty of Business Administration and Liber Arts, Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RMUTL) in Chiang Mai, Thailand and conduct academic research every year. Her previous research had conducted to study about child rearing practice styles, alcohol drinking behavior, instructional media development, and group activities by focusing on adolescents. Her PhD involves investigating self-compassion, psychological resilience, and social media use among Thai and British higher education students. It explores those concepts within their cultural contexts to promote the mutual understanding among nations.