Affiliated and former members

Professor Peter Hancock is principally interested in the perception of faces and what kind of representations we might use. His research has explored face processing and scene perception in autistic individuals and those with Williams syndrome. Read more about Peter’s research and publications here.

2022 STAR Placements and Research Assistants

We are extremely grateful for the support provided to the STAR team by placement students or voluntary research assistants! This year we are supported by:

Emily Greenan
Jen Dow
Lynsey McDevitt
Sanna Rehman
Sarah Dantas


Khiah Strachan, Network Administrator (STARTS)

Khiah is a former Stirling student that completed her MSc in Autism Research in 2021. Currently, Khiah is the administrator on the Striving to Transform Autism Research Together Scotland (STARTS) network, supporting Dr Eilidh Cage, Dr Monique Botha and Dr Catherine Crompton (University of Edinburgh).

Rhys Swainston, Research Associate

Rhys is a MSc postgraduate working as a Research Assistant alongside Dr Catherine Grainger. He has run two autism-related project looking at the support systems that were available to autistic adults as children and their employability as adults. He is currently assisting on a project that focuses on autism and prospective memory.

Andrew Currie, PhD Student

Andrew is a PhD student at the University of Strathclyde, where he completed his MRes in English studies in 2021. His research focuses on literary narrative processing in autistic adult readers and explores their engagement with literary fiction. He is particularly interested in whether the cognitive traits associated with autism create a unique reading experience for such readers. Andrew is also passionate autism inclusion, advocacy and community participation. He is currently supervised by Dr. Elspeth Jajdelska (Strathclyde), Prof. Nigel Fabb (Strathclyde) and Dr. Catherine Grainger.  

Sarah Dantes, PhD Student


Sarah completed her masters in Autism Research at the University of Stirling in 2022 and is now a full-time PhD student within STAR. Sarah is also involved in the STARTS network, where she completed a placement as part of her masters and continues to work voluntarily assisting with different aspects of STARTS’ research.

Research Interests: 

Sarah’s PhD focuses on the impact of stigma – especially internalized stigma – on autistic adults’ mental health and identity. Sarah is passionate about community-based participatory research and is being supervised by Dr. Cath Grainger and Dr. Carol Jasper.

George Watts, PhD Student

George is a part-time PhD student, funded by the ESRC for the project “Understanding experiences of the autistic community for all autistic adults”. Her research aims to identify barriers and facilitators to the autistic community for autistic adults, including those with co-occurring learning disabilities. As an autistic self-advocate, researcher and mum to two autistic children, George is passionate about participatory research. She is supervised by Dr Eilidh Cage, Dr Catherine Crompton (Edinburgh) and Dr Joe Long (Scottish Autism)

Marisa McKinlay, PhD Student

Marisa is a part-time PhD student, looking at issues for autistic adolescents. As an experienced Speech and Language Therapist, she is passionate about supporting communication and how environments can be changed to allow increased social engagement. Her research aims to work with autistic young people and those around them, identifying enabling factors and barriers to participation in secondary school. She is supervised by Dr Eilidh Cage, Dr Catherine Grainger and Dr Mary Stewart (Heriot-Watt).

Dr Monique Botha, Research Fellow

Monique’s research focuses on the role of minority stress, stigma, and discrimination in the mental health outcomes of autistic people. As an autistic autism researcher, Monique is passionate about a socially just, ethical, and engaged form of science, which aims for emancipation and equality. Monique currently has a 3-year Leverhulme Fellowship where they will be examining dehumanisation and interpretation bias in autism researchers.

Find out more about Monique’s research here.

Dr Eilidh Cage, Lecturer in Psychology

Eilidh’s research looks broadly at the experiences of autistic adults and adolescents, and the challenges related to navigating a predominantly non-autistic world. She is particularly interested in autism acceptance (from both self and others), mental health and wellbeing, autistic identity and diagnosis, camouflaging (or masking) and supporting autistic students at university. She is also passionate about improving practices within autism research itself.

Read more about Eilidh’s research and publications here.

Dr Catherine Grainger, Lecturer in Psychology

About me:

I first studied psychology at Durham University, where I completed a BSc in Psychology and an MSc in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. Before starting my PhD, I worked as a research associate at Durham University, and then went on to complete a PhD in Psychology at the University of Kent. After working as a post-doctoral researcher, I joined Stirling in April 2016.   I am a non-autistic researcher, and am passionate about equality diversity and inclusion, in both research and teaching in Higher Education.

Research Interests:

My research mainly focusses on cognition in autistic and non-autistic adults. I am particularly interested in understanding how aspects of cognition (e.g., self-awareness) relate to mental health outcomes and quality of life in autism. I also research episodic memory, prospective memory, theory-of-mind, and alexithymia. I am always happy to talk about research ideas and to meet with potential students. Please feel free to email me or come by my office during my office hours. I also welcome students interested in applying for a PhD within an area of my research interests.


Principle Investigator:

£15,000 Carnegie Trust |2023-2024| University of Stirling

Research Incentive Grant: The Development and Validation of the Autistic Experiences of Microaggressions (AEMS) Scale.

£65,616 Royal Society of Edinburgh| 2021-2022| University of Stirling

Sabbatical Research Award. Project: Understanding anxiety in Autism: Is metacognition the missing link?

£109,677 Academy of Medical Sciences| 2019-2022| University of Stirling

Springboard Grant. Project: Remembering to remember: What techniques can be used to support prospective memory in autistic adults?

Read more about my research and find my publications here.

STAR Autumn/Winter Newsletter 2022

Read all about what the STAR team have been up to over the last few months! Download our latest newsletter here: STAR Newsletter Autumn Winter 2022

Autism Europe conference

Dr Eilidh Cage is attending Autism Europe to present recent research on the topic of adult autism diagnosis. You can view/download the poster below to find out more about the project. We are currently writing up this study for publication and hope to share the preprint soon!

Autism Europe poster download

Survey season!

You may have noticed that at around this time of year, lots of researchers are looking for participants on Twitter! Part of the reason for this is because Masters students are looking for people to help them with their dissertation research. Studying the Autism Research MSc means that students get to investigate a topic of interest to them, under the supervision of an academic member of staff. 

The following projects are currently looking for participants, and all have received ethical approval from the University of Stirling. Most surveys take between 15 to 30 minutes to do. 

Focused Interests, Wellbeing and Museum Experience in Autistic and Non-autistic Adults

Sarah Dantas is looking for autistic and non-autistic people to complete an online survey that involves questions about focused interests, wellbeing, and experiences in art galleries and/or museums. This survey is open to anyone who is aged over 18 and lives in the UK.

You can take part here.

What is the relationship between masking and making sense of identity?

Ammaar Amjad is looking for autistic people to complete his survey about experiences of masking (or camouflaging) and how this relates to identity (sense of who you are). The survey is open to autistic people aged over 18. 

You can take part here.

Knowledge, Attitudes and Openness towards Autistic Athletes within Athletics Coaches in the United Kingdom

Emily Greenan is looking for athletics coaches in the UK to do her survey about their knowledge, attitudes and openness towards autistic athletes. You can take part if you are an active coaching member at an athletics club within the United Kingdom, or you are involved in a club committee in a non–coaching role.

You can do the survey here.

A survey of Scottish mental health professionals’ autism knowledge

David Myers is doing an online survey looking at autism knowledge and self-confidence in working with autistic people, among clinical staff working in mental health settings within NHS Scotland. You can take part if you currently work in NHS Scotland in a mental health-related setting.

Do the survey here.

Understanding the attitudes of social care professionals toward autistic people

Jen Dow is looking at attitudes towards autistic people held by social care professionals in Scotland. You can take part if you work in social care in Scotland.

Find the survey here.

For all of our surveys, your time and consideration is much appreciated! Contact details for each student and their supervisor is available within each of the links provided above.

STAR Statement on a recently funded project at Stirling.

We have recently learned of a newly funded project at the University of Stirling called “The Cortical Head Direction System as a Model for Systems-level Alterations in Three Rat Models of Autism Spectrum Disorder/Intellectual Disability”. The project has been funded by the Simon’s Foundation and is in collaboration with the University of Dundee and McGill University in Canada. We first learned of this project after the funding had been awarded. 


We believe it is important to make clear that the Stirling Autism Research (STAR) team is not associated with this project in any way. We do not believe that rat (or any other animal) models can reflect the autistic experience. Such research is incompatible with the values and priorities of our team and the wider autistic community.


We would like to reiterate that STARs values are: Humility, Compassion and Inclusion. We aim to do ethical, rigorous and inclusive autism research that will ultimately make a meaningful difference in autistic people’s everyday lives. We research topics such as mental health and wellbeing, community, identity, minority stress, masking, aging, memory and everyday thinking. You can find out more about the individual team members and our research here. We have also updated our ‘useful links‘ page to include some helpful resources and recommended papers. 

STARTS Network launches!

STARTS – Striving to Transform Autism Research Together-Scotland – is a new network organised by Dr Eilidh Cage, Dr Monique Botha (both University of Stirling) and Dr Catherine Crompton (University of Edinburgh). The network is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh for two years. The network aims to bring together autistic people and autism researchers in Scotland. We believe that one way to improve autism research is to use participatory research – involving people who are being researched in the research process as equal partners. STARTS therefore aims to create a new network where autism researchers (both autistic and non-autistic!) can do research with autistic people in Scotland on topics that are important to them.

You can find out more about STARTS on the new website: or by following STARTS Network on Twitter:

We are currently looking for autistic co-researchers to get involved with STARTS. We will be running an event on March 8th at 4pm where you can find out more about what being a co-researcher means, and ask any questions. You can register to attend the event here. The event will be online via Zoom, hosted by Dr Eilidh Cage but the whole STARTS team will be there to say hello. We will have a British Sign Language interpreter and the event will be recorded and shared afterwards. 

If you have any questions about STARTS, you can contact the team at 

Spring 2022 Newsletter

We are delighted to share our latest newsletter! Find out what’s been happening with STAR over the past few months, and some of our plans for 2022:

Newsletter Spring 2022_v2