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Since 2020, at any one-time Open Thanatology has over 30 members made up of staff from with WELS, OU staff from other parts of the university, and external member including visiting fellows.

Group coordinator:

Erica Borgstrom

I am the current group coordinator for Open Thanatology since autumn 2020. I'm a medical anthropologist currently employed at the Open University as a lecturer. My teaching and research focuses on death and dying, with a particular emphasis on end-of-life care. I am also currently a co-editor for Mortality, the international journal promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying. You can follow me on Twitter @ericaborgstrom.Find out more about Erica and her research


Maddie Blackburn

I retired from full time employment in 2012. I originally trained as a nurse, midwife and as a health visitor in the 1970s. I am a qualified lawyer, senior health professional with extensive background in policy development, research, management, law and performance auditing. Find out more about Maddie and her research

Jan Draper

Following a clinical background in adult nursing, I moved into higher education in the late 1980s, supporting students on both pre-and post-qualifying nursing programmes at a range of different academic levels. Over the last fifteen years this has been predominantly in the field of distance learning. Find out more about Jan and her research

Becky Garcia

I am a Registered Nurse (adult) and Chartered Psychologist. My research interests include aspects of social health psychology including health inequalities, women’s health beliefs and behaviours and perinatal mortality. Find out more about Becky and her research

Claire Harris

I am a staff tutor at the Open University in WELS with a background in mental health training. I have a particular interest in liminality, professional socialisation, transition and threshold concepts in mental health nurse education, and also closely follow developments in military psychological trauma, working with psychosis and student mental health. Find out more about Claire and her research

Claire Henry

I am currently a visiting fellow with Open Thanatology. With over 30 years working in clinical, managerial and quality improvement within the NHS and 3rd sector, I have an abundance of experience in palliative and end of life care. In 2013 I was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for improving end-of-life care and in the same year I received a lifetime achievement award from the International Journal of Palliative Nursing. Find out more about Claire and her research

Kerry Jones

Following research and teaching at the University of Exeter in my role as Research Fellow for Death and Dying, I come to the OU with my more recent endeavours which have involved securing GW4 funds as a co-applicant with the universities of Bath, Bristol and Cardiff concerning dying with reduced agency for people who experience dementia/traumatic brain injury or frailty. Find out more about Kerry and her research

Jackie King-Owen

I am a staff tutor within the OU and am involved in Open Thanatology and the Social History of Learning Disabilities research group. I am a bereavement volunteer, trainer and supervisor for CRUSE

Jane McCarthy

I am a family sociologist with a particular interest in what ‘family’ means to people in their everyday lives. My current interests particularly centre on the opportunities for learning from cross-cultural perspectives to broaden current understandings and knowledge, through an inter-disciplinary relational lens on the aftermath of death across time and space. For this work I draws on my long-term interests in family sociology and how people’s everyday experiences of the aftermath of death inter-relate to broader issues of diversity, inequality, marginalisation and social justice. Find out more about Jane and her research

Bethan Michael-Fox

I work as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University, predominantly on Arts, Humanities and English Language modules. My research is interdisciplinary, centred around engagement with death and the dead in contemporary culture, in particular on television and in literature and film. I am co-host of The Death Studies Podcast and editorial officer for Mortality, an international, interdisciplinary journal for death studies. Find out more about Bethan and her research

Sara MacKian

I have a particular interest in the place of spirit and spirituality in our modern world. A Geographer by training, I use qualitative research methods and art to explore the relationship between the real and the imaginary, the body and the spirit, life and death, this world and the otherworldly. Find out more about Sara and her research

Sharon Mallon

I commenced my research career as an analyst working on drug trials for cancer patients. After working for the NHS for a number of years I completed my primary degree in Social Policy with the Open University in 2003. Find out more about Sharon and her research

Sophie Michell

I am a current postgraduate student in the Department of History. My PhD project is on suspicious death and the community in Victorian Peterborough, explored through the inquest depositions of the time. You can follow me on Twitter

Sam Murphy

I joined The Open University in June 2010 to work on K260, Death and dying which I now lead. Over the past year I co-chaired the redevelopment of K101, An introduction to health and social care and am leading its first presentation which started in October 2014. I am now co-leading the reconfiguration of K827: Leading healthcare improvements. Find out more about Sam and her research

Catherine Pestano

I am a WELS associate lecturer working within social work. I am a singer-songwriter, social worker and community musician with a specialist interest in arts and wellbeing

Liz Tilley

I am a senior lecturer in health and social care. My research and teaching interests include learning disability, advocacy, the interface between disability and sexual & reproductive health, and death, dying & bereavement. I have a particular interest in historical perspectives, ethics and participatory methods in health and social care research. Find out more about Liz and her research