Dr Victoria Burns BSc PhD

Dr Victoria Burns

School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Reader in Science Education

Contact details

+44 (0)121 414 8104
+44 (0)121 414 4121
School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Feedback and office hours

My office hours are Mondays 1-3pm. If students need to see me outside of these hours, please contact me on Canvas.


BSc, Ph.D. (University of Birmingham)


Victoria received her undergraduate degree and PhD here in Sportex. She was appointed as a post-doctoral research and teaching fellow in the School in 2002, became a Roberts Research Fellow in 2004, a Lecturer in 2009, and a Senior Lecturer in 2011. Her early work explored the effects of psychological factors and exercise on immune function and health.  Over time though, Victoria developed her interests in teaching excellence and student development, and became a teaching-focused Senior Lecturer in 2014.  She was then promoted to Reader in Science Education in 2015. 

She is the Director of Teaching Quality Enhancement for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences and a member of the University of Birmingham Teaching Academy Management Group.  Her pedagogical scholarship focuses on the use of extracurricular activities and experiential learning in the development of transferable skills and intercultural understanding.  She published an updated version of “53 Interesting Ways to Assess Your Students” in 2015.  Victoria tweets @drvikkiburns and blogs at www.drvikkiburns.com.    


Victoria’s main teaching interest is experiential education and how it can be used to develop transferable skills and to enhance discipline specific understanding. She introduced a series of experiential training opportunities for postgraduate students, and an interactive undergraduate induction called Speed BSc, and received a University Teaching Fellowship in recognition of this work.

Victoria also co-founded the Birmingham Evaluating Skills Transfer (BEST) Project with Dr Jennifer Cumming. This pedagogical research project explores how students recognise, develop, and effectively use transferable skills. We have demonstrated that outdoor education and extracurricular activities can help students to develop groupwork skills, sense of belonging, and greater intercultural understanding. We also developed a guide to good evaluation practice and two new evaluative tools, including a new Groupwork Skills Questionnaire (Cumming et al, 2014) and an innovative diary room qualitative data collection technique (Cooley et al, 2014). This work has been funded by the Higher Education Academy, the Centre for Learning and Academic Development, and the College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Victoria teaches Anatomy to first year undergraduates, and Exercise and Behavioural Immunology to third years. She uses technology, as well as more simple techniques, to promote interactive teaching and learning. She also organises the final year project module, which supports students in essay and dissertation writing, poster presentations, and examination technique.

Postgraduate supervision

Current postgraduate students

Fredrik Weibull (2010 – 2016 PT) Exercise imagery (PhD)

Former postgraduate students

Sam Cooley (2011 - 2015) Development of groupwork skills in higher education through outdoor education (PhD)

Jerrald Rector (2010 – 2013) Psychosocial determinants of immunological ageing. (PhD)

Emily Novacovic (2012-2013) Extracurricular activities, transferable skills, and transition to university (MPhil)

Joanna Long, PhD (2008 - 2011) Exercise and antibody response to vaccination in healthy and HIV+ populations (currently post-doctoral fellow in Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham)

Natalie E Riddell, PhD (2006 – 2010) Adrenergic regulation of T cell function (currently post-doctoral fellow in Experimental Immunology, University College London).

Leila H Anane, PhD (2005 – 2009) Stress lymphocytosis: mechanisms and clinical relevance (currently teaching staff at Numidia Academy).

John Campbell, PhD (2006 - 2010) Behavioural adjuvants to vaccination (currently post-doctoral fellow in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences)

Anna Phillips, PhD (2002 - 2005) Psychosocial factors, reactivity, and antibody response to vaccination (currently Reader in Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham)

Kate Edwards, PhD (2002 - 2005) Acute stress and the immune response to vaccination in humans (currently lecturer at the University of Sydney)

Other activities


Victoria believes in communicating science to a wider audience and completed a British Association for the Advancement of Science Media Fellowship, during which she worked as a science journalist for the Irish Times. She also won first prize in the National Brain Science Writing prize and is a FameLab national finalist. She helps students to develop these skills in her third year module, as well as with Natural Sciences students, and through postgraduate training courses.  She also delivers lectures to school children in collaboration with the Outreach team at the University.

She is happy to talk to the press about any aspects of student development and transition to university.


Pedagogical publications

Burns VE. (2015) 53 Ways to Assess Your Students. The Professional and Higher Partnership Ltd, Newmarket UK.

Cooley SJ, Cumming J, Holland MJG, Burns VE. (2015) Developing the Model for Optimal Learning and Transfer (MOLT) following an evaluation of outdoor groupwork skills programmes. European Journal of Training and Development, 39(2): 104-121.

Cooley SJ, Burns VE, & Cumming J. (2015). The Role of Outdoor Education in Facilitating Groupwork in Higher Education. Higher Education, 69: (567-582).

Cumming J, Woodcock C, Cooley SJ, Holland MJG, & Burns VE. (2014). Development and validation of the groupwork skills questionnaire for higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education.

Burns VE (2014). Writing a review response letter. In 53 interesting ways to Communicate Your Research. Eds: Daly I and Haney A. The Professional and Higher Partnership Ltd, Newmarket UK.

Burns VE (2014). Writing engaging lay summaries. In 53 interesting ways to Communicate Your Research. Eds: Daly I and Haney A. The Professional and Higher Partnership Ltd, Newmarket UK.

Cooley SJ, Holland MJG, Cumming J, Novakovic EG, & Burns VE. (2013). Introducing the use of a semi-structured video diary room to investigate students’ learning experiences during an outdoor adventure education groupwork skills course. Higher Education, 67(1): 105-121.

Cooley SJ, Cumming J, & Burns VE. (2013). Outdoor education increases students’ groupwork skills, attitudes and self-efficacy during higher education. In Proceedings of The Sixth International Outdoor Education Research Conference, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Cooley SJ, Cumming J, Holland MJG, & Burns VE. (2013). A novel methodological approach to course evaluation. Future Faces: Outdoor Education Research Innovations and Visions (p. 36) New Zealand.

Cooley SJ, Cumming J, Holland MJG, & Burns VE. (2013). The internationalisation benefits of outdoor education. Future Faces: Outdoor Education Research Innovations and Visions (p. 36) New Zealand.

Cumming J, Burns VE, Cooley S, Holland M (2012). Messing about on the river: Evaluating the transfer of skills developed in the outdoors into academia and employment. Report to the Higher Education Academy 

Burns VE, Cumming J, Cooley S, Holland M (2012). Developing skills for successful international groupwork. Report to the Higher Education Academy.

Research publications

Rector JL, Thomas GN, Burns VE, Dowd JB, Herr RM, Moss PA, Jarczok MN, Hoffman K, Fischer JE, Bosch JA. (2015) Elevated HbA1c levels and the accumulation of differentiated T cells in CMV+ individuals. Diabetologia [epub ahead of print]

Riddell NE, Burns VE, Wallace GR, Edwards KM, Drayson M, Redwine LS, Hong S, Bui JC, Fischer JC, Mills PJ, Bosch JA (2015) Progenitor cells are mobilized by acute psychological stress but not beta-adrenergic receptor agonist infusion. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity [epub ahead of print]

Weibull F, Cumming J, Cooley SJ, Williams SE, & Burns VE. (2015). Walk this way: A brief exercise imagery intervention increases barrier self-efficacy in women. Current Psychology, 34; 477-490. 

Rector JL, Dowd JB, Loerbroks A, Burns VE, Moss PA, Jarczok MN, Stalder T, Hoffman K, Fischer JE, Bosch JA. (2014). Consistent associations between measures of psychological stress and CMV antibody levels in a large occupational sample. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 38: 133-141.

Turner JE, Campbell JP, Edwards KM, Howarth LJ, Pawelec G, Aldred S, Moss P, Drayson MT, Burns VE, Bosch JA (2014).  Rudimentary signs of immunosenescence in Cytomegalovirus-seropositive healthy young adults.  Age, 36(1): 287-297.

Long JE, Ring C, Bosch JA, Eves F, Drayson MT, Calver R, Say V, Allen D, Burns VE. (2013) A lifestyle physical activity intervention and the antibody response to pneumococcal vaccination in women.  Psychosomatic Medicine, 75(8): 774-782.

Burns VE, Bosch JA, Anane L (2013). Immune responses to stress. In: Encyclopedia of Behavioural Medicine: 1034-1039.

Cooley, S. J., Williams, S. E., Burns, V. E., & Cumming, J. (2013). Methodological variations in sport based, guided imagery interventions using movement imagery scripts: A systematic review. Journal of Imagery Research in Sport and Physical Activity, 8: 1-22.

Burns VE (2012).  Using vaccinations to assess in vivo immune function in psychoneuroimmunology. In: Psychoneuroimmunology: Methods and Protocols, from the series ‘Methods in Molecular Biology’. Springer, USA.  Vol 934: 371-81.

Long JE, Ring C, Drayson M, Bosch J, Campbell JP, Bhabra J, Browne D, Dawson J, Harding S, Lau J, Burns VE. (2012) Vaccination response following aerobic exercise: Can a brisk walk enhance antibody response to pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations? Brain Behavior and Immunity, 26(4): 680-7.

Bosch JA, Rector JL, Turner JE, Riddell NE, O Hartaigh B, Burns VE (2012). Psychoneuroimmunology: Cytomegalovirus infection as a putative link between stress, aging, and immunity; 81-100. In: Immunosenescence: Psychosocial and behavioural determinants. Eds: Bosch JA, Phillips AC, Lord JM. New York: Springer.

Quested E, Bosch J, Burns VE, Cumming J, Ntoumanis N, Duda JL. (2011) Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction Cognitive Appraisals and Dancers’ Hormonal and Emotional Responses. Health Psychology. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33(6): 828-846.

Bosch J, Engeland C, and Burns VE (2011). Psychoneuroimmunology in vivo: Methods and Principles. In: The Oxford Handbook of Social Neuroscience.  Ed: Decety J and Cacioppo JT. Oxford University Press.  

Anane LH, Edwards KM, Burns VE, van Zanten JJCS, Drayson MT, Bosch JA. (2010) Phenotypic characterisation of γδ T cells mobilized in response to acute psychological stress.  Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 24(4): 608-14.

Burns VE, Gallagher S. Antibody response to vaccination as a marker of in vivo immune function in psychophysiological research.  Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews 2010 35(1):122-6.

Campbell JP, Edwards KM, Ring C, Drayson MT, Bosch JA, Downes C, Long JE, Lumb JA, Merry A, Paine NJ, Burns VE.  Exercise intensity does not influence the efficacy of eccentric exercise as a behavioural adjuvant to vaccination.  Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2010; 24:623-630.

Campbell JP, Edwards KM, Ring C, Drayson MT, Bosch JA, Inskip A, Long JE, Pulsford D, Burns VE.  The effects of vaccine timing on the efficacy of eccentric exercise as a behavioural adjuvant to vaccination.  Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2010;24:236-242.

Aldred S, Rohalu M, Edwards KM, Burns VE.  DHEA and DHEAS response to exercise in healthy older adults; altered response in comparison to younger adults and implications for oxidative status.  Journal of Aging and Physical Activity 2009; 17: 77-88.

Anane LH, Edwards KM, Burns VE, Drayson MT, Riddell NE, van Zanten JJCS, Wallace G, Mills PJ, Bosch JA. Mobilization of gammadelta T lymphocytes in response to psychological stress, exercise, and beta-agonist infusion.  Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2009; 23:823-829.

Campbell JP, Riddell NE, Burns VE, Turner M, Veldhuijzen van Zanten JJCS, Drayson MT, Bosch JA.  Acute exercise mobilises CD8+ T lymphocytes exhibiting an effector-memory phenotype.  Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2009; 23:767-775.

Phillips AC, Carroll D, Burns VE, Drayson M.  Cardiovascular Activity and the Antibody Response to Vaccination.  J Psychosom Res 2009;67:37-43.

Burns VE, Edwards KM, Ring C, Drayson M, Carroll D.  Complement cascade activation following an acute psychological stress task.  Psychosomatic Medicine 2008; 70: 387-96

Phillips A, Burns VE. A shot in the arm for research. The Psychologist 2008: 22(3), 202-5. 

Edwards KM, Burns VE, Adkins AE, Carroll D, Drayson M, Ring C.  Meningococcal A vaccination response is enhanced by acute stress in men.  Psychosom Med 2008; 70:147-51.

Edwards KM, Burns VE, Carroll D, Drayson M, Ring C.  The acute stress-induced immunoenhancement hypothesis. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 2007;35:150-5.

Burns VE, Phillips AC and Edwards KM (2007), Vaccination. In: Encyclopedia of Stress; 2007. Ed: Fink G. Oxford: Academic Press; Second Edition, volume 3, p. 813-817.

Edwards KM, Burns VE, Allen LM, McPhee JS, Bosch JA, Carroll D, Drayson M, Ring C.  Eccentric exercise as an adjuvant to influenza vaccination in humans. Brain, Behavior and Immunity 2007;21:209-17.

Phillips AC, Burns VE, Lord JM.  Stress and exercise: Getting the balance right for aging immunity.  Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 2007; 35: 35-39.

Phillips A, Burns VE.  Why are vaccinations interesting to psychologists? The Psychologist 2007; 21: 202-204.

Burns VE Psychological stress and immune function.  In: Immune Function in Sport and Exercise; 2006. Ed: Gleeson M.  Elsevier.

Edwards KM, Burns VE, Reynolds T, Ring C, Carroll D, Drayson M.  Acute stress exposure prior to influenza vaccination enhances antibody response in women.  Brain, Behavior and Immunity 2006; 20:159-68. 

Edwards KM, Burns VE, Ring C, Carroll D.  Individual differences in the IL-6 response to maximal and submaximal exercise tasks.  Journal of Sport Sciences 2006; 24: 855-862.

Edwards KM, Burns VE, Ring C, Carroll D.  Sex Differences in the interleukin-6 response to acute psychological stress.  Biological Psychology 2006; 71: 236-239.

Phillips AC, Carroll D, Burns VE, Ring C, Macleod J, Drayson M. Bereavement and Marriage are Associated with Antibody Response to Influenza Vaccination in the Elderly  Brain, Behavior and Immunity 2006; 20:279-289.

Burns VE, Ring C, Carroll D.  Factors influencing influenza vaccination uptake in an elderly, community-based sample.  Vaccine 2005; 23: 3604-3608.

Phillips AC, Carroll D, Burns VE, Ring C, Drayson M.  The association between life events, social support and antibody status following thymus-dependent and thymus-independent vaccinations in healthy young adults. Brain, Behavior and Immunity 2005; 19: 325-333.

Phillips AC, Carroll D, Burns VE, Drayson M. Neuroticism, cortisol reactivity, and antibody response to vaccination. Psychophysiology 2005; 42: 232-238.

Burns VE.  Stress and antibody response to vaccination:  implications of animal studies for human clinical research.  Expert Reviews of Vaccines 2004; 3: 141-149.

Burns VE, Ring C, Harrison LK, Carroll D, Drayson M.  Reductions in secretory immunoglobulin A to cold pressor stress are not influenced by timing of saliva sampling.  Biological Psychology 2004; 66: 91-98.

Veldhuijzen van Zanten JJCS, Ring C, Burns VE, Edwards KM, Drayson M, Carroll D.  Mental stress-induced haemoconcentration: sex differences and mechanisms.  Psychophysiology 2004; 41:541-551

Burns VE, Carroll D, Ring C, Drayson M. Antibody response to vaccination and psychosocial stress in humans: Relationships and mechanisms. Vaccine 2003; 21: 2523-34

Burns VE, Carroll D, Drayson M, Whitham M, Ring C. Life events, perceived stress, and antibody response to influenza vaccination in young, healthy adults. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2003; 55: 569-572. 

Burns VE, Ring C, Drayson M, Carroll D. Cortisol and cardiovascular reactions to mental stress and antibody status following hepatitis B vaccination: A preliminary study. Psychophysiology 2002; 39: 361-368.

Burns VE, Drayson M, Ring C, Carroll D.  Perceived stress and psychological well-being are associated with antibody status after meningitis C conjugate vaccination.  Psychosomatic Medicine 2002; 64:  963-970.

Burns VE, Carroll D, Ring C, Harrison LK, Drayson M. Stress, coping, and hepatitis B antibody status. Psychosomatic Medicine 2002; 64: 287-293.

Ring C, Burns VE, Carroll D. Shifting hemodynamics of blood pressure control during prolonged mental stress. Psychophysiology 2002; 39: 585-590. 

Harrison LK, Denning S, Easton HL, Hall JC, Burns VE, Ring C, Carroll D. The effects of competition and competitiveness on cardiovascular activity. Psychophysiology 2001; 38: 601-606. 

Harrison LK, Carroll D, Burns VE, Corkill AR, Harrison CM, Ring C, Drayson M. Cardiovascular and secretory immunoglobulin A reactions to humorous, exciting and didactic film presentations. Biological Psychology 2000; 52: 113-126.