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Dr Martina Zimmermann

  • Academics

Lecturer in Health Humanities and Health Sciences

UKRI Future Leaders Fellow.

Contact details


I am Lecturer in Health Humanities and Health Sciences and joined King’s with a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship in 2020. I am a passionate cross-disciplinarian who originally trained as a pharmaceutical scientist, specialised in neuropharmacology and holds a Habilitation in Pharmacology from Goethe University Frankfurt. Over time, my research interests increasingly shifted towards the boundary between science, medicine and literature and, after a MA in Literature and Medicine, I undertook a second, Wellcome Trust funded PhD in the Health Humanities. Before joining King’s, I worked at the University of Warwick, where I taught Communicating Science in the Department of Physics and, with the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning, developed discipline-crossing modules that explore the rhetoric of science and interrogate the public discourse about science.

Research interests and PhD supervision

I have been awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship to look at the dynamic exchange between scientific, medical and literary representations of ageing. Against my discipline-crossing background, my research is driven by two questions: how does culture frame the questions and paradigms of scientific and medical research on ageing and diseases of old age? And how do scientific research developments act as cultural force? I am invested in the relationship between literature, science and medicine and my research shows that science follows culture just as often as literature takes up scientific images.

I use a cross-cultural approach, reading in five languages, including German, French, Italian and Spanish to explore how conditions of old age like neurological and movement disorders, including neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, are written about in different cultural traditions and historical contexts.

I am particularly interested in the period from 1880 to the present, and would love to hear from students interested in pursuing doctoral research in the health humanities including literature and science studies as well as age studies. I am happy to support adventurous research that seeks to improve mutual appreciation of humanities and medico-scientific approaches to health and disease.

For more details, please see my full research profile.


I am passionate about discipline-crossing teaching and am Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I have taught in areas as diverse as pharmacology, physiology and the health humanities, including illness life writing and science communication. Most recently, I taught Communicating Science in the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick and, with the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning, developed and led a discipline-crossing module on Science in Context. I am currently not teaching as I work full-time on a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship.

Expertise and public engagement

I work with local charities (The Pam Britton Trust for Dementia and One Westminster) and national charities (Age UK, The Centre for Policy on Ageing and the Centre for Ageing Better) to disseminate findings and to involve older people in developing policy change for the ageing population.

Selected publications

I have published two monographs concerned with cultural and scientific dementia narratives:

The Diseased Brain and the Failing Mind. Dementia in Science, Medicine and Literature of the Long Twentieth Century (Bloomsbury, 2020); open access thanks to Wellcome Trust funding.

The Poetics and Politics of Alzheimer’s Disease Life-Writing (Palgrave, 2017); open access thanks to Wellcome Trust funding.

Further publications in essay collections and peer reviewed journals include:

‘Terry Pratchett’s Living with Alzheimer’s as a case study of late-life creativity’. In: David Amigoni and Gordon McMullan (eds.), Creativity in Later Life: Beyond Late Style (Routledge, 2019), 198-207.

‘Alzheimer’s disease metaphors as mirror and lens to the stigma of dementia’. Literature and Medicine 35 (2017): 71-97; open access thanks to Wellcome Trust funding.

‘Deliver us from evil: carer burden in Alzheimer’s disease’. Medical Humanities 36 (2010): 101-107.