Central study team – Bristol, UK

Professor Dheeraj Rai, Chief Investigator

Dheeraj is Professor of Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry at the University of Bristol and a Consultant Psychiatrist in the NHS. In his clinical role, he has worked with autistic people and people with learning disabilities for over 10 years. He has carried out large epidemiological studies highlighting the high rates of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety in autistic people. He leads a group of interdisciplinary researchers, with a focus on carrying out research which has the potential to help improve the health and lives of autistic people and people with other developmental conditions. He passionately believes that involving autistic people and other stakeholders in research is necessary. Dheeraj is particularly grateful to members of the STRATA Autistic Advisory Group, who have contributed to the development of STRATA with their views and suggestions since the time when STRATA was just an idea.


Dr Jade Eloise Norris, Senior Research Associate in Autism Research

Jade is working on the participant recruitment and engagement aspects of STRATA. Jade is also Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bath Centre for Applied Autism Research (CAAR), with research interests in adapting communication for autistic people in interviews, including in healthcare, employment, and the Criminal Justice System. Jade created the Ambassadors for Autism scheme to enable service providers and employers to adapt their communication for autistic people. Current Ambassadors include hospitals, HR departments, and the Ministry of Defence (Defence Equipment & Support Talent Acquisition Team). Jade volunteered as a Special Constable with Police Services in England and Wales between 2010 and 2020. Outside of work, Jade refinishes furniture, and enjoys nature, travelling, and live music.


Leo Cotton, Trial Manager

Leo began as STRATA Trial Manager in August 2022. With a background in Neuroscience, and a Masters from the University of Bristol, Leo is experienced in this research area, and is pleased to be working on a trial of this kind. Leo also has previous clinical research experience in oncology. Outside of work, Leo enjoys running, cooking and theatre.


Ali Young, Research Practitioner

Ali has been working as a Research Practitioner in the NHS since 2012, and enjoys working on a portfolio of research studies looking to improve mental health and wellbeing. Prior to this, Ali completed a BSc degree in Psychology, and a Masters in Forensic Psychology, and has experience of working in criminal justice services, in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and as an Assistant Psychologist at the adult ADHD clinic. Outside of work, Ali enjoys reading dystopian fiction, listening to history podcasts, and spending time outdoors exploring nature.


Dr Alba X Realpe, Senior Research Associate in Qualitative Methods

Alba is working with the STRATA study team to help understand and address barriers to recruitment using qualitative methods. Alba is experienced in psychology and applied health research, having completed a PhD in healthcare communication for self-management of long term conditions in primary care. She is a member of the Quintet (Qualitative research Integrated within Trials) group. Her academic interests include using qualitative methods to support co-production and co-design of health interventions and models of healthcare communication, applied to the delivery of randomised controlled trials. In her spare time, Alba enjoys baseball (Blue Jays), hiking, and good latinoamerican food.