Professor Sonja McIlfatrick

Dean of the Ulster Doctoral College

Ulster University Doctoral College

Belfast campus

Room BC-04-173,
2-24 York Street,
BT15 1AP,

Institute of Nursing and Health Research

Dean of the Ulster Doctoral College

Professor Sonja McIlfatrick


Professor Sonja McIlfatrick holds the esteemed position of Professor in Nursing and Palliative Care. She also serves as the Dean of the Doctoral College and takes on the role of Director of Postgraduate Research, encompassing a cross-institutional scope. Prior to these roles, Sonja had a significant tenure as the Head of School of Nursing at Ulster University from 2017 to 2022. With a comprehensive background spanning over twenty years, she stands as a seasoned clinical academic, contributing her expertise to nursing and palliative care practice, education, and research.

During her tenure as the Head of Research at the All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care between 2011 and 2014, Sonja played a pivotal role in establishing the All Ireland Palliative Care Research Network (PCRN). This network not only prioritized palliative care research throughout Ireland but also spotlighted Sonja as a proactive leader in the field. Her dedication is showcased through her extensive publication history, with more than 200 research outputs and publications. Her effectiveness in acquiring grants is equally impressive, having secured over 4 million pounds in funding.

Professor McIlfatrick's reputation extends internationally, where she is recognized as a prominent figure in palliative care research. This recognition has led her to be a sought-after presenter at key national and international events. As a testament to her influence, she holds a position as an elected Board member for the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC). Her contributions transcend borders, as she is appointed as a Visiting Professor at the University of Maribor in Slovenia, the University of Chiba in Japan, and the University of Technology in Sydney. These collaborations see her working with the Centre for Improving Palliative, Aged, and Chronic Care through Clinical Research and Translation (IMPACCT).

Professor McIlfatrick's impact is not confined to academia; she has served on various international research-funding boards. Her expertise is now leveraged as a member of the Marie Curie UK Funding Research Committee and a research advisory committee member for the UK Council of Deans of Health. Her distinguished status is affirmed by her honorary fellowships with esteemed institutions, including the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, the Royal College of Nursing in the UK, and the American Academy of Nursing. Notably, she is a UK Florence Nightingale Leadership Scholar.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions, Sonja was awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2022, a testament to her profound impact on education and public health. Beyond her accolades, Sonja holds a deep interest in doctoral education, having served as the past President of the International Network of Doctoral Education in Nursing (INDEN).

Presently, her research pursuits encompass a range of compelling topics, such as palliative care in chronic illness, the management of clinical symptoms, end-of-life decision-making, and public health palliative care. This extensive portfolio underscores Sonja McIlfatrick's dedication to advancing the fields of nursing, palliative care, and education on a global scale.