Leah Gilman

Leah Gilman

Dr, Miss

  • Research Fellow, Law
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Personal profile


I re-joined the University of Manchester as Research Fellow in 2022, continuing my work on an ESRC-funded project exploring the social, ethical, legal and psychological implications of online DNA testing for people involved in donor conception. Prior to this, I worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Liverpool and University of Manchester for several years, after completing my PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2017. Before returning to academia, I worked as a primary school teacher in the Lothians, Scotland and (briefly) in Madrid.

My research interests are wide-ranging, spanning social, cultural and legal perspectives on reproduction, childhood, personal relationships and medicine. I am particularly interested in creative methods for conducting research. Recently, I have developed a particular interest in the use of sociological fiction to share research findings.

Current and Past Research Projects

ConnecteDNA: donor conception in the age of direct-to-consumer genetic testing

I am currently working on a project led by Dr Lucy Frith: 'Direct-to-consumer genetic testing and donor conception: support and governance in emerging digital systems'. This study will explore how these, now increasingly affordable and accessible, technologies are used by, and impact, people implicated by donor conception (including donor-conceived people, parents through donor conception and donors). The study draws on a number of disciplines (sociology, law, socio-legal studies, family psychology and bioethics) and involves colleagues across this university (Professor Marie Fox and Dr Caroline Redhead) and others (Dr Petra Nordqvist, University of Manchester; Professor Nicky Hudson, De Montfort University; Dr Fiona MacCallum, University of Warwick; Dr Jackson Kirkman-Brown, University of Birmingham). Working in close collaboration with stakeholders, findings will provide guidance for users of donor-conception, professionals and regulators.

ConnecteDNA | The University of Manchester

Curious Connections

I previously worked at The University of Manchester on this qualitative study, led by Dr Petra Nordqvist and investigating the impact of donation for UK egg and sperm donors in the context of increased openness in donor conception practices. Using the Sociology of Personal Life, the project used in-depth interviews with donors and their relatives, as well as with clinic staff, and analysis of UK laws and policies to understand how the meaning and consequences of donation are negotiated in the context of traceability. More information about the project, including links to videos and leaflets are available on the project website:


Donor Stories

Since 2019, I have been collaborating with Dr Becky Tipper (fiction author and social scientist) on the Donor Stories project which uses sociological fiction to enhance the 'real life' impact and accessibility of research findings. Becky created very short stories based on research data and analysis from the Curious Connections project and from my PhD study (see below) which are being used in counselling sessions with potential donors in UK clinics. The first collection focussed on egg-share donors and the second will focus on known egg donors. More information available on the Curious Connections website (above) and please get in touch if you would like to be sent hard copies of the stories (no cost).

Qualifying Kinship: How Do UK Gamete Donors Negotiate Identity-Release Donation?

My doctoral research used qualitative interviews to explore the views and experiences of sperm and egg donors who have donated in the UK, in the context of identity-release regulations which came into effect from April 2005. Since this date, all donors who donate in UK clinics must consent to the identity being release to any person conceived from their donation, should they request it after the age of eighteen.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Unknown, Qualifying kinship: How do UK gamete donors negotiate identity-release donation?, University of Edinburgh

1 Sep 201228 Nov 2017

Award Date: 28 Nov 2017

Master of Research, Science and Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 31 Aug 2011

PGDE (Primary Education), University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 31 Jul 2007

Master of Arts, Sociology, University of Edinburgh

Award Date: 30 Jun 2006

Areas of expertise

  • HM Sociology
  • medicine, bodily donation, gifts and money
  • HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
  • family practices, kinship, reproductive technologies

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester


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