After graduating from the Open University in 1994, Vanessa worked as a researcher at Bangor University while she undertook her PhD. After completing her PhD in 1998, Vanessa became Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Policy Research and Development at Bangor University and in 2004 took over as Director. Vanessa was awarded a personal Chair at Bangor in 2007, and shortly after moved to Swansea University, as Director of the Centre for Innovative Ageing. In 2016, Vanessa was also appointed Director of the pan Wales, Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research.
Vanessa holds a public appointment as the research member of the Ministerial Advisory Forum on Ageing and is co-Chair of the research hub of the Campaign to End Loneliness. Personal awards include Fellow of the Academy of Social Science and Senior Research Leader for Health and Care Research Wales. In 2015, she won the CHHS outstanding contribution to research award. She is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and ESRC DTC Peer Review College. She sits on the grants panel for ESRC Future Leaders, and ESRC Grants Assessment Panel C and is member of the Board for Health and Care Research Wales.
Vanessa sits on the CHHS Senior Management Board, and Social Care Ethics Committee, and the Research Committee.
Vanessa has worked on and led international and national research projects worth approximately £11.3M, and has supervised 23 post-graduate students.
Her research interests include loneliness, support networks, intergenerational relationships, social exclusion rurality, migration of older people and attachment to place and she has published over 50 articles and book chapters on these topics.