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 My Home Life Cymru. Personal awards include Fellow of the Academy of Social Science and Senior Research Leader for Health and Care Research Wales. In 2015 and 2017 she won the College of Human and Health Science outstanding contribution to research award. She is a member of the ESRC DTC Peer Review College. She sits on the 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, the Social Care Ethics Committee, and the Research Committee.
Vanessa has worked on and led international and national research projects worth approximately £18M, 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 more than 50 articles and book chapters on these topics.