Menu Close
Postdoctoral Researcher, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin

Derina is a recent PhD graduate of the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, where she studied under the supervision Professor Robbie Gilligan. Her PhD research explored the lives of young migrants and refugees growing up in legal and social marginalisation on the Thailand-Myanmar border.

Prior to her PhD, Derina spent three years living on the Thailand-Myanmar border as field director for a small mental health organisation. In collaboration with local refugee and migrant groups, Derina worked on developing culturally appropriate and sustainable psychosocial care programmes, trainings and initiatives for children and youth. Prior to this Derina ran her own play therapy practice working predominately with children and young people in the inner city and other disadvantaged areas of Dublin. Derina obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology from University College Dublin, and studied Play Therapy and Psychotherapy at the Children’s Therapy Centre with Eileen Prendiville.

Derina's PhD research provides a glimpse into the realities of growing up in displacement and lack of documentation along the Thailand-Myanmar border. It draws from 11 months' immersive fieldwork, involving in-depth interviews with young men and women who were either born in the migrant or refugee communities, or were brought (or sent) as young children. Growing up as “illegal migrants” under the law, from a young age the young people negotiate restricted mobility, limited access to education and other essential services, narrow migrant labour market demands, and everyday vulnerability to exploitation and poverty.

The research reveals nuanced insights into the legal and social precarity which characterises the young people's lifeworlds and ways of being in the world, and the normalisation of suffering and struggle in the quest to create a better future for them and their families. Within this extreme adversity, optimism and pragmatism, resistance and endurance, determination and flexibility emerged as key facets of the young people’s engagement in their worlds, as well as their agency and resilience in the face of certain uncertainty.

Derina continues to work at Trinity College Dublin, as a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Medicine (Paediatrics) and Trinity Research in Childhood Centre, and as project manager of the Horizon 2020 funded energy efficiency socio-economic research project CONSEED.


  • 2018–present
    Postdoctoral research fellow, Trinity Research in Childhood Centre, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2018–present
    Project Manager, CONSEED Project, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2010–2013
    Director of Child and Youth Mental Health & Psychosocial Services , Burma Border Projects, Mae Sot, Thailand
  • 2007–2010
    Play Therapist & Creative Arts Psychotherapist , (Self Employed)


  • 2018 
    Trinity College Dublin, PhD (Social Work and Social Policy)
  • 2002 
    University College Dublin, Bachelor of Arts (Honours Psychology)