Researcher biography

Dr Nathalia Costa is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Queensland's cLinical TRials cApability (ULTRA), located within the Centre for Clinical Research in Herston. Her career goal is to enhance the evidence base from clinical trials and deepen the understanding of healthcare issues through qualitative and mixed methods, with a focus on theoretically grounded, critical, reflexive and collaborative approaches. She is passionate about bringing different types of knowledge and stakeholders together to generate perspectives that create change and make research, practice and education more inclusive and nuanced. She advocates for pluralist inquiries and believes research should go beyond the dualism "quantitative/qualitative" to achieve the intersubjective understandings needed for impactful collective action. Her methodological expertise includes:

  • Systematic, scoping and rapid reviews
  • A range of qualitative methods and methodologies including but not limited to interviews, ethnography, Delphi studies, surveys, focus groups, document and policy analysis, thematic analysis, content analysis, and discourse analysis
  • Embedding qualitative research in feasibility trials to inform large-scale clinical trials
  • Conducting qualitative research to inform the development of implementation strategies
  • Use of systems-thinking frameworks to identify opportunities for interdisciplinary and intersectoral action to target health problems
  • Applying social theory to deepen understanding of healthcare and health more broadly
  • Participatory and collaborative research with key stakeholders (e.g., patients, clinicians, academics, policymakers)

Her publications (45+) span a diverse range of themes, including musculoskeletal conditions, pain, policy, sociology and culturally responsive care. She has also taught across a range of disciplines, including research methods, musculoskeletal physiotherapy, sociology applied to health, fundamentals of physiotherapy, fundamentals of health care, health policy, health economics and health systems finance.

Her research focuses on aspects of low back pain - from exploring ways to navigate uncertainty in low back pain care to identifying avenues to improve it within the Australian healthcare system. She is currently investigating how to optimise recruitment within the FORENSIC trial, which aims to evaluate if lumbar fusion surgery is more beneficial than continuing with best conservative care for patients with persistent severe low back pain who have already undergone non-surgical treatment.

Alongside collaborators, Nathalia has garnered grants (AUD$6M) and awards, including an international award for one of her PhD studies, awarded by the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine – the 2021 ISSLS Prize for Lumbar Spine Research (Clinical Science). She has made >35 presentations at national and international conferences, including presentations as an invited speaker at international conferences (e.g., World Physiotherapy Congress). Prior to her current appointment, she was a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (UQ - 2021), a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Sydney School of Public Health (The University of Sydney, 2021-2022), and a Lecturer in Physiotherapy at the Sydney School of Health Sciences (The University of Sydney, 2023). Nathalia serves as an Associate Editor for Qualitative Health Research and the Journal of Humanities in Rehabilitation.