Dr Rebecca Olson

Senior Lecturer

School of Social Science
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 53493


Dr Rebecca E. Olson is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland. Dr Olson's research focuses on the sociology of health and illness, cancer and end-of-life care, interprofessional education in the health professions, and the sociology of emotion and affect. She is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Sociology, Co-Convenor of the Australian Sociological Association's Sociology of Emotions and Affect thematic group and has published widely in the areas of healthcare, interprofessional education, cancer and informal care. Her recent book, “Towards a Sociology of Cancer Caregiving: Time to Feel” (Ashgate 2015), was supported by a collaborative grant from Cancer Australia and Cancer Council ACT.

Research Interests

  • Cancer and end-of-life care
    In my research, I examine carers of cancer patients' lived experiences, support needs and reflections on care coordination. Drawing on longitudinal qualitative data, this research offers fresh interactionist theorisation of cancer and end-of-life caregiving.
  • Emotions
    In my research, I apply and extend Hochschild's concept of 'emotion work,' using Collins' 'emotional energy,' Bourdieu's 'reflexivity' and Massumi's 'affect.' As the national co-convenor of the Australian Sociological Association's Sociology of Emotions and Affect Thematic Group, I work to further this subdiscipline in Australia.
  • Interprofessional education (IPE)
    As a researcher of interprofessional education and practice, I apply a range of sociological theories allowing me to highlight the significance of context, hidden curricula and (inter)disciplinary knowledge to professional socialisation.

Research Impacts

My key contributions have been sociological approaches to conceptualising cancer care, interprofessional practice, and emotions.

My work in advancing a sociology of cancer caregiving has resulted in fresh theorisation of caregiving in cancer care settings and practical insight into carers’ support preferences. Concepts such as ‘temporal anomie’ and ‘indefinite loss’ offer schemas for understanding variations in carers’ experiences, grief and subsequent support needs. Findings from my research into cancer care have informed the revision of online support offered to carers through the cancer council ACT website.

My research into interprofessional education (IPE) advances theorisation of IPE and interprofessional practice (IPP) as two ends of a process of organisational change. Applying the sociologies of knowledge and identity to this subject has allowed me to highlight the significance of context, hidden curricula and (inter)disciplinary knowledge to professional socialisation. Findings from this research have been used to inform curriculum. My publication with co-author physiotherapist Prof. Andrea Bialowcerkowski (2014) in Medical Education earned the Silver Quill Award for the most downloaded article in 2014.

In my research, I employ a range of theories from the sociology of emotions and have an interest in advancing methodology within this subdiscipline. In 2014, I revised a method with co-author Dadich – affective critical appreciative inquiry (ACAI) – to foster embodied insights into text-based analysis (Dadich and Olson 2014). In 2015, I co-edited 2 special issues in Emotion Review on methodological innovations in the sociology of emotions, featuring contributions from leading sociologists from the USA, Australia and Europe.

More broadly, my contributions to sociology have been realised through roles as: Associate Editor of the Journal of Sociology (2013-2016); a member of The Australian Sociological Association, the International Society for Research on Emotions and the Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators; and a reviewer for numerous journals in sociology, health and interprofessional education.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University


View all Publications


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision


Featured Publications


Book Chapter

  • Olson, Rebecca E. (2016). Public health: Historical and contemporary principles and practices. In Pranee Liamputtong (Ed.), Public Health: Local and Global Perspectives (pp. 25-44) Port Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Cambridge University Press.

  • Olson, Rebecca E. and Abeysinghe, Sudeepa (2014). None of the above: Uncertainty and diagnosis. In Annemarie Goldstein Jutel and Kevin Dew (Ed.), Social Issues in Diagnosis: An Introduction for Students and Clinicians (pp. 47-60) Baltimore, MD United States: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Olson, Rebecca and Tannous, Caterina (2015). Students’ perceptions of eMarking: Grademark vs. iAnnotate.. In: Student Transitions Achievement Retention Success (STARS) Handbook & proceedings. Student Transitions Achievement Retention Success (STARS) conference, Melbourne, Australia, (162-162). 1-4 July, 2015.

  • Olson, Rebecca E., Burton, Anthony, Byron, Paul and Turnbull, Margo (2014). Exploratory comparison of providing formative assessment feedback in three different modes: Hardcopy, desktop and tablet. In: 17th International First Year in Higher Education Conference, Darwin, NT Australia, (). 6-9 July 2014.

  • Dadich, Ann and Olson, Rebecca E. (2014). Interprofessional practice in healthcare: A POSH approach. In: ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2014, University of Sydney, Australia, (). 7-10 December 2014.

  • Olson, Rebecca E. and Prosser, Brenton (2012). Human care work and emotion: A call to re-examine theory. In: The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference, University of Queensland St Lucia Campus, (). 26-29 November 2012.

  • Olson, Rebecca E. (2010). Relying on carers at home and in the hospital. In: S. Velayutham, N. Ebert and S. Watkins, TASA 2010 Conference Proceedings:Social Causes, Private Lives. The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference, Macquarie University, NSW, (). December 2010.

Other Outputs

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Joint Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision