My Journey into Mental Health Research
Hi everyone! I’m Jess and I’m a PhD researcher at the Division of Neuroscience and Experimental Psychology at the University of Manchester. I’m in my second year of a 4-year biosocial PhD programme – a programme that specialises in research in both biological and social sciences. My research specifically looks at how social support affects mental health, whilst taking into account different factors. Those factors include the structure and function of the brain, wealth and education, and personality type.
I have always been interested in why people act, think and feel the way they do, which is why I decided to study Psychology at university. We learned about different areas of psychology, such as developmental, social and cognitive psychology, but I had a strong interest in clinical and biological psychology – mental health and the brain. Like many people who studied psychology, at first I considered becoming a clinical psychologist, so I worked for a mental health service provider for a couple of years after my degree.
However, I realised that my passion lies in research, so I went on to complete
my Master’s degree in Edinburgh and then (after a short detour of work and
travel in Japan) on to start my PhD in Manchester. I wanted to pursue a PhD in
order to become an expert in a research topic and to contribute to the body of
knowledge that has the potential to impact the lives of many people. This is
important in the field of mental health, as the majority of people in their
lifetime will struggle with their mental health, and we need to understand the
biological and social mechanisms behind this and the best way to help.
A bird's eye view of different sections of the brain from top to bottom from an MRI scan.
Currently, my day-to-day life is very varied. For my research, I am conducting a systematic literature review, which involves trying to find all the research there is on a particular topic and combining it all together. Alongside this, I teach on the undergraduate Psychology course, deliver workshops to schools and write my own blog about psychology and neuroscience research. This is one of the parts I like most about doing a PhD; you have the opportunity to get involved with different areas and build skills and confidence outside of your niche research topic. After my PhD, I want to continue to work in research, but I am also attracted to the idea of working in policy and science communication. I want my work to have meaningful and far-reaching consequences, which could be achieved by any of these career paths. Luckily I have some time to think about it before I finish my PhD!
If you want to find out more about different aspects of psychology, check out the links below:
- Interested in studying Psychology? Here is the website for Psychology at the University of Manchester, which gives more information about the course and the requirements: https://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2020/00653/bsc-psychology/
- Wondering what you can do with a Psychology degree? The British Psychology Society (BPS) has some careers information here: https://careers.bps.org.uk/
- Want to learn more about your mental health? This website has videos and articles on different topics: https://teenmentalhealth.org/learn/
- Curious about what the different parts of the brain are? You can download this free, interactive app for your phone: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/3d-brain/id331399332