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Scholars' Day 2023

This year’s Scholars’ Day marked the third one held online, and as I approach the end of my PhD, I’m really pleased to write this blog covering the day’s events.


As with the past two years, the scholars attended a practice session ahead of the main day, which allowed us to get feedback from each other and the trustees. I personally find the practice session a nice opportunity to interact with the other scholars, as there is less opportunity to do so (particularly in a less formal way) on the main day.


The main day itself took place across the morning and early afternoon, with two parallel Zoom rooms for attendees to choose from. Whilst the parallel sessions do mean you miss out on some of the talks occurring in the other room, having the sessions recorded allows you to catch up with them in your own time and overall shortens the day, which I think has its benefits as presentation fatigue can be all too real and it allows you the opportunity to give your full attention to these important projects at another time. Having the Scholars’ Day online also helps increase accessibility to the day, as depending on the location of an in-person day, this could be quite far for scholars, trustees and supporters to travel.


As I was presenting in the morning session, I heard about the incredible (and very different to my own) work being carried out by:

  • Katherine Bird who is aiming to understand suicidal ideation and self-harm in the LGBTQIA+ community

  • Jane Hahn who is investigating the role of emotion regulation, internalising and externalising symptoms in the aetiology of eating disorders

  • Camilla Day who is investigating the contextual factors that may influence Psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment resistant depression


In the second session I attended, I heard from:

  • Tom Jenkins who is exploring the experience of de-humanisation by distressing psychotic voices

  • Samantha Mitchell who is examining the neurocognitive basis of hallucinations in schizophrenia, by particularly focusing on reality monitoring and the role of the medial prefrontal cortex

  • Sophie Chick who is identifying novel genes associated with schizophrenia

  • Siobhan Lock who is exploring genetic markers and linked healthcare records to predict symptom improvement and drug response in schizophrenia


Something that I really enjoyed hearing about (and learning more about) was the ways in which scholars are collaborating with individuals with lived experience to inform on the design of their studies. For example, Katherine Bird spoke of adapting the Card Sort Task for Self-harm to an online setting, and through feedback from young people it was agreed that this would be better as a mobile phone application rather than something to be completed on a web desktop, as this is more accessible to young people; as well, working with LGBTQIA+ individuals to ensure items on the cards reflect their experiences of self-harm. I was inspired by Tom Jenkins’ work on developing a measure of de-humanisation and the involvement of individuals with lived experiences throughout the development of this measure. For example, at the beginning when deciding how to measure de-humanisation, Tom consulted with people with lived experience of psychosis about their experiences of de-humanisation, in addition to being guided by the literature. And then further on in the measure development when deciding which items to include, there was further consultation with experts by experience to get feedback on which items best captured their experiences. I thought this was a really nice example of how service users can be involved throughout the research process.


In between the two sessions, we heard from Dr Juliana Onwumere who was interviewed by Alexandra Schmidt. This interview covered a broad range of topics from Juliana’s initial journey into her current work and advice to her former self, through to advice on how to improve mental health services and ensuring research has the most clinical impact and facilitates change. For me, the latter two topics had some important take home messages. In terms of improving mental health services, Juliana spoke about the need for mental health services to be more diverse and the ways in which we tackle this are incredibly important. For example, not maintaining barriers for individuals from different groups to get involved with research and reminding us that groups are not hard to reach but rather the ways in which we communicate (e.g., through the language we use) and the research that is funded, can impact on these. In terms of ensuring research has clinical impact and facilitates change, Juliana invited us to redefine what we consider as impact. For example, the ways in which we share ideas and disseminate research through different media or through co-production with individuals with lived experiences can all contribute to impact.


Lastly, Professor Sir Mike Owen (Chair of Trustees) closed the Scholars’ Day with some hopeful words on fundraising opportunities starting to improve for Mental Health Research UK, meaning important research can continue being funded in the future. I think this is also an important reminder for us scholars that we are so fortunate to be able to carry out our research due to the supporters and organisers of Mental Health Research UK - something I know we are all extremely grateful for.


I would like to thank Clair Chilvers, Mike Owen, Vanessa Pinfold, Peter Jones, David Riggs and everyone else at MHRUK who gave their time to ensure the smooth running of another successful Scholars’ Day. And finally, a huge thanks to our supporters, who I really enjoy seeing each year.


Taryn Hutchinson

Room 1: Chaired by: Vanessa pinfold                        Click on the pictures to see the Students presentation

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Katherine Bird: University of Nottingham.

Understanding pathways to self-harm and suicide ideation in high risk young people: an unmissable opportunity for suicide prevention.

Taryn Hutchinson: King's College London

Imagine a brighter future: Development of a school-based positive imagery intervention to target anhedonia in adolescents.

Jane Hahn: University College London 

Exploring the causal role of emotion regulation, internalising and externalising symptoms in the aetiology of eating disorders.

Camilla Day: King's College London.

Qualitative and Quantitative Study of Contextual Factors in Psilocybin-assisted Therapy for Treatment Resistant Depression.

Room 2: Chaired by Mike Owen

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Alexandra Schmidt:  

University of Sussex - Predicting development and treatment of common mental disorders in older adults.


Samuael Knight: King's College London.

Neural mechanisms of positive symptoms in first-episode and prodromal psychosis.


Noushin Saadullah Khani: 

University College London - Can genomics enhance care and quality of life in psychosis?  Investigating the cost-effectiveness of pharmacogenomics in mental health.

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Cate Bailey: King's College London.

Experiences, agency and explanatory models in patients with functional neurological disorders: a qualitative and quantitative study.

Dr Laila Tata interviewed by Jessica Radley.

Room 3: Schizophrenia.     Chaired by Peter Jones

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Tom Jenkins: Bath University - Feeling de-humanised by distressing psychotic voices: Developing our understanding and psychological therapy.

Samantha Mitchell:

 University of Cambridge - Targeting medial prefrontal cortex brain networks implicated in hallucinations.

Sophie Chick: Cardiff University - Integrating microarray and sequencing data to identify rare risk and protective genetic variants for schizophrenia.

Siobhan Lock: Cardiff University - New approaches in precision psychiatry: Exploring genomic markers and linked health records to predict symptom improvement and drug response in schizophrenia. 

Room 4: Chaired by Clair Vanessa Pinfold


Eglė Padaigaitė: Cardiff University - Identification of factors promoting sustained good mental health in children of depressed parents.

The follow up questionnaire was completed by 27 attendees split as in the pie-chart below.

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All respondents found the Zoom Platform accessible and the content interesting. All responders thought the standard of presentations was good or very good, and 96% found them good or very good in terms of accessibility to a lay audience.

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The length of the sessions seemed to work well.

There were approximately equal numbers voting for online or face-to-face next year, with a handful with no clear preference. One comment also suggested that a hybrid Scholars’ Day could work well.


We asked for overall reflections on the day in a few words:

A lovely day

Lovely to see such engaged scholars!

Engaging and inspiring

very interesting

Great! Nice relaxed chairing by Mike and Peter

Impressive group of scholars.

Everything was great

Very interesting and inspiring.

Excellent and inspiring sessions.

Inspirational. Great that MHRUK is supporting such bright young people.

Very enjoyable and informative day.

It was good.

Informative, interesting event

I felt so greatly encouraged that my fundraising is so well utilised by MHRUK

Interesting and informative in general

Well worth participating and the on-line format made this easy.

Very inspiring, interesting and refreshing to see how young scholars are so dedicated and committed to in-depth research and exploring new boundaries in research

It was great!

I am glad it had come around again so soon..!

Excellent meeting.

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