Jen Dykxhoorn was awarded the 2015 John Grace QC scholarship by Mental Health Research UK. Jen’s career has really taken off since her PhD. Read about it below.
I am a psychiatric epidemiologist and public mental health researcher. My research focuses on understanding the social and environmental factors that impact mental illnesses.
I completed my PhD at UCL, supported by the MHRUK’s John QC Grace PhD studentship. My PhD research focused on the impact that factors in the social environment have on the rates of mental health problems in migrants. I showed that region of origin, age at migration, family networks, and neighbourhood factors all influenced rates of psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder with psychotic features.
I completed my PhD in January 2019 and started a post as a Senior Research Fellow at UCL. For the past three years, I worked as the programme manager, senior researcher, and co-investigator for the School for Public Health Research’s Public Mental Health Programme, funded by the NIHR. The aim of this programme was to generate high-quality evidence to improve mental health across the population. It included a wide variety of research projects, from big data projects to participatory action research. I coordinated the research across eight academic centres and worked to ensure that our peer researchers, who were members of the public with lived experience of the social determinants of mental health, were embedded in research across the programme. I worked closely with practitioners and policy makers at the local and national level to ensure our research is relevant and responsive to their needs.
One of the exciting outputs from the programme was creating a conceptual framework for public mental health. In addition to academic outputs, we developed an interactive online tool that beautifully summarises the broad range of factors which are linked to public mental health (www.publicmentalhealth.co.uk).
I have continued to develop my skills as a psychiatric epidemiologist through co-leading a “big data” research project, where we used electronic health records and population surveys to explore rates of common mental disorders and the impact that policy changes may have on mental health.
I was also awarded an early career researcher grant to lead a research project on social exclusion and mental health. I continue to supervise MSc and PhD research students, pre-doctoral, and post-doctoral research fellows, and staff and I teach on several MSc modules on epidemiology, mental health, and statistics.
The past three years have been an incredible time of growth and development. My post-doctoral position has allowed me to develop many skills of academic research, including building collaborative relationships, working with practitioners and members of the public, and learning about research programme management and administration. I have wonderful academic mentors and supervisors who continue to support my academic career.
I currently hold a NIHR Three Schools Mental Health fellowship, and I am delighted to announce that I have been awarded an NIHR Advanced Fellowship, which I will be starting this autumn. This fellowship will fund my research for the next five years and support my further development as a leading mental health researcher. I am excited to have the opportunity to continue my research, develop new collaborations, and apply innovative techniques to explore the drivers of mental health across the population.
Dr Jen Dykxhoorn