PhD Scholarship - Melbourne

International Relations offer a number of Scholarships each year to assist PhD students in travelling to our U21 partners, so that they can further their research and make new connections.

The Scholarships allow students to strengthen their research through international collaboration by accessing resources or expertise not necessarily on hand at Birmingham. It also enhances their skills through the organisation of a solo research trip and provides the opportunity to raise the profile of their work at other globally renowned research-intensive universities.

Emily benefited from one of International Relations' PhD Scholarships in Spring 2019, travelling to the University of Melbourne for a month. Here's what she has to say about her experience:

Why did you choose to apply for this U21 Scholarship?

The University of Melbourne works closely with Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence for Youth Mental Health. Based on my own research in exercise and first-episode psychosis, I wanted to visit Orygen to meet many of the researchers who’s work I have based my own on, forge collaborative work between Melbourne and Birmingham, and also escape the UKs winter for warmer climes!

What was the best thing about your experience?

In a collaboration between Orygen National Centre for Youth Mental Health and the University of Melbourne, I organized and spoke at a public forum on exercise and youth mental health. We invited speakers from Orygen (Melbourne), Deakin University (Geelong), Victoria University (Melbourne) and the University of New South Wales (Sydney). Themes of the day were mechanisms of exercise, and the feasibility of exercise in the context of treatment in youth mental health. The symposium was very well received, and it was an excellent opportunity to meet researchers and clinicians who all expressed interest in collaborative projects in the future.

What benefits do you think you gained in relation to your personal development e.g. your confidence, competence, knowledge, future employability?

Whilst in Melbourne, I gave talks at Deakin University and Victoria University on my work here in Birmingham. Not only did this give me a huge confidence boost, talking to experts in the field, but I also allowed me to meet a whole host of potential collaborators/ employers for the future, post-PhD. I now also feel more comfortable going into my future as an early career researcher, having met many people at various stages of the process. My primary interest is first-episode psychosis, but I was able to work in teams who specialize in other aspects of youth mental health, giving me plenty of ideas to improve and change my own approach to study design in the future.

What plans do you have to continue collaboration with your U21 host university?

There is a new randomized trial of an antioxidant in early psychosis (ENACT); being run by joint collaborators from Orygen, University of Melbourne and Deakin University. Their study design recruits the same patient population as my own FEPEX study did in Birmingham, and with funding from the MRC I will add an extra time point for blood collection and MS brain scanning in their trial to compare the two interventions of exercise and antioxidant supplementation- with common outcomes.

What facilities or expertise did your host university have that is not available to you at the University of Birmingham?

As a national center of excellence in Australia, Orygen is an extremely well-equipped facility which combines clinical practice with research in youth mental health. This combination is rare within one centre in the UK, so I primarily wanted to experience the approach taken to treating mental ill-health in a completely different environment.

Is there anything you would have changed about your visit?

Overall my visit to Melbourne was very successful, particularly in terms of meeting like-minded colleagues, but I suppose a couple of extra weeks to explore more of eastern Australia would have been great!

What advice would you give to students thinking of applying for a U21 PhD Scholarship in the future?

Not only will a U21 visit allow you to visit another university/ lab of your choice, but the entire package of travel, opportunity to collaborate and insight into what other teams are doing around the world is invaluable. I would advise prospective U21 applicants to contact the team they hope to visit, and make a plan of the research activities that you hope to achieve during the time of the visit. This approach allows you to make the most of the time you have.   

Emily gives presentation