in psychiatric research
Recent years have seen substantial advances in our understanding
of the physical, psychological and social mechanisms which underpin
psychiatric disorder.At the same time, the range of clinical
interventions in the psychiatrist’s armamentarium and the evidence
base which supports them continues to grow.
However, even given these advances, it remains true to say that
the aetiology and pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders are only
partially understood, diagnosis continues to be based solely upon
subjective clinical assessment and for many individuals the
response to treatment is unsatisfactory. The only way to remedy
this situation is through high quality research.
The considerable potential for discovery is perhaps one of the
main factors which makes psychiatry such an exciting and
fascinating area for research. In addition, psychiatric research is
a broad church encompassing a great diversity of approaches towards
improving the lives of people with mental disorders.From the
interested clinician to the full time academic, the pharmacologist
to the psychotherapist, the biologist to the social scientist, each
has a role to play.
Research experience is also beneficial to the individual through
the development of transferable skills in areas such as critical
appraisal, team working and project management.Opportunities to
collaborate with colleagues from other institutions and disciplines
provide a fertile ground for the growth of new ideas and
Finally, there is considerable satisfaction to be gained simply
from the detailed investigation of an area of interest.
Links to funding agencies
Research as a medical student
Several universities include a dedicated
research module as part of their course and for many this will be
their first taste of psychiatric research.
Vacation scholarships or electives are also
available in some departments and these can be used to carry out
short periods of research. Your medical faculty office should
have information about scholarships that are
available. Alternatively, make contact with a member of staff
from the academic department in your area – most departments of
academic psychiatry around the country have websites listing the
interests of their various staff.
For those who wish to carry out a longer, more
in depth period of research as part of their degree, the best
option is probably an intercalated BSc (sometimes referred to as a
BMedSci). Although BScs in psychology and neuroscience may
seem the most suitable choice for those pursuing a career in
psychiatry, almost any field of science can be related to the study
of mental ill health.
Following their BSc a few individuals choose
to carry on their research by taking time out from their medical
degree to complete a PhD. It may be possible to organize this
within your own university; alternatively some institutions have
formalized MBPhD schemes which are also open to applicants from
other universities – University College
London and Cambridge
two of the largest and longest established courses. At the
moment this path is more the exception than the rule although there
are moves to encourage more people to consider this in the
If you are not sure how to get going then just
email or telephone someone from your local academic
department. You do not necessarily have to have an idea for a
specific project or even know what field of psychiatry you are
interested in – at this point in your career enthusiasm and
determination are needed more than rigid plans for the
Most academics are pleased when someone takes
an interest in their work and there are often opportunities to be
had by plugging into an ongoing project.