What motivated you to come to Bristol and do this programme?
The MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit has a strong reputation and the structure of the Wellcome Trust PhD programme enables students to train in Molecular, Genetic and Life-course Epidemiology through ‘mini projects’ in year 1 before working on the main project over the span of 3 years. My academic background is in Anthropology (BSc Hons) and Epidemiology (MSc) so an integrative approach has particular appeal to me as I think that there is always potential for cross-fertilisation of ideas and triangulation of evidence from different lines of inquiry. When I came across the opportunity to study adult outcomes of autism within the Unit, I was working in the field of dementia outcomes research so had a burgeoning interest in mental health. It felt like the perfect time to do a PhD at a great institution in an exciting, vibrant city, so I applied!
What is the key research question of your PhD research project and what have you found out so far?
My main PhD project will be an investigation into the effects of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) on socioeconomic and physical health outcomes in adulthood. I will study individuals with an ASD diagnosis as well as those who are genetically liable to this condition and those who exhibit autistic traits.
Currently, I am working on my third mini project which entails studying the associations between ASD and multiple risk behaviours, such as hazardous alcohol consumption, substance use and criminal/anti-social behaviour in adolescence. Results are pending.
Where do you think your research could lead and what are your future career plans now?
Hopefully, my research will contribute to further scientific understanding in the field of autism research. It would also be great to make a positive difference to the lives affected by ASD. I hope to continue my career in Psychiatric Epidemiology after my PhD.