The 3rd Annual Psychiatry Graduate Symposium took place on Thursday 26th November. The event has quickly become a tradition in the department, providing an opportunity for PhD students to showcase their research to their colleagues and supervisors.
Prof Peter Jones opened the event last week by emphasising the need to support student research. Graduate students represent ‘diamonds on the drill bit of discovery’, Jones explained, and events like the Graduate Symposium are needed to foster and recognise these efforts.
Second and third year PhD students presented their work in the elegant Old Combination Room at Trinity College. Following their ten-minute presentations, students fielded five minutes of questions from MPhil students, postdoctoral researchers and principal investigators in the audience. The presentations covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from gene expression in autism to the role of resilience factors in overcoming childhood adversity.
Alongside their presentations, the students spent several weeks preparing for a lively debate on the motion, “If children with ADHD were detected and diagnosed with ADHD earlier enough, psychological treatments would be sufficient and pharmacological treatment would be unnecessary.” The students were split into two teams, for and against the motion, and each team developed their argument through an opening statement, rebuttal and audience Q&A. While the topic was closely linked to concerns about the prescription of methylphenidate (Ritalin) to children, each side agreed to the current NICE Guidelines on ADHD, which recommend behavioural interventions in young children with the condition. However, those against the motion stressed that the treatment of ADHD may still require medication in some cases, depending on severity and developmental period. Ultimately, the audience voted unanimously against the motion, but they hoped for more debates in the future.
The symposium concluded with a keynote lecture from Professor Emily Simonoff, Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Kings College London. Prof Simonoff presented an impressive body of epidemiological, cognitive and behavioural genetics research, which aims to disentangle comorbidities, such as ADHD and anxiety, in autism spectrum disorder. The lecture discussed not only the emergence of psychiatric comorbidities across development, but also how physiological mechanisms differ in children with autistic traits. Prof Simonoff also offered a parting piece of career advice to the students: be as collaborative as you can be.
Presenters and attendees celebrated in the evening with a drinks reception and conference dinner served in the Old Kitchens of Trinity College.
Thank you to the Organising Committee – Prof Simon Baron-Cohen, Prof John Suckling, Prof Jeff Dalley, Adisa Broadhurst, Aicha Massrali, Camice Revier and Luca Villa – for putting on another wonderful event!
Written by Maggie Westwater
Cover image taken by Adisa Broadhurst.