Jan Cosgrave (2013-2017)
Project: Unravelling the links between psychotic-like experiences, sleep and circadian rhythms
Supervisor: Dr. Katharina Wulff
I graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2012 with an MA in Psychology. During my studies, I specialised in sleep and circadian rhythms and was awarded a Student Research Award by British Psychological Society. After spending some time travelling and working abroad, I started my DPhil at St. John’s College in the University of Oxford in 2013. I was awarded an interdepartmental scholarship jointly supported by the Medical Research Council and St. John’s College. I sought to understand how sleep and circadian rhythms might relate to psychotic experiences. My doctoral studies used an array of biometrics (including EEG, actigraphy, melatonin and cortisol sampling) alongside psychological phenotyping to understand how chronobiology and psychotic experiences may impact one another.
During this time, I was awarded DTP MRC supplementary funding, which permitted me to spend three months in Wellington, New Zealand working alongside Prof. Philippa Gander FRSNZ ONZM. This project analysed how the airline pilots’ experience of circadian disruption might impact their cognitive and emotional functioning. During my time on this placement, Prof. Gander offered extensive mentoring and encouraged me (as a former Fulbright scholar herself) to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship upon my return. During the Fulbright application interviews in January, I cited my time in NZ as an example of being an ambassador for Ireland and engaging in a cultural exchange. In March 2017, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to further my doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, which is home to the largest sleep research clinic in the world. To bridge the gap until I commenced my research fellowship in Philadelphia, I applied to the MRC for a Transition from DPhil to First Post-Doc Position Award. This allowed me to accrue further grants, publish more of the work from my doctorate, and supervise two masters students.
Alongside clinical training at University College London, I now run a multi-site NHS portfolio study which explores the relationship between sleep, circadian rhythms and psychotic symptoms during the early phases of psychosis. The combination of these two pursuits enables me to see patients whilst still exploring more fundamental biopsychological mechanisms. This allows for truly translational research, whereby clinical work informs more basic mechanisms, and vice-versa.
I hold a lot of gratitude to the Medical Research Council for the opportunities detailed above, which I can already see have had long lasting benefits on my research career. Most importantly, they have allowed me to realise my dream to work as a clinical academic, for which I am exceptionally grateful. I would encourage all future students to explore and monopolise on the many opportunities the MRC provides them during their doctoral studies as the outcomes can be transformative.