Advancing my mental health research on the MRC DTP

Nadine Mirza is a postgraduate research student on the Medical Research Council (MRC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme, developing and evaluating a toolkit to improve the diagnosis of dementia in memory clinics for the British Urdu-speaking population. Here, she talks what it has been like so far...

Why I chose the MRC DTP

I was eager to do a PhD to bolster my research career and to improve my chances of pursuing clinical psychology training later on.

My supervisor, who was also the supervisor for my MPhil in Primary Care Mental Health, told me which funding bodies I could apply to. Being funded by the UKRI has really opened up so many great opportunities, something I didn’t realise would happen when I was applying.

My supervisor and I were both keen on me applying for the MRC DTP programme as we thought it could be an excellent way to continue with the work I’d started in my MPhil and build upon it.

Also, I’d been in Manchester five years prior to my PhD and felt settled and comfortable with the city and the University. I was more than happy to continue where I had built a network and was familiar with the dynamic.

About my research

My PhD project was actually a continuation of the work I’d started in my MPhil, which was also on British South Asians and dementia. I had become quite passionate about that work and had a good experience working with my supervisor before, so it seemed natural to continue with that.

My project is focused on improving British Urdu-speaking South Asians’ access to memory services, and to get a more accurate and culturally sensitive diagnosis.

The project involves developing a toolkit of materials to improve access, which will be informed by interviews with memory clinic staff and British South Asian service users.

I will also be validating a cognitive test for the British Urdu-speaking population.

My PhD experience so far

I feel attached to and stimulated by my subject area and the research I am able to produce. I’ve particularly enjoyed the science communication and public engagement aspect of my work. It’s always a rush to see my work when it’s finally published.

However, my third year has been terribly complex and difficult, even with COVID aside, due to other issues. I do enjoy the work, but it has been an adjustment achieving a health work-life balance and having to teach myself so much from scratch.

I will always be a fan of the Doctoral Academy, who have been very understanding and supportive of some difficult times I’ve been through. They make it easy to reach out and provide as much help as they can.

My impressions of Manchester

I like that Manchester is a balance of both vibrant city life and quiet suburban areas as well. I don’t feel too overwhelmed, but I’m not bored either. I also appreciate the diversity since it always feels good to see a blend of cultures and backgrounds, being a person of colour myself.

The future

Studying here has not only expanded my career options. It’s also made me aware of options I didn’t even know I had.

I’m hoping that with this PhD under my belt, I’ll be able to get on to a clinical psychology training programme, to eventually become a qualified clinical psychologist.

But I’m also aware now that I’d like to keep one foot in research, as well as in science writing, thanks to the MRC DTP programme.


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