Anna Chaplin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychiatry who studies the association between depression and cardiovascular health in young people. Here, she tells us about teaching herself to code, her department’s support of students, and putting your mental health first. 

The widespread applicability of my research is very appealing to me. Most people will be directly or indirectly affected by mental ill-health at some point in their lives. My research aims to understand the association between depression and cardiovascular health in young people.

My background is quite varied. I have a BSc in Biomedical Science and a Master’s in Biological Science (Pharmacology). I also have training in epidemiology and medical statistics. The start of the PhD was still a bit of a challenge as I had to teach myself how to code!

Cambridge is a scientific hub so there are always interesting talks or conferences to attend nearby. It’s a great place to carry out research because there are so many ongoing opportunities throughout the year. My department is particularly good at organising events as well as supporting its students during their studies.

I work on the Addenbrooke’s site and I spent most of my time analysing big data. I am working with two major UK datasets that contain long-term information of people’s health. A usual day for me consists of statistical analysis using these datasets to try and understand early life risk factors for depression. The analysis can get very complicated sometimes so I often spend time trying to create diagrams to represent what I have discovered in a clear way. Some of the most interesting days are when I present my work at meetings and get to discuss what I have found with lots of different people. The conversation often leads to exciting new ideas!

My advice to others is to trust in yourself. Be confident in your decision-making, be patient when learning new skills, and always put your mental health first.

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