PhD: Analysing treatment resistance in psychiatric disorders through large-scale electronic clinical records

Closing Date
25 Nov 2019
Competition funded (UK/European students only).
Cardiff University | Cardiff School of Medicine | Cardiff | United Kingdom
3.5 years full time or up to 7 years part-time

The ‘GW4 BioMed MRC DTP’ is awarding up to 18 studentships with an October 2020 start date, aligned with the themes of Infection, Immunity and Repair; Neuroscience and Mental Health; and Population Health. The DTP also places a strong emphasis on cross-cutting skills priorities (quantitative skills, interdisciplinary skills and in vivo skills), and may advertise projects outside these themes. The DTP welcomes students from non-medical backgrounds and can fund additional training to assist discipline conversion. Most studentships will be 3.5 years full time or up to 7 years part-time, and can be longer where additional training is undertaken.


Most people with psychiatric disorders, even if diagnosed and in contact with health services, respond only partially to treatment, and many never respond adequately to conventional medications and therapies. These are termed “treatment resistant” forms of the disorders, and affect around a third of those with schizophrenia, major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Those whose symptoms fail to respond to treatment, compared to those who do respond, experience longer and more frequent hospitalisations, poorer symptomatic and functional outcomes, and decreased life expectancy. Targeting people with these disorders for research is difficult, limiting the amount and quality of evidence on how to clinically identify and characterise treatment resistance.
A novel way of reaching these patient groups and undertake research is through access to electronic health records from public healthcare systems. This project aims to use the Clinical Record Interactive Search (CRIS) system (, which enables access to de-identified data from hundreds of thousands of patients across the South-West of England and Wales. The system has been running in the Devon Partnership NHS Trust since 2017, and will be implemented in Cardiff and Vale University Health Board in October 2019, funded by a prestigious MRC Mental Health Data Pathfinder grant to the Cardiff team.
This offers a unique opportunity for a PhD candidate to develop high-quality research into an area of great need within mental health, supported by a multidisciplinary supervisory team. The PhD will develop state of the art experience in mental health informatics with the opportunity to access unique NHS clinical datasets. During the project, the PhD candidate will analyse data from all psychiatric patients in the Cardiff and Exeter CRIS systems, initially seeking to identify clinical indicators of treatment outcomes. Sophisticated analyses of electronic health record data across diagnostic categories will be facilitated by a Natural Language Processing approach, developed in concert with the Cardiff University Data and Knowledge Engineering Group. Finally, genetic data from the large-scale collection of the MRC Centre of Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (45,000 samples from those with mental disorders across the UK) will be linked to CRIS, enabling a joint assessment of genetic and non-genetic indicators of treatment resistance.


The DTP welcomes students from both biomedical and non-biomedical backgrounds (especially in areas of computing, mathematics and the physical sciences) and can fund additional training, including Masters, to assist discipline conversion. Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK in an appropriate degree subject. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will only be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded through GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. It consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20, updated yearly).
Additional research and training funding is available over the course of the programme. This will covers costs such as courses, conferences and travel, and research consumables. Additional competitive funds are available for high-cost or exceptional training.
The research projects listed are in competition with the 87 others - only 18 projects will be taken up as they will be awarded to the best applicants.



You will need to complete both an application to the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP for an ‘offer of funding’ and to Cardiff University for an ‘offer to study’

1) Applying for an ‘offer of funding’
Please complete the online application form by 5pm, 25 November 2019.
The Research Theme Panels will complete the shortlisting and inform applicants by 19 December 2019.

If you are shortlisted you will need to;

• contact your chosen supervisor(s) to discuss your application between 3 and 15 January 2020
• submit two references and a copy of your academic transcript(s) by 17 January 2020
• attend an interview in Cardiff on 21 or 22 January 2020

Further details will be included in the shortlisting letter.
More information on the application process may be found here:

2) Applying for an ‘offer to study’

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University Online Application Service.

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy Medicine, with a start date of October 2020.
In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from GW4 BioMed MRC DTP.
If are applying for more than one Cardiff University project please note this in the research proposal section.

UK Research Council eligibility conditions apply (Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education. EU Nationals who do not meet the above residency requirement are eligible for a fees only award, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the start of their proposed programme of study.)

Contact Details

For DTP enquiries please contact the DTP Manager, Erica Lewis atĀ
For enquiries about your University application, please contact the Postgraduate AdministratorĀ