Meet the expert: Dr Patrizia Pezzoli
What attracted you to the area of mental health research initially?
I am most interested in research that can make lasting change, and mental health research has the potential to significantly improve the lives of individuals and society as a whole. For example, my research aims to understand why people who experience mental health difficulties are also at higher risk of experiencing violence. While I mainly study differences between individuals, this work also relates to important structural issues within society, such as the treatment and support of disadvantaged groups.
You support the Children and Young People's Mental Health Research Strategy implementation at UCL. Can you tell us about your current research in this area?
I work closely with Professor Essi Viding - who leads the Children and Young People's Mental Health Strategy implementation - on several projects in this area. One example is a review of the challenges associated with measuring neurocognitive mechanisms underlying mental health risk in children and young people, and on the methodological developments that may help address those challenges. Another example is a genetically informed study on the reciprocal effects between negative parenting and children’s callous-unemotional traits, which predict later antisocial behaviour. We are looking specifically at how strong parent and child effects are between mid and late childhood, and how much genetic and environmental factors explain these effects.
What aspect of your work most excites you and why?
What I most enjoy about my work is collaboration. Science is on many levels a social endeavour, and bringing together different perspectives is crucial in order to address research questions in innovative ways. Developing projects that facilitate connections between researchers across UCL is also what I enjoy the most about working as the Children and Young People's Mental Health projects lead. In the classroom, I especially enjoy teaching to our diverse student body, and seeing students with different backgrounds take the opportunity to learn from one another.
What would you say to someone who is considering whether to study mental health at UCL?
I would say that UCL is the best place to study mental health! UCL hosts a vibrant community of academics who use multiple methodologies and approaches to understand and tackle mental health. In addition, UCL has an extensive network of partners, so you will be exposed to work that has impact within as well as outside academia. What’s more, you will share this experience with other students from all over the world.
What’s the best advice you would give your younger self?
Before starting my PhD, I acquired experience in clinical, legal, and organisational psychology. On the one hand, I could imagine telling my younger self to be more focused and prioritise a clear career progression within academia. However, these experiences in applied settings have given me invaluable practical insights. For this reason, the best advice I would give myself is to use every opportunity to learn how psychological research questions can find applications in the real world.