UCL Institute of Mental Health


UCL awarded first Wellcome funded PhD programme focused on mental health

19 September 2019

UCL has been awarded funding for a brand new PhD programme in Mental Health Science by the Wellcome Trust

UCL Portico

The programme will bring six new mental health PhD students per year to UCL over the next five years. This is the first mental health focused PhD programme to be supported by Wellcome, worth over £5 million in funding. 

The announcement coincides with Wellcome’s recent launch of it's Mental Health Science priority and the need for game-changing investment in this field. As part of UCL’s commitment to mental health research, the Faculty of Brain Sciences will also be supporting one studentship each year.

Professor Jonathan Roiser, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and programme lead, said about the announcement:

“We are delighted that Wellcome have recognised the importance of interdisciplinary research in training the next generation of mental health scientists, which UCL is uniquely placed to deliver. This programme represents a game-changing investment in mental health research, which receives less than 6% of health research funding in the UK, despite the massive impact of mental illness on people’s lives.”

The UCL Wellcome 4-year PhD in Mental Health Science will deliver student centred, cohort-based training, with an explicit emphasis on interdisciplinary research and empower students to take a fresh, integrated look at the causes of mental illnesses, together with the most effective ways to treat and prevent them. The programme will aim to train the next generation of researchers and policy leaders who can deliver transformative change in mental health, and foster greater cross-disciplinarity in future researchers.

Students will receive training in a wide range of relevant fields across three broad Themes:

  • Mechanism: Identification of the biological, neural and cognitive processes that drive and maintain the symptoms of mental illness from childhood to old age, particularly drawing on UCL’s world-leading neuroscience.
  • Population Mental Health: Understanding risk factors for mental illness using epidemiological methods, leveraging UCL’s unique strength in birth cohorts to identify social and environmental determinants of mental illness, as well as genetic epidemiology.
  • Intervention: Development, targeting and evaluation of new treatments and preventative interventions for mental illness, including experimental medicine and clinical trial methodology.

Students will also have the opportunity to complete part of their PhD research at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), USA.

Tony David, Director of the UCL Institute of Mental Health, which will be involved in the programme, said:

"The new Wellcome funded Mental Health PhD programme, led by cognitive neuroscientist Jon Roiser and a team of scientists and clinicians from across disciplines will produce a cadre of academics who will be able to carry forward a new wave of research into mental health and its disorders. The challenges of mental disorders are vast and complex but not insurmountable. A concerted effort is required from the scientific community. The new UCL Institute of Mental Health will provide the right kind of nurturing and creative environment for students to thrive and bring new insights into the field."


UCL Wellcome 4-year PhD in Mental Health Science

Jonathan Roiser

Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

Tony David

UCL Institute of Mental Health

Faculty of Brain Sciences

National Institute of Mental Health

Wellcome announcement