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Dr Tom McAdams

 Name: Dr Tom McAdams


Age range:29

Research institution: Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London

Research career length: 5 years

Research Council: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

Location: London, England

Salary: £30-34k

Brief summary of research: Development of social, emotional and behavioural disorders in child and adolescence

School qualifications:
A-levels: Psychology

Qualifications post-school:
BSc in Psychology, University of Wales in Bangor
MSc in Psychological Research Methods, University of Sheffield
PhD in Developmental Psychology at the University of Sheffield

Career path:
Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London

Emotional and behavioural disorders affect many millions of people across the world. Behavioural psychologists, like Tom McAdams, are trying to identify family environmental factors that lead to anxiety disorders and depression. His research may help children whose parents experience these conditions, to avoid developing similar disorders.

I work on a project aimed at understanding how emotional and behavioural disorders are transmitted from one generation to the next. For example, it is known that depressed mothers are more likely than others to have children who also suffer from depression. But the transmission of these conditions may be genetic in origin or may be caused by the environment in which the child grows up.

When trying to understand the role of parental behaviour in child development, we need to find a way of ‘removing’ the effect of genes from our research. One of the best ways of doing this is to use samples of twins and their children. I’m looking at the effect of parental behaviour on child anxiety and the effects of child behaviour on parents. We hope that our research will inform the design of methods to reduce the development of anxiety disorders. We also hope to find which parental behaviours play the largest role in the development of these conditions.

“Experience in not-so-enjoyable jobs has given me insight to appreciate how lucky we are when we find ourselves in a career that we actually enjoy. For me, being involved in research is both enjoyable and rewarding.”

I first became interested in psychology when I took it as an A-level at college. Like most people studying the subject at this level, I don't think I really knew what to expect, but found the idea of learning about the human mind and human behaviour interesting. I decided to study it at degree level at the University of Wales in Bangor, finding I was drawn to the idea of becoming a researcher. I also developed an interest in behavioural genetics techniques, which led me to seek out a Master’s degree in psychological research methods at the University of Sheffield. Having obtained further funding, I then entered the PhD programme.

In the final year of my doctorate, I applied for a postdoctoral fellowship to work with colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry. When my PhD funding ran out, I had to take a couple of research assistant posts, but eventually heard back from the Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC) that I had been awarded a fellowship . This gave me a 1-year post at King's College London, which has now become a further 3-year postdoc.

Over the course of the past year, I have written up several research papers and conducted new analyses of data. I have started working on an international project set up by my supervisor, collaborating with colleagues in Sweden and the USA. This has involved visits to both countries where I have met our collaborators and had the opportunity to meet other academics with whom I plan to collaborate in the future. I have presented my work at international conferences in Canada, Spain and the UK. As well as conducting and presenting my own research, I have also helped postgraduate students in our department when conducting analyses and writing papers. In the near future, I intend to take this a step further and start supervising and teaching students.

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