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Research, Training

ISGlobal’s 8th PhD Symposium Puts the Spotlight on Mental Health

A gathering to foster synergies within the research community

Photo: Murchana Roychoudhury

The eighth edition of PhD Symposium took place on October 5, bringing together 43 doctoral students from ISGlobal. The objective of this annual gathering is to share ongoing research and foster synergies within the research community. This year, the event placed special emphasis on the topic of mental health in academia.

“ISGlobal is commited to fostering a rigorous and interdisciplinary community of global health researchers, with a mission to promote health equity” stated Antoni Plasència, ISGlobal’s Director General when he kicked off the event.

Darragh McCashin, a passionate advocate of mental health in academia, was invited as the keynote speaker. He shared some tips that could help identify and address early warning signs of issues like burnout, anxiety and imposter syndrome, some of the common issues faced by early career researchers. “The main value of this event was seeing how the voices in the PhD community are being heard - they chose mental health as a key theme for the symposium, and therefore it took centre stage," expresses McCashin. A workshop on ‘Positive psychology and coaching applied to doctoral wellbeing’ was also facilitated by Anna Muro Rodríguez, according to whom, “Positive mental health and psychological well-being can be trained, just as the body can be trained through sport or with a healthy diet.”

ISGlobal’s interdisciplinary approach to health research was reflected in the diverse scientific presentations made by students on topics ranging from migrant health, cost-effective diagnostic tools, and air and water pollution. Several of the projects won prizes in the three categories of ‘oral presentations’, ‘posters’ and ‘GoTalent’. The ‘GoTalent’ competition comprised of students explaining their research through creative expressions like bingo and origami.

Prizewinners of the oral presentations:

  • 1st prize: Camila Pichio: Community-based screening increases hepatitis B virus (HBV) linkage to care among African migrants in Spain 
  • 2nd prize: Natalia Rosón: Potential inhibition of RND-family efflux pumps in Acinetobacter baumannii by using a synthetic cyclic peptide
  • 3rd prize: Adriá San José: Climate change determines the large-scale structure of polycystic echinococcosis transmission hotpots in Panamazonia

Prizewinners of the posters:

  • Evelise Pereira: The Impact of urban environmental exposures on health: An assessment of the attributable mortality burden in Sao Paulo City, Brazil
  • Megan Naidoo: Social vulnerability to emerging infectious respiratory disease outbreaks

Prizewinners of GoTalent: 

  • Natalia Carreras: What do your cells think about you smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol?
  • Sofía Aguilar: Gestational age and placental DNA methylation
  • Alberto Ayllon-Hermida: Functional characterization of P. vivax genes preferentially expressed in the human bone marrow and spleen through CRISPR-Cas9 editing
  • Maria Mata: Exposome study on the association of night shift work involving circadian disruption, with cognition and mental health effects

“We really enjoyed organizing the PhD symposium. The keynote speech by Darragh McCashin and the workshop by Anna Muro were exactly what we were looking for the event. Some information, tips and exercises to help PhD students focus on their mental health and wellbeing,” shares the organizing committee comprising of Sofía Aguilar Lacasaña, Marcos Quijal-Zamorano, Ryan Diver, Nieves Martínez Peinado, and María Pía Alberione.