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Student Vacation Research Assistant: Co-occurring psychiatric and general medical conditions in bipolar disorder - Open to current University of Worcester students only*

Research Assistantships provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV.


Current research: Our research group conducts research into the causes of bipolar disorder. We have successfully recruited over 6300 individuals to our research programme, which is the largest cohort in the world. We have made significant contributions to understanding the causes of mood disorders and published widely.

How the project fits with current research: There is increasing evidence that other psychiatric illnesses and general medical conditions occur at increased rates in bipolar disorder compared to the general population. Such co-morbidities provide important clues about the aetiology of bipolar disorder, have implications for the management of the illness and further complicate bipolar disorder leading to poorer outcomes. For example, we have shown that individuals with bipolar disorder and comorbid migraine have a more severe illness course characterised by rapid cycling moods (Gordon-Smith, K. et al. Journal of Affective Disorders 175 (2015): 320–324).

We are planning further research into the complex relationship between bipolar disorder and co-morbidities, particularly focusing on their relationships with bipolar disorder illness course, which we intend to submit for publication.

In a recent questionnaire mail-out we included a Medical History Questionnaire, which asks our research participants whether they have ever received a diagnosis of a number of specific psychiatric and general medical conditions. We expect to obtain more than 2000 questionnaire responses from individuals with bipolar disorder within the next few months.

Aims and objectives of the project: Co-morbidity data from the Medical History Questionnaire and electronic written case vignettes will be extracted and amalgamated with existing co-morbidity data in our research database.

Intended activities: The student will use Excel and Access databases to amalgamate data collected on the presence of comorbid illnesses in bipolar disorder. They will also examine approximately 500 electronic written case vignettes (with a subsection on other illnesses) to extract and amalgamate further data. We will encourage the student look for patterns in the frequencies of comorbid illnesses and to carry out preliminary literature searches which may help to determine our research group’s analysis plans.

Timescales: The project will involve working with existing data within the Mood Disorders Research Group and can be completed on a full- or part-time basis.


Weeks 1-2 (0.5 FTE) Familiarisation with the research databases, initial data cleaning and data integrity checking.

Weeks 3-4 (0.5 FTE) Amalgamating electronic questionnaire data (Excel) and data in our master research database (Access). This will involve making decisions (with supervision) on issues such as data discrepancies both within and between the research databases and managing additional data that cannot be recorded in existing database fields.

Weeks 5-7 (0.5 FTE) Extracting data from the electronic written case vignettes, and amalgamating with data in the master research database as outlined above.

Weeks 8 (0.5 FTE) Conducting preliminary literature searches.

* Please note that this post is open only to students completing the penultimate or final year of an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) at the University of Worcester or partner institutions;
Students completing, or who have completed, an undergraduate degree at another university (with 1st or 2:1 predicted/achieved) who are about to commence postgraduate studies at the University of Worcester. 

Closing date: Wednesday 31 May 2017

Reference number: STUVRA1710 - 2009

Job details

Job details

£8.44 per hour, plus £1.18 per hour holiday pay
Up to 37 hours per week
4 weeks full time (1.0 FTE) or part time equivalent (e.g. 8 weeks at 0.5 FTE)
Responsible to
Dr Katherine Gordon-Smith
Responsible for
Interview date

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The University of Worcester is funding 20 Vacation Research Assistantships for the summer of 2017. These Research Assistantships will provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV. These are prestigious awards, marking out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. In addition, this scheme provides UW staff leading on a research project with invaluable support in taking the project forward and experience of supporting and developing a young researcher.

On completion of the project, the supervisor and student must complete a report providing the following information: 

  • Objectives set
  • Objectives met
  • Methods employed
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • Outputs
  • Benefits to the student including training undertaken, skills developed, etc.
Main duties

Main duties

1. To undertake initial data cleaning and data integrity checking.

2. To amalgamate questionnaire data on the presence of 55 comorbid illnesses in bipolar disorder (approximately 2000 participant responses in Excel format) with data in our existing Access research database (which holds over 3000 fields on 10,000 research participants). This will involve making decisions (with supervision) on issues such as data discrepancies both within and between the research databases and managing additional data that cannot be recorded in existing database fields.

3. To extract data on additional psychiatric and general medical illnesses from 500 electronic written case vignettes. 

4. To conduct preliminary literature searches about the relationship between bipolar disorder and specific comorbid conditions identified to be of interest while working with the data.

*Maintain personal and professional development to meet the changing demands of the job; participate in appropriate training activities and encourage and support staff in their development and training.

*Take steps to ensure and enhance personal health, safety and well being and that of other staff and students.

*Carry out these duties in a manner that promotes equality of opportunity and supports diversity and inclusion, and takes into account the University's commitment to environmentally sustainable ways of working.

Person specification

Person specification


1. Interest in mental illness.

2. Enjoys quantitative research.

3. Confident working with large data sets.

4. Experience of using Microsoft Excel.

5. Experience of using Microsoft Access is desirable but not essential.


Applications from Non EEA Workers:

Prospective applicants are advised to ensure that they are eligible to work in the UK without restriction.Prospective applicants in points-based system immigration routes should assess their circumstances against the published criteria, which are set out on the GOV.UK website at

Visit for more information on how you can use a qualification from outside the UK to meet the requirements of the immigration rules.

Unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs

The University is strongly committed to the fair treatment of its staff and potential staff, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, responsibility for dependants, age, physical/mental disability or offending background.

In line with the University's policy on the Recruitment of People with a Criminal Record, shortlisted candidates are required to provide information of any unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs. Applicants are advised to seek independent advice if there is any doubt about the status of a previous conviction, caution or bind-over. Disclosures will only be considered at the point when an offer of employment is made. The existence of a criminal record will not in itself prevent you from gaining employment.This is a description of the job as it is presently constituted.

This job description is intended to enable a flexible approach to be offered working across the University as required. It is subject to review and amendment in the light of changing needs of the University and to provide appropriate development opportunities. Members of staff are expected to participate fully in discussions about changing requirements and it is the University's aim to reach agreement to reasonable change. If agreement is not possible, it reserves the right to require changes to the job description after consultation with the individual concerned.


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