Featured ‘Day in the life of’ : Jessica, final year PhD student researching endocrine links between disordered eating, weight gain and depression.

Hi everyone! My name is Jessica, and I’m a final year PhD student at the University of Wollongong in Wollongong, Australia. My research aims to identify endocrine links between disordered eating, weight gain and depression. In particular, I’m looking at how the hormones leptin and ghrelin, and the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, are related to emotional eating, food addiction and weight gain during a depressive episode and whether these factors can predict future weight gain so that we can help treat depression-related obesity. I do a lot of reading, writing, teaching and baking – which you can follow on my Instagram @jess_phdlife or on twitter @_JessicaMillsPhoto 1

7:41am – I’m definitely an early bird, and often get to campus between 7:30-8:00am. It’s helpful so that I’m not fighting other staff members for a parking spot, plus I like to get into the office early so I can plan my day before everything starts to get too busy.

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8:24am – I always set aside an hour in the morning to go on a walk through the Botanic Gardens, which I’m lucky enough to have across the road from campus. Not only is it good exercise and good to get fresh air, but I enjoy having the time away from my desk to collect my thoughts before getting back into writing.

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9:15am – Even though I’ve done the vast majority of lab work needed for me to finish my thesis, sometimes I have to go into the lab to do prep work for my supervisors, the junior students or to set myself up for research I can do once I submit. This is the set up I use for aliquoting plasma, where 1ml Eppendorfs per participant are divided into 6 aliquots. I will use the pictured plasma for ELISA analyses to measure appetite, mood and sleep hormones.

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10:24am – Once my lab work is done, it’s straight into meetings with either my supervisors, the subject coordinators I work for or students. Today’s meeting was with my supervisor about the analyses for my final thesis article.

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12:33pm – As a PhD student not on a scholarship, I work as a tutor to support myself. This semester I am teaching 7 classes a week (about 150 students to myself), teaching sport psychology, psychophysiology (the study of how the body and behaviour influence psychology) and psychopharmacology (the study of how licit and illicit drugs influence psychology). Today’s classes are on how neurotransmission is impaired in various psychological disorders.

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1:51pm – An important part of being a tutor is marking student assignments. My third year students have to give 30 minute presentations, which I take some time to grade after some lunch.

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2:47pm – Assignment grading and general tutoring admin done, it’s time for a hot chocolate break!

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4:13pm – I do the majority of my PhD work in the afternoons. I’m in the process of writing my fourth journal article, which will be my last thesis chapter. Today was spent running analyses on dopamine data to see whether it is related to mood and food intake in depression.

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5:56pm – Because I’m so close to submission, my PhD work comes home with me. Before dinner and bed I usually try to do some more writing, but can often get distracted by my ‘supawvisor’!

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