By Olivia Sexton (University of Sheffield, UK)

“At the start of November 2020, I attended the Society for the Study of Addictions (SSA) annual PhD symposium. With many of the conferences I was due to attend this year cancelled due to COVID-19, I was really excited to be able to attend this symposium and hear about other students’ research. The day started off with opening remarks from Ed Day who introduced the symposium and gave a brief history of the SSA. With over 30 PhD students presenting in five parallel sessions, there was so much to get out of the day, and at times it was hard to decide which talks to attend. 

Within the lived experiences session, I was fortunate enough to present findings from the second study of my PhD, which identifies the characteristics of heavy drinking occasions. Normally I find presenting a little daunting, but the friendly and supportive environment at the SSA symposium made me feel really relaxed and comfortable.

My favourite thing was the chance to hear about research from Ethiopia, the USA and Canada. Had this conference been face to face, these researchers possibly would not have been able to present. 

One of the best things about the SSA symposium was hearing about the wide range of research happening within this PhD community, with presentations on topics from treatment and recovery to addiction and policy. I really enjoyed the session on addiction and mental health comorbidities, and particularly enjoyed hearing the results of how cannabis use disorder should be treated alongside mental health comorbidities and the importance of personalised treatments. 

Having attended this event in 2019, this event felt slightly different with the day conducted online. However, the day was organised really well to facilitate social interaction, with virtual coffee breaks and even a social event in the evening. My favourite thing about this online conference was the chance to hear about research happening from around the world, with researchers presenting on work happening in Ethiopia, the USA and Canada. Had this conference been face to face, these researchers possibly would not have been able to present. 

One new addition to the symposium this year was the inclusion of a careers session, with Rachel Orritt, Sarah Fox, Kyla Thomas and Tom Freeman discussing topics such as how to deal with imposter syndrome and the importance of fostering collaborations. All members of the career panel gave really insightful and thoughtful advice on the PhD process and the routes available after finishing the PhD, with the resounding message for me being that success looks different for everyone.

Overall, the symposium provided a great chance to network with other addiction focused researchers and provided me with the opportunity to find out more about the exciting research happening in this community. Thank you to Inge, Maike and Nathan for organising such an interesting and intellectually stimulating day. I’m already looking forward to attending SSA 2021!”


You can view more details on the PhD Symposium homepage.

The SSA will also post a summary of symposium sessions every week on our news page.


The opinions expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the SSA.

The SSA does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of the information in external sources or links and accepts no responsibility or liability for any consequences arising from the use of such information.

Share this story