PhD: addicted to research podcast

PhD: Addicted to research is a regular podcast by, and for addictions PhD students. Listen now on Acast, Spotify or iTunes

‘PhD: addicted to research’ is a podcast created by SSA-funded PhD students that will help anyone doing a PhD or anyone thinking about doing a PhD. We are all at different stages of our studies, from starting off to writing up, and will release a podcast every 2 weeks which will be available on Acast and the other main podcast providers. In the episodes, we discuss our experiences and fears about going through 3 years of study. We also interview experts to get the best tips and advice for making it to the final graduation ceremony.

We are very grateful to George Verrall for producing the music for this podcast.

Episodes (most recent first)

Episode 17: Prom PhD to post-doc

Merve Mollaahmetoglu talks to Dr Carol-Ann Getty and Dr Basak Tas about the time immediately after your PhD. They discuss funding, how to look out for a permanent position and how to choose your post-doc university. They also talk about how competitive fellowships are and when you should start applying for them.

“I’m in my final year and in the writing up process. but I can’t image doing that alongside writing up a fellowship or a grant application”

They also cover the impact of the pandemic and how to look after yourself during and after your PhD.

“There’s this idea in academia that, because we like what we do, we have to sacrifice our personal life for it…. Yes, you know you do also need to think about your personal life and that can be an important priority in terms of choosing what type of route or what career you do take in academia”

At the end, Merve interviews Professor Sir John Strang about the SSA’s post-doc transitional scheme and about his own reflections on working in addictions.

“It probably does involve having an approach to [an academic career] where you’re much more willing to listen and to look around you at how both the nature of the problem one’s talking about, but also societal responses might be changing. And I think you have to be prepared to change your own thinking and change the type of work that you do over time. Some people would find that unsettling and view it negatively. Personally, I think it’s what makes the addictions field or substance misuse field endlessly fascinating.”

Episode 16: Ketamine and alcohol use disorders

Chloe, Merve and Zoe talk about recent research into ketamine treatment for alcohol use disorder. They cover the background of this area before taking an in-depth look at the results published in Merve’s recent paper. The team discuss how the experiences that people had on ketamine changed their relationships with alcohol. They discuss the role of qualitative research in understanding the impact of psychedelic therapies particularly when people have different goals. They also cover some of the challenging and positive experiences that people had during the trial.

“One aspect of the ketamine experience was that there were some inherent contradictions in it. The biggest were around the contradiction between the highly positive and highly negative experiences that people had and then also between the strong dissociation versus the feelings of connectedness and the unity with other beings that people reported.”

The original paper can be found here: Frontiers | “This Is Something That Changed My Life”: A Qualitative Study of Patients’ Experiences in a Clinical Trial of Ketamine Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders | Psychiatry ( and here is a link to the AWAKN Clinic mentioned this the podcast Awakn Clinics – The Effective Treatment Alternative ( There is also an episode on ketamine by Suzi Gage that is worth checking out Ketamine | Say Why To Drugs on Acast.

Episode 15: Conducting research during a pandemic

Chloe Burke talks to Dr Jenny Scott, Katy Penfold, Marie Jameson and Rebecca Dwyer about their experiences of conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic and about what changes they made along the way. Dr Scott discusses her research on the impact of the epidemic on people who use opiate substitute medications in rural areas. Marie Jameson talks about how moving to an online format was not appropriate for her research with kinship families affected by parental substance misuse, and how she coped with this. Katy Penfold talks about her qualitative research into online Gamblers Anonymous meetings during lock-down, and Rebecca Dwyer explores how her research into cognitive aspects of alcohol use among undergraduate students changed from measuring brain activity in the lab to online data collection.


How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected people in rural areas who take opiate substitutes?

Living Under Coronavirus and Injecting Drugs in Bristol (LUCID-B): A qualitative study of experiences of COVID-19 among people who inject drugs

Episode 14: Co-dependency

In this episode, Ayan Ahmed and Chloe Burke talk to Dr Ingrid Bacon about her work and research on co-dependency in addiction. Dr Bacon explains co-dependency as a ‘chameleon concept’ and talks about some of her experiences through her PhD (including changing the concept half way through – it’s never too late). She discusses factors that are common across co-dependency, depression and anxiety disorders and how co-dependency can encompass many other underlying issues. Finally Dr Bacon shares her advice for how to enjoy your PhD.

Dr Ingrid Bacon is a mental health occupational therapist and a Senior Lecturer in Kingston and St George’s University of London.

Episode 13: Writing up your PhD thesis

“It’s only in the midst of writing that you really find out what your PhD thesis is going to look like”

In this episode Ayan, Carol and Dan discuss the writing up stage of a PhD. At the time of recording, Carol and Dan had just finished writing up their theses, so were able to give their different hints and tips whilst still fresh in their minds.

Dr Nicola Metrebian joins the podcast to give a supervisor’s perspective on this all important stage of doctoral study.

Episode 12: Cannabis Use Disorder

In this special episode, Chloe and Merve talk to Rachel Lees, an MRC funded PhD student at the University of Bath, about her research on Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD). They discuss common misconceptions about CUD. They also cover treatment options including psychosocial treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapies as well as outlining the evidence base from clinical trials of pharmacological treatments.

The team discusses the emerging literature on cannabidiol (CBD) as a treatment and the research currently underway into its potential pro-cognitive effects. They also cover barriers in CUD treatment research, unpicking some of the common challenges and limitations.

Finally Rachel talks about her PhD and gives some great advice for current and future PhD students about how to deal with unanticipated problems.


Episode 11: Securing extra funding

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

In this episode Carol, Chloe and Dan discuss how to find, and apply for, extra funding during your PhD. They cover the different pots of money available to help you attend conferences and seminars, that will pay for collaborations, user engagement and that will sometimes make your PhD one that involves international travel.

They talk to Dr Katie East who became an expert in securing extra funding during her PhD. Katie shares her tips for making funding applications, for how to cope with rejection and for how to use those rejections to improve the next application.

Link mentioned in the episode:

Episode 10: Goal setting and organisation

Ever wanted to know how organising your PhD is like an episode of Grand Designs?

In this episode Chloe, Ayan and Merve talk about the different kinds of organisation and goal setting that are essential to completing your PhD. They outline some of the ways to organise the big things (like the overall PhD and thesis), the day to day tasks and short-term projects. They also discuss which apps, programmes and software have worked for them, resisting the temptation to descend into a reference management software discussion.

Chloe also talks to Dr Tom Rusbridge, who, at the time of recording, was a Postgraduate Research Advisor at the University of East London. He has since moved to work as Research Staff Development Consultant at King’s College London.

Here are some links to resources discussed in the podcast:

Episode 9: Your Supervisors

One of the most important aspects of any PhD is the relationship you have with your supervisors. Having an effective working relationship with all your supervisors can make all the difference to the three (and more) years you will spend on your PhD. In this episode Merve, Carol and Dan talk about their experiences of being supervised, as well as sharing their top tips for ‘managing’ your supervisors; from effective communication, to how to prompt a busy academic for a reply to an email you sent last week.

Merve talks to Dr Tom Freeman about his experiences supervising PhD students. Dr Freeman gives us the insider view on this central PhD relationship. He also outlines some of the things that students can, and should ask of their supervisors.

Episode 8: The first few weeks

Where do you go for lunch – and where does good coffee?

The first few weeks of your PhD can be confusing. In this podcast, Chloe, Carol and Zoe take you through what to do, where to look and what your priorities should be in those first few weeks. The team talk about the importance of meeting your supervisors, finding a computer that works, and making sure you complete all your inductions (including the ones you don’t know about). They work hard to avoid making ‘paperwork’ a theme for the whole podcast.

Chloe talks to Oli Schofield who is the Doctoral Engagement Manager at Bath University who shares his advice, experiences and top tips for making sure you start your PhD on the right foot.

The team also explore whether or not ‘PhDing’ is a real word.

Episode 7: SSA symposium and conference rundown

An online conference, or a game of addiction researcher top trumps?

Together, the SSA’s annual PhD symposium and conference showcase some of the most up-to-date research by PhD students and by long-established researchers. In this episode of PhD: Addicted to research, Dan, Jo-Anne and Merve talk about their experiences at this year’s conference picking out their highlights (including brain disease models, societal harms, cannabis use disorders, ethnography) and discuss what it is like attending a conference online.

Jo-Anne talks to Dr Inge Kersbergen who has helped to organise the PhD symposium since 2019 about some of the challenges and joys of being involved in such a large-scale event.

Episode 6: What else could I be doing?

When the phrase “it’ll look good on your CV” makes you shudder.

During your PhD there will be dozens of opportunities to do other things. How can you tell which are worth doing and which will consume all your time for little reward? This week Jo-Anne, Carol and Merve unpick the plethora of options facing PhD students everywhere, from teaching, to conferences and podcasting. They speak to Dr Rachel Orritt who now works at Cancer Research UK about her experiences during and after her PhD, and about which opportunities employers will look for. And which will genuinely look good on your CV.

Episode 5: Funding your PhD

The best things in life are free, but they won’t get you through your PhD.

In this episode, Carol, Jo-Anne and Merve will cover everything you need to know about getting funding for your PhD. They cover the many (many) routes to finding and applying for funding, as well as giving advice on how to make an application, which organisations to approach for funding and how getting used to rejection. The team shares their own experiences along the way.

Merve interviews Professor Matt Hickman about his experiences of selecting and interviewing PhD funding applicants. He shares some great advice and tips on how to make sure your application is selected, and how to approach an interview for funding.

Here are a few links that the team refer to through the podcast.

Episode 4: The first 6 months – finding your feet

Happy jars and organised squirrels

Zoe, Chloe and Dan discuss the first 6 months of a PhD. The team reflect on how they felt when they started and talk about exciting moments and challenges they encountered along the way.

Dan interviews Professor Sally Cutler from the University of East London to get some expert advice on starting out including having realistic expectations, taking things step-by-step and the importance of the supervisory relationship. Listeners may also spot the guest appearance from Sally’s cat!

There are also some tips on organising your project and remembering the happy moments from your PhD.

Episode 3: Academic conferences and how to deal with them

In this episode, Dan, Carol and Zoe cover the why, what and how of academic conferences. From those yearly events that feel like you’re going home, to those that you struggle to make any sense of. Dan interviews Dr Sarah Fox to get a behind-the-scenes view of the Society for the Study of Addiction annual conference.

There are also tips on how to make a prize-winning poster, how to make sure your abstract will be accepted and what to do when you want to see more of a city than the inside of a conference centre. The PhD: Addicted to Research team will give you all the tips you need.

Episode 2: Stress and well-being

Merve, Chloe and Jo-Anne will discuss how to manage stress throughout a PhD, about maintaining a work-life balance and about how to cope with working from home during lock-down. Jo-Anne will interview Veenu, who works as a Peer Wellbeing Ambassador for PhD Students, about some of the common issues that PhD students have and some useful strategies.


Meet the team behind ‘PhD: addicted to research’ as each presenter describes where and what they are studying.


The team

Ayan Ahmed is a PhD Psychology candidate at the University of Surrey, researching drug use in minority and marginalized populations in the UK. The main aim of Ayan’s PhD is to explore the underlying neurobiological and cognitive consequences of khat (Catha edulis) by using behavioural tasks and brain imaging techniques.

Chloe Burke is undertaking an SSA funded PhD at the University of Bath, with cross-institutional supervision from researchers at the University of Bristol. Chloe’s project seeks to accurately understand the individual and combined roles of cannabis and tobacco in mental illness, through triangulation of cross-country data and different experimental and epidemiological techniques.

Carol-Ann Getty is a PhD student at King’s College London, researching the feasibility of using telephones to deliver behaviour change in addiction treatment. The primary aims of Carol-Ann’s PhD are to assess what interventions are feasible and acceptable to deliver by telephone, how to encourage professionals and individuals who might benefit from this treatment to engage with telephone delivered interventions (TDI), and how to integrate these into routine treatment practice.

Merve Mollaahmetoglu is a third year PhD student within the Psychopharmacology and Addiction Research Centre at the University of Exeter. Merve’s PhD research focuses on the role of ruminative thinking in initiating and maintaining alcohol use disorders and exploring rumination as a target of psychological and pharmacological treatment approaches.

Jo-Anne is a third year PhD student at the University of Liverpool. Her research focuses on understanding the patterning of alcohol use and mental health problems and how this pattern changes among different social groups. Jo-Anne’s PhD involves using mixed methods, such as managing large datasets and conducting qualitative interviews, to identify those at most risk of having a co-morbid alcohol and mental health problem.

Daniel Ranson is an SSA funded PhD student at the University of East London, part of the Casalotti lab studying the molecular mechanisms of addiction like behaviours in the Drosophila melanogaster. Daniel’s current works focus on the GABA-B receptor and the modulatory role it has on the development of tolerance and preference when in the presence of alcohol.

Zoe Swithenbank is a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University, funded by the SSA. Her PhD is in the development of behavioural interventions for smoking cessation in substance use treatment services. She has previously worked in substance use services and currently volunteers with a mental health charity both locally and nationally.

The opinions expressed in this post and in these podcasts 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.