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MRC PhD Studentship in Psychology: Cannabis, Tobacco and Psychiatric Disease: Isolating their Relationship by Comparing Data from Countries that Smoke Cannabis with and without Tobacco.

University of Bath

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Bath
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £15,104
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 1st October 2019
Closes: 25th November 2019

Theme: Neuroscience & Mental Health

Qualification type: PhD

Funding for: UK and EU Students

Funding amount: £15,104 p.a. in living costs (current rates), travel grant (£300pa), plus home tuition fees and research training support.

Lead supervisor: Dr Gemma Taylor, (Bath),

Co-supervisors: Prof George Davey Smith (Bristol), Dr Tom Freeman (Bath), Dr Robyn Wootton (Bristol), Dr Hannah Sallis (Bristol)

PhD question:

  • - Can we isolate the relationships between cannabis, tobacco and psychiatric disease through triangulation of data from countries that smoke cannabis with, and without tobacco?

Training highlights:

  • - You will become an expert in the scientific impact of smoking cannabis and tobacco on psychiatric disease.
  • - You will learn to use exciting, novel and cutting-edge statistical and causal inference methods.
  • - You will learn how to analyse genetic data and apply Mendelian randomization and polygenic risk score analysis.
  • - This research will have international impact.
  • - You will have opportunity to present at international conferences.


Smoking is the world’s leading cause of preventable illness and death. In the UK, smoking prevalence has decreased from 46% during the 1970s to about 16% in recent years. However, smoking prevalence has not reduced in people with mental disorders, in 2015 it was 32%.

Cannabis is gaining increasing acceptance as a medicinal and recreational drug and prevalence of use is rising worldwide. There are concerns about the adverse associations of cannabis and tobacco with risk of psychiatric disease. However, the association between cannabis and psychiatric disease may be confounded by tobacco-use.

Here we propose an innovative approach to address this problem, by comparing estimates of the association between cannabis use and psychiatric disease in cohorts where cannabis is generally utilised without tobacco (North America) to cohorts where it is generally utilised with tobacco (Europe).


  1. Conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies exploring the association between cannabis, tobacco use and later psychiatric disease, and compare estimates between countries with different cannabis/tobacco use profiles.
  2. Conduct longitudinal analyses using pre-existing data from cohort studies with genetic information (Canadian Biobank, UK Biobank, ALSPAC & others) to examine the association between cannabis/tobacco use and mental health, and whether this differs between countries which have different cannabis/tobacco use profiles.
  3. Triangulate evidence across different analytical techniques: multivariable adjusted regressions, propensity score matched regressions, and Mendelian randomisation with polygenic risk scores.

Strengths of supervisory team and training environment:

  • - You will work with internationally renowned leaders in this field.
  • - University of Bath has recently made a multimillion-pound investment in new state-of-the art facilities for the Department of Psychology, which are accessible to doctoral researchers.
  • - University of Bath is rated 6th in the UK by the Guardian University Guide, was awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework 2017, and 87% of its research is world-leading or internationally excellent according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

How to apply: Use the online application form:

More information about the scheme and the application process is available here:

Contact Dr Taylor with informal enquires

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