Dr Nicole Hill
When did you start and finish your PhD?
I started my PhD in August 2017 and submitted in September 2020. I officially passed in February 2021.
Why did you choose Orygen and the Centre for Youth Mental Health (CYMH) for your PhD?
The suicide prevention team led by Associate Professor Jo Robinson was producing really innovative research and was making a big impact in youth suicide prevention, which really excited me. I also wanted to train in a strong research environment that had funding and where staff and students genuinely seemed proud and happy to be there.
What do you see as the benefits of doing a PhD with Orygen and CYMH?
I met a lot of supervisors from universities across the country before deciding to do my PhD at Orygen and the University of Melbourne. It’s a big deal and I knew that I needed to find a supervisor who would drive me and equip me with not only the technical skills but the other skills (such as grant writing) which are necessary for a career in academia. Orygen has a very diverse research and clinical focus and is the cutting-edge place to do youth mental health research.
What were the highlights?
Learning so many new skills – it was such an intellectually fulfilling phase of my life!
Presenting at international conferences in New Zealand, Birmingham, and Northern Ireland and visiting collaborators at Oxford; becoming a part of the Suicide Prevention Early Career Researcher network where I’ve now got friends and collaborators from across the world; collaborating with other suicide prevention and mental health researchers, clinicians and scientists from across the globe which has led to publications and friendships that will last a lifetime.
What was the subject of your PhD research?
My research was on suicide clusters in Australian youth. I looked at different methods for detecting suicide clusters and examined the underlying mechanisms of suicide cluster such as suicide contagion. The research conducted during my PhD has helped communities better detect, respond to and prevent youth suicide clusters.
What did a typical day working on your PhD involve?
I crafted my own PhD. In the first half of my PhD I manually read and coded data from over 3000 police, coroner, toxicology and autopsy reports on youth suicide. I concurrently completed some epidemiology classes at the University of Melbourne and worked part time as a research assistant for Orygen’s Suicide Prevention team. It was a lot of work on a daily basis, but looking back I was incredibly focused and determined to learn new skills and conduct interesting studies that would make an impact in youth suicide prevention.
What did you study at university originally?
I studied a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Brain and Mind Science.
What opportunities has your PhD opened up?
Since my PhD I’ve relocated to WA where I started a youth suicide prevention stream at Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia where I work as a Research Fellow in Suicide Prevention. I’m also Assistant Director for the National Disability Insurance Agency where I conduct research that shapes disability policy in Australia.
What would you say to other people considering doing their PhD with Orygen and CYMH?
It’s a very supportive environment, which is really important when doing a PhD. It’s equally important that you’re in a place that not only helps you develop in terms of your career and research training, but is also supportive of your wellbeing. Orygen and CYMH have done a great job at prioritising both these things.
Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s never too late to do a PhD so never compare your journey to others!
If you’re considering doing postgraduate study at Orygen and have questions don’t hesitate to reach out and talk to people there. The researchers there are all very approachable and they genuinely care about students and helping them build a research career.