Denis Duagi

Pathway 1+3

Cohort 2020

Pathway Journey

Thesis title: Evaluating the long-term effectiveness of a school-based intervention for anxiety and depression in older adolescents (long-term follow-up of the BESST Trial)

This study aims to determine whether DISCOVER, a school-based stress workshop for sixth-form students is effective in preventing long-term depression symptoms. Working closely with the trial management team, Denis will be carrying out a 12-month and 18-month follow-up of the BESST Trial, involving the evaluation of the workshop in 60 schools across 4 different sites in the UK. This project will involve mixed-methods research to evaluate the long-term effectiveness and usefulness of the intervention and a systematic review of long-term outcomes of psychosocial interventions targeting depression and anxiety in adolescents.

Rotation projects:
Establishing a microfluidic-based model for headache pain: culturing primary neurons from the trigeminal ganglia within microfluidic devices and investigating the electrophysiological effects produced by the neuropeptide CGRP and the inflammatory mediator prostaglandin E2
Pain and itch in keloid scars: surveying keloid scar sufferers about pain and itch symptoms, culturing fibroblasts from healthy skin and keloid scars biopsy specimens and screening for upregulated mediators of pain and itch
Discovery of the basis of Fibromyalgia: developing a murine model whereby purified immunoglobulin G (IgG) serum transferred from fibromyalgia patients can access the central nervous system


Holding an MSci in Neuroscience from University College London (2020), Denis’ academic interests relate to the cognitive-emotional brain and how it is affected in various disorders and physiological states. During her undergraduate years, she used intersectional methods from behavioural neuroscience and systems and circuits neuroscience to dissect the neurobiological underpinnings of pain and protective behaviours. She was also awarded the NIHR BRC Summer Studentship from Great Ormond Street Hospital, where her project focused on characterising neuropathic pain in adolescents.

Joining the MRC DTP 1+3 Pathway has been a great opportunity to try out different research techniques, leading to her new interest in social science research methods. Upon witnessing and experiencing mental health difficulties, she became very interested in early interventions in adolescence which support psychological wellbeing and prevent mental health difficulties during the transition to young adulthood. This led to her PhD project, where she is conducting a long-term follow-up of sixth form students who received a psychoeducational intervention. The MRC DTP Team has been fantastic in supporting her throughout the transition to a totally new field, as well as, offering her access to training and opportunities to become an independent researcher.

In addition to her research activities in academia, she has been involved in several projects within charities aimed at supporting mental health, and science communication projects within research organisations, student communication forums and magazines. Her interest in the commercial sector led her to work with Zinc – a venture capital firm, and A Million Realities – a private foundation, where she conducted user research and outreach projects for start-ups and social entrepreneurs. Having a keen interest in public policy, she also worked part-time for Future Care Capital as their Policy and Research Officer, assisting on projects within the realms of healthcare and social care.


Future Care Capital 2022, Community of Practice members survey: the power of data in social care,
Future Care Capital 2022, Survey for Mental Health Tech Start-ups preliminary findings,
Future Care Capital 2022, Collaborate to innovate how people working together can create better mental health services.

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