Helen Powell

Pathway A*STAR 0+4

Cohort 2020

Pathway Journey

My project focuses on investigating how differences in sensory processing relate to social behaviour in autism, and how they could contribute to co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety. More specifically, I am interested in examining the impact of tactile perceptual alterations on people’s subjective experience of social touch.


I am doing a 0+4 PhD in the Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences (FANS) at the IoPPN. I chose the MRC DTP primarily because of the diversity and depth of opportunities it offers. Not having to fulfil project-specific criteria also allowed me to make the jump from a scientific background that differed from the general field of my project. Furthermore, as my project involves a collaboration with the A*STAR Institute in Singapore, it has given me the chance to experience two different research cultures, internationally network, and gain a wider breadth of research skills.

Before my PhD, I did my undergraduate degree in Pharmacology at Newcastle University, and my master’s degree in Pharmacological Innovation at Paul Sabatier University in France. I also worked for a few years in clinical research, first as a Clinical Trial Assistant, and later as a Medical Writer at a Clinical Research Organisation.

I am grateful for the sense of companionship that exists within my cohort on the MRC DTP, and I have felt very well-supported by staff and student reps. I have also appreciated being able to attend a variety of DTP workshops, which have allowed me to gain useful skills that are relevant to my project, such as statistical analysis and coding in R.


International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Annual Meeting 2022 – Poster Presentation on “Investigating the relationship between perceptual alterations, sensory reactivity, intolerance of uncertainty and anxiety in autistic children” H. J. Powell, J. L. He, E. L. Wodka, A. DeRonda, R. A. E. Edden, R. Vasa, S. H. Mostofsky, M. Meaney & N. A. J. Puts

International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) Annual Meeting 2021 – Poster Presentation on “Atypical Tactile Psychophysics in a Clinical Neurodevelopmental Disorder Cohort” M. A. Rowe, H. J. Powell, J. L. He, P. Mukherjee, R. Schaaf, E. J. Marco, & N. A. J. Puts