Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP PhD project - The natural environment and depression: triangulating the role of stress biomarkers across geographically diverse regions

   Department of Psychology

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Esther Walton  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the GW4 BioMed2 MRC Doctoral Training Partnership which is offering up to 20 studentships for entry in October 2023.

The DTP brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities. More information may be found on the DTP’s website.

Supervisory Team:

  • Dr Esther Walton (lead), University of Bath, Department of Psychology
  • Dr Oliver Davis, University of Bristol Medical School, MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit
  • Dr Ben Wheeler, University of Exeter Medical School, European Centre for Environment & Human Health
  • Prof Lorraine Whitmarsh, University of Bath, Department of Psychology

The Project:

Urbanicity is an important risk factor of mental illness. Furthermore, this link may be mediated by biological markers of stress including inflammation and epigenetic processes. However, the relationship between physical features of the living environment, biomarkers of stress and mental health in more geographically diverse regions (e.g. Australia, South America, Europe) remains unknown – a key limitation, which this project will address.

The aim of this project is to develop better and more inclusive measures of the natural environment and investigate their role in mental illness, using existing data.

The three objectives of this project are to:

  1. develop a measure of the natural environment based on more diverse data (e.g., topography, distance to closest blue space, vegetation cover index, population density, species diversity index, open space, sand/soil surface), which is more inclusive of geographical variation in different countries and regions.
  2. investigate how predictive this improved measure is of mental health outcomes, including depression, in a series of geographically diverse samples.
  3. investigate the role of biological mediators (e.g., inflammation, epigenetics) and behavioural mediators (e.g., physical activity) that might mediate the relationship between the natural environment and depression in these geographically and socio-demographically diverse samples.

This project is highly cross-disciplinary, cutting across environmental psychology, epigenetic psychology and health geography. The high-impact output of this project is further secured through the collaboration across the University of Exeter, University of Bath and University of Bristol. This project will provide important insights into the relationship between the physical environment and mental health globally. The student will work with the Research and Innovation Services at the University of Bath to evidence the impact of this project.


Applicants must have obtained, or be expected to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project. Academic qualifications are considered alongside significant relevant non-academic experience.

Non-UK applicants will also be required to have met the English language entry requirements of the University of Bath.

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Dr Esther Walton on email address [Email Address Removed].

Formal applications must be submitted direct to the GW4 BioMed2 DTP using their online application form.

A list of all available projects and guidance on how to apply may be found on the DTP’s website. You may apply for up to 2 projects.


IMPORTANT: You do NOT need to apply to the University of Bath at this stage – only those applicants who are successful in obtaining an offer of funding from the DTP will be required to submit an application for an offer of study from Bath.

Biological Sciences (4) Computer Science (8) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17) Mathematics (25) Medicine (26) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a 4-year GW4 BioMed2 MRC DTP studentship covering tuition fees, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) and a Research & Training Support grant of between £2,000 and £5,000 p/a dependent on project requirements. Studentships are open to both Home and International students; however, International applicants should note that funding does NOT cover the cost of a student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK. In line with guidance from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the number of awards available to International candidates will be limited to 30% of the total.

How good is research at University of Bath in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

Where will I study?