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Investigating the mechanisms underlying anxiety and its treatment

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Postgraduate Diploma, Honours, Master’s, PhD
School of Pharmacy
Dr Olivia Harrison, Associate Professor Bruce Russell


Opportunities for postgraduate study (Honours, Postgraduate Diploma, Masters or PhD) are available to support neuroscience research into mental health, with a particular focus on anxiety and its treatments.


Successful applicants will be based with the Neuroscience Department (hosted by the School of Pharmacy) at the University of Otago. The proposed studies will use cutting-edge magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques and behavioural experiments to investigate how brain structure and function are associated with anxiety and other mental health conditions. Additionally, we are conducting investigations into the behavioural and brain responses to treatments such as pharmacotherapies and exercise.

The project is led by Dr Olivia Harrison and Associate Professor Bruce Russell who will both provide supervision for the successful applicant(s).

The successful applicant(s) will learn quantitative methods for assessing behavioural and brain imaging measures. Training will be given in the appropriate analysis techniques, although previous experience in statistics and/or programming languages such as MATLAB, python or R would be beneficial.

Eligibility Criteria

Applicants should have a qualifying degree (e.g. a good Honours degree or a Post Graduate Diploma, or equivalent qualification) in a scientific (e.g. Neuroscience, Psychology, Anatomy, Physiology, Medicine etc.) or other relevant discipline, and the necessary skills and attitude to carry out independent research. Applicants must have proof of English language proficiency if their previous qualification was conducted in another language. The successful applicant will ideally be based in Dunedin for at least part of the full-time study required for the relevant qualification.

Application requirements

Applications (by email) must include the following:

  • A curriculum vitae (2 pages maximum)
  • A brief outline (1 page maximum) describing your relevant research and/or professional skills and experience – this can be from your previous study or employment
  • A summary (1 page only) of your motivations and goals for undertaking the proposed course of study
  • Academic transcripts and certificates for any previous tertiary study
  • The contact details of two referees (at least one of these should be an academic referee; a reference from an employer may be included)

Funding notes

PhD applicants will need to fulfil the eligibility requirements for admission to the PhD programme at the University of Otago. Prospective students should also apply for a University of Otago doctoral scholarship (see Assistance will be provided for the PhD and scholarship application processes. The University of Otago PhD scholarship provides tuition fees and a tax-free personal allowance of NZD$27,000 per annum for three years (


Dr Olivia Harrison