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Paul Harrison


Professor Paul Harrison is a psychiatrist and was appointed Clinical Reader here at the Department of Psychiatry in 1997. He is Associate Head of Department (Research), and Chair of the Oxford Neuroscience Committee.

Tell us a little about yourself, and what attracted you to studying/working at the University of Oxford?  

I came here as a medical student in 1979.  I soon realised what a remarkable place the University is, not least for someone interested in the brain and mental health. Apart from three years in London, I’ve been here ever since, and have never regretted it. To work in a University and a Medical School regularly ranked top in the world is a genuine privilege. 

What is your vision for the team/project/research you study/work with?

First, to contribute to the discovery of better treatments for severe psychiatric disorders, taking advantage of all the ‘omic’ and other data that are now available. Second, to complete our digression into COVID research by identifying factors and interventions which can reduce the burden of post-COVID neuropsychiatric problems. 

What is currently at the top of your To-DO List?

I have just taken over as chair of the Oxford Neuroscience Committee from Professor Kia Nobre - a tough act to follow. The Committee coordinates activities across all the neuroscience departments, and also helps shape future research strategy. With mental health so high on the agenda, it's a great time for psychiatry to be at the heart of Oxford neuroscience.

How did you get to where you are today?

With a lot of luck. I was mentored and supported by outstanding people, particularly early in my career, and I also was in the right place at the right time when opportunities – including jobs – became available. Luck plays a significant part in an academic career, and I’ve always tried to remember that both when things go well and when they don’t.  

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by people who combine ability, drive, and humanity. This applies to senior colleagues and early career researchers - and politicians. 

If you were not in your study programme/job currently, what would you like to be doing?

My job has always been so flexible I’ve been able to do most of the things I’ve wanted to. Looking ahead, I’d like to be less bad at golf, and write a musical.