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Polly Waite


Polly Waite is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology and a clinical psychologist by background. She is part of Professor Cathy Creswell’s TOPIC research group. 

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

My research interest is the treatment of adolescent anxiety disorders, but I have also been conducting research to understand the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on children and young people’s mental health (the Co-SPACE study, which I lead with Cathy Creswell). I came to Oxford in 2019 to be part of the TOPIC research group. I was excited to be working in Oxford - my sister did her undergraduate degree at Worcester College and so I have fond memories of coming to visit her (although this is quite a while ago now!). 

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

My vision is to improve our understanding and treatment of adolescent anxiety disorders and my current NIHR fellowship research focuses on panic disorder. For our pandemic-related work, the vision is very much around improving our understanding to help mitigate the effects of this pandemic and to learn lessons for any similar situations that may occur in the future. 

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

We have a mountain of data from the Co-SPACE study and top of my current to-do list is writing and submitting papers from this project. In addition, I am just finishing a feasibility randomised controlled trial comparing brief cognitive therapy to a general form of CBT for adolescents with panic disorder. So, I will be analysing the findings from this study to determine the feasibility of a future definitive trial and applying for further research funding to further develop this work. 

How did you get to where you are today?

I did my undergraduate degree in applied sociology rather than psychology. While doing a study year abroad in the USA I met the British student who had been the exchange student the year before me and planned to be a clinical psychologist. When she described what it involved I knew that was what I wanted to do. This led to me doing a psychology conversion course after my degree. I was also lucky to be introduced to a clinical psychologist who gave me some work experience, supervised my project, and allowed me to write up part of his PhD for publication. Since completing my DClinPsy training at UCL, I’ve made all my career decisions around working with brilliant, inspiring people. This, alongside hard work, enthusiasm and seizing opportunities, has been really important. 

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by the idea of making a difference to young people’s lives, enabling them to go on to fulfil their potential. Day-to-day, I am inspired by many people from the young people and families that I have worked with, to the incredible clinical academics who I have been lucky to be supervised and mentored by over the years, such as Professor Cathy Creswell, Professor Paul Salkovskis, Professor David Clark, Professor Roz Shafran and Dr Freda McManus.   

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

If circumstances were different, perhaps I would do something more artistic as I loved art and design at school. I have always rather fancied having a go at painting dog portraits!