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12 January 2022

Research is core to King’s: what we do, what we care about and how we educate. It’s how we use our creativity to further our knowledge and understanding, challenge conventions and deliver impact. A world without research would be one without progress.

Research is core to King’s: what we do, what we care about and how we educate. It’s how we use our creativity to further our knowledge and understanding, challenge conventions and deliver impact. A world without research would be one without progress.

But what does a day in the life of a researcher at King’s look like? Read more to gain insight into fields such as public policy, mental health and clinical practice.

Philanthropic support helps drives change, progress and innovation at King’s and provides the means for researchers to seek answers for the world’s pressing issues.

Public Policy Professor Bobby Duffy, Director of The Policy Institute

The real delight of my role is the sheer variety of issues I get to research and engage with. My current projects range from understanding behavioural responses to Covid - particularly around conspiracy theories - to studying how trust in climate science is changing across Europe. On a typical day, I might meet external experts and policymakers to address a challenge, present findings from our work, design new studies, analyse results or talk to the media about our research. It’s an enjoyable and rewarding busyness!

Initially, I was looking for a role to apply my interest in research methods and substantive policy issues and I found a role at Ipsos, a market research company. I learnt a huge amount working up from being a trainee researcher to Managing Director, and that was followed by becoming a Global Director for the social and government research area over the next 20 years.

My personal objectives mirror those of The Policy Institute – it’s about using our skills to improve decisions that impact people’s lives and society. I find the research interesting, but it needs that purpose, and we get so many great opportunities to do that here. The thing I love most about my job is how King’s is valued as a neutral convening space with world class experts. People come to us all the time with important questions that we can help answer – and that’s incredibly rewarding.

Women’s Health Professor Catherine Williamson, Head of Department of Women & Children’s Health

I’m currently studying many metabolic diseases of pregnancy. My interest is in what causes these conditions and why they lead to complications for women and their children. From there, we use scientific information to design interventions to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, which could be drugs, or decisions about how to manage their pregnancies.

Specialising in diseases of pregnancy is unusual. It’s a fascinating area as it combines obstetrics – pregnancy and childbirth – with medicine. As a junior doctor, I saw many women with medical disorders that weren’t researched in detail. I could see that there would be a phenomenal impact if we were able to understand the causes and prevent the complications of these disorders of pregnancy. For example, through our research we have shown that bile acid levels in the blood can predict pregnancies that are at risk of being stillbirth or preterm. Therefore, we can use bile acid measurements to identify high-risk pregnancies and use this information to prevent these devastating outcomes.

As a clinical academic, I split my time between seeing patients, supporting students and organising research. This includes meeting members of my research group to discuss their studies, the hypotheses we are considering, how we are addressing the hypotheses and what the results of our experiments mean. I also spend time designing new projects, teaching and overseeing obstetrics and paediatrics research across King’s Health Partners (KHP).

Ultimately, I want the impact of my work to be the long-term improvement of health outcomes for pregnant women and their children. It's satisfying to know that we’re having an impact as our findings are featured in both national and international guidelines. That said, as we work on other metabolic diseases, we can apply the same approaches and improve outcomes even further.

Dr Kate Polling, Clinical Lecturer in General Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN)

I previously worked in public health and was interested in how our experiences in society affect our mental health. I then came to King’s in 2009 to train as a psychiatrist. During my studies, I met inspiring researchers within the Department of Psychological Medicine who encouraged me to apply for a Wellcome Trust Fellowship, which allowed me to train as an epidemiologist and pursue health inequalities research.

I now work to understand why there are inequalities in how people access help for their mental health, and their experiences when they do. For example, at the moment I’m thinking about young people coming to Accident & Emergency (A & E) with injuries, or the effects of alcohol poisoning or drug overdose, and trying to understand whether our definitions of what counts as self-harm mean some groups are less likely to be given the mental health support they need when they're in distress.

As a clinical academic, I combine working as a psychiatrist with research and teaching. On clinical days I work in a community team that offers support to people between the ages of 14 and 35 in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, and on research days, I manage and analyse large clinical datasets and work on projects to improve training for mental healthcare staff on mental health inequalities.

I love that my role allows me to continue collaborating with colleagues in the IoPPN, community groups and people who benefit from using our services. I enjoy developing the skills I learnt during my PhD, whilst also working clinically, which keeps me focused on the importance of the research questions I’m trying to answer.

Ultimately, I want my research to highlight the assumptions and practices within mental health services that might be contributing to inequalities in access, experience and outcomes for different groups, so we can challenge these and work towards equal healthcare support for all.

Again, at King’s we provide answers to society’s pressing matters and financial support plays a key role in that. Your support has the potential to help researchers like Dr Kate and Professor Bobby to address pertinent public policy and mental health issues. If you would like to hear more about our research and how you can support it, please explore our research webpages or email


In this story

Catherine Polling

NIHR Clinical Lecturer in General Psychiatry

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