Francesca’s experiences with BDRN

A few months ago we introduced you to Francesca Serra who was visiting BDRN as part of her PhD studies at the University of Padua in Italy.  Francesca has now returned to Italy to complete the final stage of her PhD.  We were all very sad to say goodbye to Francesca, but our research collaboration continues.  Francesca wrote an account of her experiences with BDRN for the University of Worcester website, and we thought we would share it with BDRN participants too:

My name is Francesca Serra and I am a PhD student from the University of Padua, Italy. I am currently a visiting PhD student at the University
of Worcester for 6 months (September 2016 – February 2017).

My field of research concerns the assessment of mood disorders. My university gave me this fantastic opportunity to spend a period of study abroad.

It took me a while to choose the right place for my adventure as I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. Working and studying abroad is not always how you would imagine it: expectations could not be met, the experience could be disappointing and, most of the time, staying away from home can be very difficult, especially if you are not satisfied with the work you are doing.

I chose the University of Worcester, and in particular Professor Lisa Jones (Prof of Psychological Medicine), because her research group’s work on mood disorders seemed the most interesting and complete in the various fields of research on bipolar disorder. There was another reason that convinced me to choose Lisa: it was her friendliness and her commitment demonstrated by the emails we exchanged before my arrival.

I was very excited but scared at the same time when I arrived in Worcester as I did not know what to expect from this experience. I would, therefore, like to thank the organization of the University of Worcester for the warm welcome (a lovely student helped me to settle in my accommodation and in the campus on my first day). The beautiful surroundings contributed to changing my mood during those stressful days. I refer to this green campus I’m staying in: the trees, the grass, the animals and the smell of nature everywhere! I was able to book excellent accommodation in Barrington House (owned by the University of Worcester). I would like to thank my flatmates of Barrington House, especially Anders Moeller Jensen (another visiting PhD student, from Denmark) for becoming a friend to whom I could confide and have fun with every day!

The most important thanks goes to the Mood Disorders Research Group for making me feel like home since the first day and for being lovely people outside of work, for trusting me and making me feel like a good fit in the team. I am grateful to be investigating agitated depression in a big sample of bipolar disorder, and mood disorders in relation to menopause. Thanks to Prof Lisa Jones for being such a strong and capable guide for me in the work as well in the life; Dr Kath Gordon-Smith for her unique and daily patience and sweetness; Amy Perry and Sarah Knott for their smile and friendship; Lizzie Ludlow for her kindness.

I have already been here for three months, and I can certainly say that I could have not made a better choice. I find myself surrounded by competent and esteemed people in the research as well as humble and sensitive at appreciating and listening to my ideas. I believe this experience is really important to my professional and personal growth, and I think I still have much to learn from the Worcester group of mood disorders researchers.


The city of Worcester is small and friendly. There is much green space, and the river and bridges are beautiful. There are good shops, good English pubs and I even found a good Italian restaurant.  There are many differences to Italian cities, especially all the different sports.

This is my experience in Worcester, newer and richer every day, and it will continue until February!

I just wanted to give an advice to anyone who might take the same path: choose the right place and go for it with a confident attitude.

Francesca Serra

Francesca Serra