Matthew Kirkham

About me: I am a medical doctor by background, having qualified from medical school in 2009. Since 2011 I have been working full-time as a trainee in neurosurgery in London, except for a one-year stint at the management consultancy McKinsey as a Royal College of Surgeons / McKinsey Fellow in Healthcare Management. I am completing my PhD part-time whilst finishing my neurosurgical training.

The difference my research makes: My PhD project is looking at the potential role that genetics, educational attainment and socioeconomic status have in explaining variation in cognitive outcomes (such as memory, attention, and decision-making) in patients with brain tumours. The personal interest in this topic comes from observing a wide variation in cognitive outcomes of patients with brain tumours. It is recognised that treatments for brain tumours – such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy – can influence cognitive outcomes, but these treatments do not account for all the variation that is observed in clinical practice; this suggests that other factors must have a role. To carry out this project, I am analysing clinical and imaging data from patients with brain tumours, as well as giving them questionnaires and cognitive tests to complete. In addition, participants will provide a saliva sample to allow DNA testing to look for genetic abnormalities, and I will be analysing data from national datasets to evaluate for educational attainment and socioeconomic status.

The aim of the project is to discover whether genetic abnormalities, and levels of educational attainment and socioeconomic status prior to the diagnosis of a brain tumour, can explain differences in cognition observed among patients with brain tumours. It is anticipated that this research should lead to a better understanding of the underlying factors influencing cognitive outcomes in patients with brain tumours. This in turn could lead to better targeted and earlier support for those most in need, improving patient outcomes.

Supervisors: Professor Andrew Tolmie (UCL IOE), Professor Michael Thomas (Birkbeck)

Publications: See Matthew’s Google Scholar page

Pathway:Psychology and Human Development

Location:UCL Institute of Education


Twitter: @MatthewAKirkman