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Adolescent mental health experts win Emerging Leaders Prize

£200k for adolescent mental health research awarded to the Medical Research Foundation’s 2018 Emerging Leaders Prize winners.

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The Emerging Leaders Prize recognises and rewards talented researchers who’ve already made a strong contribution to their field.


Dr Jean-Baptiste Pingault of UCL was awarded first place and £100k. He said: "I'm really proud to have been chosen as one of the Medical Research Foundation's Emerging Leaders. I was thrilled when I received the call. There is huge potential to improve people's lives through adolescent mental health research so to have the Foundation's support is fantastic."

Dr Pingault’s work aims to understand causes of adolescent mental health problems to help design better tools for prevention.

The Emerging Leaders Prize fund is flexible meaning the winners decide how best to use it to further their adolescent mental health research.

Dr Tobias Hauser of UCL won second place and £80k. His work exploring big data could reveal potential biomarkers indicative of adolescent mental health problems, he said: "I am really excited about the unique opportunity that the Medical Research Foundation has provided with this prize. I will use the funding to investigate how brain and cognitive functions develop during adolescence, and how these processes can go awry and lead to mental health problems."

Medical Research Foundation CEO Dr Angela Hind said: “The Foundation supports research where there is little existing investment but clear clinical need for better treatments. By supporting excellence in adolescent mental health research we hope to enable our Prize winners to develop their leadership skills and to explore new ideas in their research.”


Four further runner-up prizes of £5k were awarded in recognition of excellence in adolescent mental health research.

Dr Catherine Sebastian of Royal Holloway, University of London follows an interdisciplinary approach to mental health research by working alongside neuroscientists, psychologists and teachers, she said: "I'm delighted that my research has been recognised by the Medical Research Foundation through the Emerging Leaders Prize. My work focuses on how young people cope in response to difficult situations and what influences how they respond. The prize funding will help me to strengthen our ongoing research collaborations and to explore new directions for our work.”

Dr Valeria Mondelli of King’s College London leads research on the link between childhood trauma and mental health problems in later life. She said: “I am delighted to have been awarded the Medical Research Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Prize, this is an important acknowledgement of the work I have conducted so far and I have no doubt it will help me to advance my research in this field. Adolescence is a critical time for development and a window of opportunity where we can still change trajectories, I am committed to finding the best ways to tackle mental health problems as soon as they develop in adolescence so that we can help improve quality of life during youth and throughout life.”

Dr Helen Fisher also of King’s College London is trying to understand why some adolescents develop mental health problems and what protects others. She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled that the Medical Research Foundation are providing me with this fantastic opportunity to develop the skills I need to manage a large longitudinal cohort study, which will not only have a major impact on my career but also enable numerous researchers to use this invaluable resource to answer important questions about the factors involved in risk and resilience for adolescent mental health problems.”

Dr Anne-Laura van Harmelen of the University of Cambridge also won a Prize. Her work looks closely at both risk and resilience in adolescent mental health, she said: “Finding ways to improve adolescent mental health is hugely important because of the potential long-term effects for young people. I’m delighted to be awarded the Emerging Leaders Prize as it helps to bring attention to what is a hugely critical area of research. There is a genuine crisis in adolescent mental health right now and I look forward to using my prize to support more research.”

About the prize

This the second time the Foundation has awarded the Emerging Leaders Prize. The 2018 adolescent mental health research prize was made possible thanks to a legacy gift from the late Mrs Johanne Menage.

Foundation Trustee, Professor Danny Altmann of Imperial College London, said: "We hope the Emerging Leaders Prize will have a transformative effect on the careers of outstanding researchers by signposting the quality of their work and their personal leadership potential."

The 2019 Emerging Leaders Prize will reward excellence in antimicrobial resistance research.

Medical Research Foundation Chair, Professor Nick Lemoine of Queen Mary University of London, said: "The Emerging Leaders Prize is a special award because the researchers themselves have to have demonstrated absolute excellence in both their science and the way they work to be amongst the winners. I look forward to seeing their individual research careers progress."