Global Doctoral scholarship - St Andrews and Bonn - Medicine

Application period opens
Wednesday 15 February 2023
Application period closes
Friday 31 March 2023

The University of St Andrews and the University of Bonn are pleased to offer a scholarship funded by both institutions, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following area:

Dissecting genetic risk factors for mental health disorders through data-driven approaches

Doctoral Research at St Andrews

As a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews you will be part of a growing, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community. St Andrews is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world and offers a postgraduate experience of remarkable richness.

St Leonard’s Postgraduate College is at the heart of the postgraduate community of St Andrews. The College supports all postgraduates and aims to provide opportunities for postgraduates to come together, socially and intellectually, and make new connections.

St Leonard’s Postgraduate College works closely with the Postgraduate Society which is one of the most active societies within the Students’ Association. All doctoral students are automatically welcomed into the Postgraduate Society when they join the University.

In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home School, doctoral students at St Andrews have access to GRADskills – a free, comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.

Doctoral Research at the University of Bonn

As a doctoral student at the University of Bonn you will be part of a vibrant and intellectually stimulating academic community. The University of Bonn is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world. It is one of only 11 German Universities of Excellence and the only German university with six Clusters of Excellence.

In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home Department, doctoral students at the University of Bonn have access to the Bonn Graduate Center, which is the central service department for doctoral candidates. It offers guidance on training and funding opportunities and offers a free and comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.


The WHO estimates that at least 1 in 8 people in the world lives with a mental disorder. Several risk factors have been associated with psychiatric traits, but we know very little about why any particular person would develop a mental disorder, while others appear to be resilient. Advances in genetic research have started to give us some insights into this question. Family and twin studies showed that most psychiatric traits have a genetic basis, but it was not until recently that we were able to pinpoint specific genetic factors leading to the development of early risk predictors, i.e. polygenic risk scores (PRS). Such advances have been possible thanks to large international projects such as the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC, managing data from N >400,000 patients with psychiatric disorders) and the GenLang Consortium (managing data from N >34,000 individuals with language-related disorders) in which the PIs of the present project (Forstner and Paracchini) areinvolved as active members, respectively. These studies showed that hundreds of genes contribute to individual disorders and that the same genes can underlie multiple conditions, explaining, at least partly, the co-occurrence reported in clinical studies. For example, we confirmed that dyslexia risk is conferred by genetic risk factors for ADHD. This is expected because 30% of children with ADHD are also diagnosed with dyslexia. Unexpectedly, we also observed that the genetic risk for bipolar disorder contributes to dyslexia. A link between dyslexia and bipolar disorder has not been reported at the clinical level. Our data suggest that early onset neurodevelopmental conditions like dyslexia might be predictors of later psychiatric diseases. Because different specialists manage childhood and adult disorders, such comorbidities might be missed.

This proposal takes forward our recent genetic results to study the relationship between childhood neurodevelopmental conditions (e.g. dyslexia) and later psychiatric disorders (e.g. bipolar disorder).

The project has the potential to identify early risk predictors and inform clinical diagnoses. The specific questions are:

  • Can genetic analysis identify shared neurobiology and pathways contributing to both dyslexia and bipolar disorder?
  • Can we identify with genetic data subgroups of individuals who are at higher risk of co-occurring and severe psychiatric outcomes?
  • If so, do such subgroups present specific clinical and behavioural characteristics?
  • Does a retrospective analysis of clinical records match the hypothesis derived from genetic analyses?

Although we will focus on dyslexia and bipolar disorder specifically, this approach has the potential to be applied to other disorders.

The project will be managed jointly between the School of Medicine at St Andrews and the Institute of Human Genetics at Bonn. The student will be supervised by Dr Silvia Paracchini (St Andrews; and Jun.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Forstner (Bonn;

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to the co-supervisors.

Value of award (per year)

The funding comprises a scholarship equivalent of a full-fees award and stipend for a period of up to 3.5 years. It is expected that the student will spend half of the scholarship term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn:

  • For the period spent at the University of St Andrews, the scholarship will comprise a full fees award and a stipend paid at the current UK Research Council rate (£17,668 each year in 2022–2023)
  • For the period spent at the University of Bonn, the scholarship will comprise a salary according to TV-L EG13 (65%). The University of Bonn does not charge any tuition fees, but students must pay a so-called social contribution once per semester (currently €315 per semester).

Duration of award

Up to 3.5 years. The student will be expected to spend approximately half of the award term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.

At what stage of my course application can I apply for this scholarship?

Please apply for the scholarship after you have submitted your application for a place at St Andrews.  You do not need to wait until you have received an offer of a place before applying for the scholarship.

Application restrictions

Study level

Available to students studying at:


Domicile for fee status

No restrictions


Available to faculty members from:


Application assessment

Academic merit

Available to

Prospective students

Mode of study

Full time

Geographical criteria

No restrictions

Additional criteria

  • The successful student will spend the first part of the project in Bonn and will then complete the project in St Andrews. Therefore, it is expected that the student will spend significant time at both institutions.
  • The student may start their degree at Bonn at any point in the academic year 2023-2024 prior to a final entry date of 27 May 2024 subject to agreement with the supervisory team.
  • Applicants must not already (i) hold a doctoral degree; or (ii) be matriculated for a doctoral degree at either the University of St Andrews or the University of Bonn (or another institution).

How to apply

Please indicate in your application that you wish to be considered for this Global Doctoral scholarship (reference Paracchini-Forstner).

Please send your application to both Dr Silvia Paracchini (St Andrews) and Jun.-Prof. Dr. Andreas Forstner (Bonn) at the following email addresses: and

Your application should include the following:

  • Statement why you are the right candidate for the project
  • CV
  • Reference(s)

Next steps

Once notified, successful candidates should proceed to fulfil the application requirements for each University and must meet all normal entry requirements for admission – please see the advice on applying for research degree programmes. Applications should indicate that the applicant is the recipient of a Global Doctoral Scholarship St Andrews and Bonn (reference Paracchini-Forstner).

Terms and conditions

Please read the University of St Andrews scholarships terms and conditions (opens in new tab).

These are applicable during the St Andrews duration of the award; please consult the partner institution for their terms and conditions relating to scholarships.

When will I know the outcome?

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed online during the week commencing on 10 April.

You will be notified of the outcome of your application by 30 April 2023. Awards are subject to final signatures of contractual relationships between the parties, and are not an indication of admission to the doctoral programme. Successful scholarship applicants must apply to both institutions and meet all relevant entry requirements for admission including any immigration requirements that may be in place.


Please contact us should you have any questions regarding the scholarship:

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to Silvia Paracchini ( and Andreas Forstner (