Holly Haines first to win both George Humphrey and Oldfield prizes

Christ Church DPhil candidate Holly Haines has become the first Oxford student to win both the George Humphrey Prize and the Oldfield Prize – each awarded for her outstanding work as part of the MSc in Psychological Research.

Holly's celebrated MSc thesis, completed at Christ Church, is entitled 'Association of Early Life Cardiovascular Health with Grey Matter Structure in Young Adulthood: The ALSPAC Study'. The study explores whether exposure to cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. obesity, physical inactivity and hypertension) through childhood and adolescence is associated with changes in the brain’s grey matter in young adulthood. 

Prolonged exposure to cardiovascular risk factors during midlife has previously been linked to patterns of cerebral damage and increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia in old age. Whilst preliminary, findings from Holly's study suggest that aspects of cardiovascular health may already be associated with brain health during early life – much earlier than previously thought. Her future research aims to examine the nature of these heart-brain links across the lifespan, with potential use in designing future preventative interventions for age-related diseases such as dementia.  

The members of the Final Examination Board for the MSc in Psychological Research were deeply impressed by Holly's research, commenting that her dissertation was of publishable quality, and praised the standard of her work throughout her MSc year. They awarded Holly both the Humphrey Prize for the best Research Project Dissertation and the Oldfield Prize for the Best Overall Performance in her cohort. 

To receive these prizes, in addition to being part of this year’s Headship-winning W1 crew, during a personally challenging year has been truly very special to me. 

Holly is the first-ever student at the University of Oxford to be awarded both of these prizes. Responding to news of her success, she thanked her supervisors – Dr Sana Suri of the Department of Psychiatry and Wellcome Centre of Integrative Neuroimaging at the University of Oxford, and Dr Scott Chiesa of Institute of Cardiovascular Science at UCL. 

'I am delighted to have been awarded the George Humphrey and Oldfield prizes for my work this year. To receive these prizes, in addition to being part of this year’s Headship-winning W1 crew, during a personally challenging year has been truly very special to me. 

'In particular, I feel unbelievably privileged to have worked with Dr Sana Suri on my research project. She has been the most wonderful mentor and role model, inspiring both in her approach to science as well as in the ways she supports her lab group and the wider research community. I hope to carry these lessons with me as I begin my own research career, and I look forward to collaborating on further projects together in the future. 

'Looking ahead to my next steps, we are currently in the process of writing up the research project to submit for publication – watch this space! I am also excited to be starting on a completely new challenge in my DPhil, examining how humans and artificial agents learn to perform multitask problems.

'Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Professor Brian Parkinson (Head Tutor for Psychology) for his unwavering support and guidance over the past four years. His belief in me helped me to start believing in myself and gave me the confidence to pursue graduate study. I wouldn’t be here without him.'

The Christ Church community would like to congratulate Holly for this remarkable achievement.