PhD success for Euan MacDonald Centre early-career researcher

Picture of Emily Beswick against a background of a countryside lane

Feb 2023: We caught up with Emily Beswick, about her research and her next steps.

Many congratulations to Euan MacDonald Centre member Emily Beswick who successfully defended her PhD recently with minor corrections. We caught up with Emily after she successfully defended her thesis to find out more about her research, what she is doing now and what her plans are for the future.

What did your PhD focus on?

In my PhD we explored how future clinical trials in motor neuron disease (MND) can be improved to be more suitable for people who might participate in them. We focused on how digital devices can be used to measure symptoms and understand more about who chooses to get involved in a clinical trial. We were also interested in how people with MND experience non-motor symptoms; such as pain, fatigue, and changes in their thinking and behaviour.

What did you find out?

We found that the decision to participate in a clinical trial was complicated, and older people were less likely to participate. Additionally, people with MND reported that wrist and ankle-worn devices were acceptable to use during remote study visits and wearing during daily life and overnight. Finally, we found that pain and fatigue were the most commonly reported non-motor symptoms and that people with MND were supportive of exploring non-motor symptoms in trials.

Have your findings been published?

Yes, some of our work is published, and we are preparing the rest for publication currently. We published two papers about how these non-motor symptoms have been included in previous trials, and the types of measures that were used. We also recently published a paper about how digital technology has been used in previous research to explore how motor symptoms change over time.

What advice would you give anyone considering a PhD?

It is ok not to know exactly what your PhD projects will be, new ideas and directions will come up along the way and you can follow what interests you. Secondly, choosing a supervisor is really important as you will work very closely with them over the PhD, it can be more important to find someone who you enjoy working with, and have a similar working style to, than someone who has exactly the same research interests.

I understand that you were previously an Anne Rowling Clinic paid intern, what opportunities did that open up for you?

The role of Rowling Intern was great due to the flexibility, the job could be what you made it. I was able to talk to colleagues at the clinic about what areas I was interested in and they helped me to shape my career direction. I was able to gain clinical experience through supporting study visits and I was supported to conduct my own research project and attended NHS clinics and national academic conferences. During the Rowling Internship, I also met experienced researchers who supported me in developing research ideas into PhD projects, and who formed my supervisory team.

What are you doing now and what's next?

I am currently working at Newcastle University on a project which explores how digital technology can be useful to help diagnose dementia earlier. After this role, I plan to apply for funding to undertake my own projects to explore how digital technology can be used to assess people with neurological conditions.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I would like to thank all of the people who gave their time to participate in these research projects and their family members and relatives who also took the time to get involved. I would also like to thank the supportive team at the Anne Rowling Clinic and Euan McDonald Centre who provided support, training, and funding for me throughout my internship and PhD.

Related links

Emily Beswick's profile

The Euan MacDonald Centre's PhD Scheme

The Anne Rowling Clinic Graduate Research Practitioner Scheme (formerly Rowling Graduate Internship)


A systematic review of non-motor symptom evaluation in clinical trials for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis:

A systematic review of neuropsychiatric and cognitive assessments used in clinical trials for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis:

A systematic review of digital technology to evaluate motor function and disease progression in motor neuron disease:


This article was published on: Tuesday, February 28, 2023