Research Assistant: Preventing and Treating Eating DisordersSemester Course

Research Assistant: Preventing and Treating Eating Disorders
Major Discipline(s)
Elective Course
Fall/Spring semester

Eating disorders are serious psychiatric illnesses with high levels of morbidity and mortality. Although the factors that heighten risk and maintain eating disorder symptoms are multifaceted, the current research explores two particularly salient psychosocial factors: dieting behavior and (disrupted) social relationships. Past research indicates that dieting is an important risk-factor for the development of eating disorders. Whereas traditional diets appear to have recently reduced in popularity, there has been a burgeoning of dietary strategies marketed as healthy, pure, and “clean” with a purported emphasis on wellness rather than weight loss per se. However, the true impact of these diets and the broader wellness industrial complex remains poorly understood and requires further study.

Thus, one research assistant would have the opportunity to assist with the development of a new research project exploring contemporary dieting behavior and the boundaries between illness and wellness. The other research assistant would be able to assist with data analysis, interpretation, and dissemination of findings from a recently completed 5-year randomized clinical trial for anorexia nervosa led by collaborators at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London. In this intervention, patients admitted to intensive treatment for anorexia nervosa and their caregivers were randomized to receive additional guidance and support as they transitioned out of treatment. As the trial has now been completed, there are many opportunities to explore potential mediators and moderators of treatment outcomes, with particular attention directed toward elements of social connection and their role in the recovery process.


Select Mentor Publications:

Clark Bryan, D., Macdonald, P., Cardi, V., Rowlands, K., Ambwani, S., Arcelus, J., Bonin, E.-M., Landau, S., Schmidt, U., & Treasure, J. (2022). Transitions from intensive eating disorder treatment settings: Qualitative investigation of the experiences and needs of adults with anorexia nervosa and their carers. BJPsych Open, 8(4).

Negowetti, N., Ambwani, S., Karr, S., Rodgers, R. F., & Austin, S. B. (2021). Digging up the dirt on “clean” dietary labels: Public Health Considerations and opportunities for increased federal oversight. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 55(1), 39–48.

Related Discipline(s)

This course would also be of interest to the following discipline(s):
Pre-Medicine / Health Science, Public Health


Suman Ambwani

DIS Copenhagen Semester Faculty

PhD (Psychology, Texas A&M University, 2008, Clinical Psychology Internship, Medical University of South Carolina, 2007-2008). MS (Psychology, Texas A&M University, 2005). BA (Psychology, Sociology, Macalester College, 2003). Previously an associate professor of psychology at Dickinson College, visiting researcher at King’s College London, and visiting scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research broadly examines factors associated with the development and maintenance of eating disorders, particularly cultural features (such as fat-shaming environments and pseudoscientific diet fads) and difficulties with interpersonal relationships. She is also a co-investigator on two UK multisite randomized clinical trials investigating guided self-help for anorexia nervosa. With DIS since 2022.