CESI associated PhD studentships - Current status as of 28 January 2019

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This year, there will be a number of PhD studentships available via the School of Social Science, Education & Social Work (SSESW) (Department for Economy (DfE)) and Northern Ireland and North East (NINE) Doctoral Training Partnership scholarships); School of Nursing & Midwifery; School of Psychology; and School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences.


The benefits of studying and aligning your PhD studentship to CESI are that you will:

  • Become part of a vibrant transdisciplinary research community within the University
  • Connect with the 40+ post-doctoral researchers who are based in CESI
  • Attend CESI events as a Student Fellow


We are looking for studentship applications in the following areas:

  • Mental health and wellbeing (including health education)
  • Effective early prevention with parents and children
  • Improving outcomes in school
  • Improving health and wellbeing for young people
  • Improving outcomes for looked after children and children on the edge of care
  • Chronic illness and palliative care


Research proposals should use one of the following methodologies:

  • Randomised controlled trial/experimental methodology and studies may be at the developmental, efficacy or effectiveness stage. This will include projects using innovative methodologies/interventions that could be developed further by a funded PhD scholarship.
  • Systematic reviews which should be in a relevant area and plan to use a recognised approach e.g. Cochrane, Campbell, Best Evidence Encyclopaedia
  • Research that informs the development of effective interventions. This could include a range of different methods from qualitative, to mixed methods, surveys and secondary analysis.


To find out more about the scholarships in SSESW available and how to apply follow this link:


DEL based PhD studentships  in School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work


To find out more about scholarships in the School of Nursing & Midwifery then follow this link:


To find out more about scholarships in the School of Psychology then follow this link:


To find out more about scholarships in the Centre of Excellence for Public Health in the School of Medicine then follow this link. At this link you will find details of scholarships that you could apply for:



To apply for a CESI Scholarship then you need to apply to a ‘home School’ as a PhD student.


To aid your application process it is best to connect with one of the CESI Fellows. These are academic staff based in School of SSESW, School of Nursing and Midwifery, School of Medicine, and School of Psychology. Look at their profiles and research. They will normally work with you to help you develop your PhD proposal.


You can find a list of CESI Fellows here:


OR email Dr Laura Dunne, for further information about which Fellow to contact.


Note that you have to apply as a PhD student to the relevant School AND apply for the appropriate scholarship. We look forward to hearing from applicants who would like to align their PhD studies to CESI.


If you would like to apply for a PhD studentship and link it to CESI then why not consider the following potential projects. Contact the Fellow kisted as the primary contact for further details:


All studentships will be awarded through open competition in the schools. However, CESI would like to showcase potential PhD opportunities with full Fellows. Please look at the potential projects listed below. If any of these opportunities interest you, please contact the names primary contact directly:



Title of PhD: Ethical decision-making and multicultural values within the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis

Brief description: This research project will explore the variables that lead to ethical decision making by professionals working within the field of Applied Behaviour Analysis. Cultural diversity and its impact on values formation will be explored through a participatory model that involves both professionals and service recipients.

Student skill set required: Students should be Board Certified Behavior Analysts or have completed a Master’s in ABA, have extensive experience working in the field (ideally in multicultural environments) and have an inherent interest in ethics.

Primary contact: Dr Katerina Dounavi, Lecturer in Behaviour Analysis and Autism,, 028 9097 5951



Title of PhD: An RCT evaluation of ‘Crescendo’: A music education and social learning intervention for primary school aged children.

Brief description: ‘Crescendo’ is a music education programme that targets a range of benefits for primary school aged children, their parents and their wider communities.  Currently, the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (through their Innovation Zones - are working with the community organisations from the Colin and Shankill areas of Belfast, as well as representatives from the Ulster Orchestra, on the design/development and implementation of ‘Crescendo’. The programme is currently being delivered in four primary schools by musicians from the Ulster Orchestra and primary school teachers.


The aim of this PhD project would be to conduct a pilot Randomised Controlled Trial of Crescendo with the follow specific objectives:

-          Include a wider number of schools in Crescendo in the two communities

-          Explore the evidence of promise of Crescendo through its effectiveness on three key outcomes, i.e., music appreciation, social and emotional learning and parental engagement in children’s education

-          Explore scaling (roll out) issues with the programme including implementation factors and cost


Student skill set required:

Students applying for this project should have the following experience:

-          Experience of mixed methods research (both qualitative and quantitative)

-          Experience of music education or experience of social and emotional education in primary schools or experience of engaging parents in a children’s education.

-          Desirable to have experience in the evaluation of social interventions, educational programmes or conduct of RCTs


Primary contact: Dr Liam O’Hare 02890975973




Title of PhD: Developing and exploring feasibility of a Mindfulness mobilE Application to promote psychological health in patients receiving unit haemodialysis (MEADow study)

Dr Helen Noble; Professor Joanne Reid; Dr Clare McVeigh

Brief description: Internationally, it is well recognised that mindfulness practices can positively impact wellbeing, anxiety and depression. Research has shown consistent and reproducible demonstrations of clinically relevant reductions in medical and psychological symptoms across a wide range of medical conditions but mindfulness practices need to be more accessible to participants. Web-based mindfulness applications have the potential to engage participants and promote well-being.  Up to 50% of people with end-stage kidney disease who undergo dialysis experience a negative impact on their mental health. Commonly patients experience poor quality of life, loss of control, depressed mood and anxiety, which may induce non-adherence to medical treatment. Psychological support for patients with end-stage kidney disease is often inadequate. The aim of this study is to develop and evaluate the feasibility of a mindfulness mobile application designed to run on a mobile device such as a phone/tablet or watch, for use with patients receiving hospital-based haemodialysis.  The intention is to increase equitable access for patients to an evidence-based tool and research that improves the lives of kidney patients and impacts positively on the renal community. The findings will inform a larger study to test the developed intervention.


Student skill set required: Successful applicants will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with a First or good Second class honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate award and/or MSc (or equivalent). Applicants should be of the highest quality, enthusiastic, with excellent English language skills and capable of submitting a PhD thesis within 3 years.


Primary contact: Dr Helen Noble




Title of PhD: Feasibility of a mindfulness-based arts intervention (MAIdEN study) for informal caregivers of patients with end-stage kidney disease managed without dialysis.

Dr Helen Noble; Professor Joanne Reid; Dr Clare McVeigh

Brief description: End-stage kidney disease (ESKD) impacts heavily on physical and psychological wellbeing of patients and their carers. It is a relentless disease and older patients, managed conservatively, without renal replacement therapy, frequently suffer multiple comorbidities, a high symptom burden, limited life expectancy and significant unmet palliative care needs.  Management of ESKD is complex impacting those who are emotionally and practically involved in providing care and includes complex dietary and medication regimes. Additionally, carers may have their own health and social care needs, and these must be addressed. Despite growing recognition of the burden and adverse effects of kidney disease on caregivers, there is almost no evidence evaluating the effect of support interventions on their physical or psychosocial wellbeing. More attention towards the development and evaluation of interventions that respond to the psychosocial needs of caregivers has potential to improve both clinical and individual patient outcomes.

The aim of this study is to design and feasibility test a mindfulness-based arts intervention to address the needs of older carers of patients with ESKD managed without dialysis, and support them in their caring role. It will be informed by a local feasibility study of an arts-based intervention for patients with end stage kidney disease.


Student skill set required: Successful applicants will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with a First or good Second class honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate award and/or MSc (or equivalent). Applicants should be of the highest quality, enthusiastic, with excellent English language skills and capable of submitting a PhD thesis within 3 years.


Primary contact: Dr Helen Noble



Title of PhD: Developing and validating eye-tracking based Executive Functions tests for children with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) indicates a range of movement difficulties caused by damage to the developing brain. CP is the most common cause of physical disability in childhood, but children with CP are also at increased risk for cognitive and communication difficulties. Children with CP often display deficits in Executive Functions (EFs), which indicate high-order abilities that allow devising own goals and the execution of plans to achieve these goals. However, EFs deficits may go unnoticed in children with CP because commonly-used EFs tests rely on intact fine-motor and communicative skills.

The aim of this study is to develop and validate a battery of EFs tests for children and young people with CP using eye-tracking technology. Eye-tracker based tasks require minimal visual-motor skills, and can be administered without verbal instructions. These features make eye-tracker EFs tasks suitable for administration among CP children with different levels of motor and communication impairments. The study will recruit a representative sample of children with different degrees of impairment from the Northern Ireland Cerebral Palsy Register. Eye-tracking tasks can be administered with fidelity across settings: the study will develop screening tools to identify the profile of EFs strengths and difficulties in this population.


Student skill-sets:

The student will be responsible for: familiarising with relevant literature;  developing the eye-tracking based tasks; recruiting children and families to the study; collect and analyse data.  Necessary skills include: Background in related discipline (e.g. nursing, psychology, health science); IT literacy and ability to become proficient in using software syntax and coding; Interest and experience working with children and families, and/or children and families with disability; Good communicative and interpersonal skills; Attention to details; Good grounding in quantitative skills and research methods.


Primary contact: Dr Oliver Perra , Lecturer, Email:, Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 2313



Title of PhD: Does Brexit herald a war between the generations?


Brief description: The world’s population is changing from one of high fertility, high mortality, to low mortality and low fertility. The net effect is that people are living longer and having fewer children leading to population ageing. Political demography examines how population changes might affect demands made on government (e.g. for eldercare). It also examines the political causes of the movement of people and endeavours to understand attitudes of citizens towards population change.  This final task, examining the knowledge and attitudes of populations of population change is the focus of this project.


Public debate is dominated by newspaper headlines claiming that the ageing population will result in policies favouring the old at the cost of younger generations. For some, the Brexit vote is the result of older, more conservative voters voting in much higher numbers than younger people and heralds a war between the generations. A contrary view is that, given the diversity of the older population, age is not as significant as other divisions such as class and gender. This project will examine these issues. Research questions include: If older people are politically mobilised how come so many are under-served in terms of social care, pensions and end-of-life care?


Student skill set required: Students will need a strong social science research skills set including, literature searches, critical analysis, an interest in social policy and politics. While it is preferable that students have some qualitative and quantitative research skills, these can be learned in the course of the PhD. The main attribute for this student is a genuine interest in the topic and a commitment to completing a PhD on time and to the highest possible standard.


Primary contact: Dr. Gemma Carney, Lecturer in Social Policy and Ageing, CESI, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, QUB.

+4428 9097 3749.



Title of PhD: Public discourse on fetal anomaly and its impact on parents’ decision-making and self-reported wellbeing

Brief description:

Every year, around 3% of women in the UK receive a prenatal diagnosis of a fatal or life-limiting fetal anomaly. In England and Wales around 70% of these pregnancies are terminated whereas in Northern Ireland, where abortion is not permitted in cases of fetal anomaly, an estimated 20% of women travel abroad for a termination. The remainder continue with the pregnancy in the knowledge that their baby will die before or soon after birth.  Outcomes for mothers experiencing a fatal fetal anomaly include long-term psychological distress, with studies indicating that those who decide to terminate a pregnancy fare worse. This is thought to be due, in part, to feelings of self-blame, guilt and perceived social stigma. While research has explored factors which impact on parents decision-making in general, less is known about the experiences of parents who must make such difficult choices in contexts such as Northern Ireland where a diversity of opinions on the matter exist and stigmatisation is widespread.  Using a combination of document analysis and primary research with parents, this study will examine the impact of public discourse relating to fetal anomaly on parents’ decision making and self-reported wellbeing. Critical reflection on public discourse that surrounds fetal anomaly would lead to increased understanding of the challenges and constraints that parents might face in attempting to make such a decision during a very traumatic period in their lives. The findings will have implications for intervention development, healthcare service provision, clinical guidelines and policy reform.

Student skill set required: Potential students must have at least an Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a relevant Social or Life Sciences subject. A demonstrated interest in sexual and reproductive or mental health research and experience conducting Discourse Analysis is desirable. 

Primary contact: Dr Áine Aventin, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow,, 0044 (28) 90972463


OR email Dr Laura Dunne, for further information about which Fellow to contact.