PhD Studentship: The impact of late-preterm birth on the development of social cognition

University of Birmingham

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United Kingdom

Position type:

Full time

13 Feb 2018
13 Apr 2018

Full details:

Reference number: BIR-90756


Applications are invited for a fully-funded (fees + stipend) Ph.D. to begin in October 2018. The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Caroline Richards and Dr Andrew Surtees on research focusing on neurodevelopmental outcomes in children born preterm.

Project Description:
Preterm birth is known to adversely affect child development in behavioural, cognitive and mental health domains. Neurodevelopmental outcomes are significantly poorer in children born preterm when compared to their peers, with heightened rates of ASD identified. In later preterm pregnancies immediate health risks to babies are less pronounced and therefore longer-term neurodevelopmental outcome is a more substantive part of obstetric decision-making. Thus, accurate understanding of the nature of problems in this group is of central importance. Research thus far has, however, overemphasised gross, diagnostic or screening tools for psychiatric taxonomy (overlooking more nuanced neurodevelopmental phenotyping) and over-sampled very preterm populations at the expense of mid-late preterm groups. In this PhD project, we hope to extend this literature by conducting robust assessments of the more subtle difficulties that young children born late-preterm may experience, in understanding their social world, predicting the thoughts and intentions of others and estimating other’s beliefs and knowledge.

The Candidate:
The successful applicant will employ experimental techniques, including eye-tracking and direct assessments of social cognition to describe neurodevelopment in this population. They will join a team of PhD, Clinical Doctoral, Masters and Undergraduate students investigating clinical outcomes in neurodevelopmental disorders.

• At least a high 2.1 bachelor’s degree in Psychology or a related field, or on track to be awarded such a degree before October 1st 2018
• At least a high 2.1 grade in a research based dissertation conducted as part of an undergraduate degree, or equivalent research experience (e.g. through volunteering with a research team)
• A strong interest in research and a high level of motivation to develop research ideas.
• Excellent interpersonal and organisational skills
• Some knowledge of statistics and a willingness to learn more advanced methods
• English language proficiency
• Ability to work independently when required but to seek supervision appropriately
• Personal or professional experience working with individuals from vulnerable populations (e.g. children, individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders) and/or their families
• An understanding of how to work with stake holding organisations to plan, develop or conduct useful research and demonstration of the skills necessary to do this well

Desirable (but not essential):
• A first class bachelor’s degree from a research intensive university in Psychology or a related field
• Experience of conducting research with individuals from vulnerable populations and/or their families
• Experience of working with organisations that hold stakes in the lives of individuals from vulnerable groups, either in a research or other professional context
• Ability to communicate complex information clearly
• Evidence of being able to disseminate research findings (e.g. via a seminar or conference presentation, or a journal publication)
• Eye-tracking methodology experience

Application procedure:
Prospective candidates are required to apply first using the University of Birmingham on-line application system. In order for the application to be processed quickly, candidates should submit a research proposal, CV, 2 references, and transcript of grades.

A copy of the on-line application form and guidance notes can be found at the following website:

Please indicate in the funding section of the application form that this is a college funded studentship and e-mail to indicate you have applied.

Further Information:
Please contact Dr Caroline Richards (; Tel: +44 (0) 121 4158098) for further information and informal enquiries.

For any enquiries about the application process please contact the Graduate School Administrative Officer (Tel: +44(0)121 414 2864/4906; Email: )

Funding Notes

This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. International Students from outside the EU may apply, but may be liable for the difference between UK/EU and International (Overseas) tuition fees.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3 years of full-time study to commence on 1st October 2018.


The School
The School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham ( is one of the largest and most successful in the UK, currently ranked in the top 5 schools in the country (REF 2014). Our school has a thriving research culture and collaborative ethos, we routinely host cross-College seminars and there are multiple formal and informal opportunities for training in advanced methods. The School of Psychology has laboratories specially equipped for work in human brain sciences, psychophysiology, cognition, visual and auditory perception, psychopharmacology, social psychology, child development, and clinical and forensic psychology. In addition, the School is home to the Centre for Human Brain Health and the Institute of Adolescent Mental Health, both world-class interdisciplinary Centres which bring together researchers from the broader Life, Medical and Social Sciences at the University to explore the basic underpinning science of healthy brains and mental wellbeing as well as clinical applications to specific neurodevelopmental and mental health conditions.

Remember to mention Global Academy Jobs when you apply

How to apply

Please go to the University Website and search for the keywords: The impact of late-preterm birth on the development of social cognition