PhD Studentship: Clinically important behaviour in children and adolescents: mechanisms and pathway

United Kingdom
Nov 14, 2017
Feb 15, 2018
Organization Type
University and College
Full Time


Applications are invited for a fully-funded (fees + stipend) Ph.D. to begin in October 2018. The successful candidate will work together with Dr Kate Woodcock on research focusing on understanding clinically important behaviour in children and adolescents, with a view to developing/evaluating psychological intervention strategies. The specific focus of the project will depend on the interests of the successful applicant, who must be willing to produce a research proposal as a part of the selection procedure, and will therefore have substantial freedom to direct the research in line with their own interests.


Project description

The research conducted in Dr Woodcock’s team comprises a variety of methods from cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology and clinical psychology to understand how genetic, neural, cognitive and environmental factors interact to precipitate clinically important behaviour in children and adolescents. Following application of these methods to develop theoretical understanding of the behaviour, such knowledge is put to use in the development of intervention strategies.

Some examples of current research being conducted in Dr Woodcock’s team include:

  • The systematic measurement of executive functioning and emotion regulation skills in children and adolescents showing clinically important behaviour. This work includes a number of projects focusing on the challenges that young people experience in specific situations.
  • The development and evaluation of a video game for training cognitive function in individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome, with a view to reducing clinically relevant difficulties linked to changes to individuals’ routines, plans or other expectations. The training may potentially be applicable for individuals with other neurodevelopmental disorders, a possibility that may form a part of future work.
  • The development and feasibility testing of a parent/teacher led strategy to systematically increase the flexibility in children’s routines from an early age. The strategy is focused on children with a neurodevelopmental disorder linked to resistance to change (in routines or expectations), such as autism spectrum disorder. The aim of the strategy is to expose children to flexibility in routines in a manner that will facilitate the development of the cognitive skills that allow children to manage change appropriately; and so ultimately to prevent the development of resistance to change.


The Candidate


  • At least a high 2.1 bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Cognitive Neuroscience /Clinical Neuroscience/ Neuroimaging 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/Cognitive Neuroscience /Clinical Neuroscience/ Neuroimaging 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)
  • Programming skills or a willingness to learn (e.g. Matlab, R)


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.


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.


Further Information

Please contact Dr Kate Woodcock (; Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6036) before making your application so that she can provide you with guidance on the scope of the required research proposal; and further information about the research interests of the team so that you can ensure a good fit.


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

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