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MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit - Relationships and Health programme

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit - Relationships and Health programme

Our Relationships and Health programme studies the dynamic, interactive processes through which our relationships influence health and wellbeing. For studentship topics available in the Relationships and Health programme, see below. To view studentship opportunities for our other research programmes, visit our website.

Please note that topics are indicative. Student-led applications/topics relevant to the Unit and Programmes (i.e. on related topics with different supervisors) are also very welcome.

The role of the partner/fathers in supporting vulnerable mothers’ parenting: developing an intervention for partners/fathers

Supervisors: Dr Katie Buston, Dr Marion Henderson
The THRIVE Trial (Healthy Relationship Initiatives for the Very Early-years) investigated the effectiveness of two parenting support programmes for women with additional health and social care needs in pregnancy. It highlighted the deep and enduring vulnerabilities that some mothers face. This project will undertake secondary analysis of THRIVE data to explore these vulnerabilities, as well as the role of the partner/father in the family. Additional, in-depth interviews with THRIVE mothers and with staff in organisations such as Barnardos, will support the development of an intervention targeted at the partners/fathers of vulnerable mothers.

Peer-led health interventions in schools: Using social network analysis to understand when and for whom they work

Supervisors: Dr Emily Long, Dr Mark McCann
Peer-led interventions capitalise on the influence of social networks to improve health behaviours. The extent to which the success of these interventions relies on characteristics of the peer leaders, or contextual factors such as type of school or family background, is currently unknown. This project will use two existing datasets (e.g., adolescent smoking, sexual health) to examine when, for whom, to what extent, and under what circumstances these interventions are effective. The successful applicant will receive training in quantitative research skills and in social network analysis.

How does PrEP change personal and interpersonal scripts in relation to condom use?

Lead supervisor: Prof Kirstin Mitchell
HIV PrEP prevents HIV negative individuals from contracting the HIV virus but condom use is still required to protect against other STIs such as gonorrhoea. In reducing fear and anxiety about HIV, PrEP has potential to influence both inclination and confidence to use condoms. This PhD will explore how ‘scripts’ that individuals use to talk about and use condoms are co-created between sexual partners both online (e.g. in dating apps) and face-to-face. Methods are likely to involve an online survey and longitudinal qualitative analysis with MSM prior to starting PrEP and several months later.

Digitally-mediated community-seeking in the context of mental health and isolation among older people

Supervisors: Dr Kathryn Skivington, Dr Elise Whitley, Dr Ruth Lewis
Social isolation and loneliness are associated with increased morbidity and mortality risk. Intervention is required to prevent those at risk from becoming socially isolated, and to promote healthy and successful ageing via stronger social networks. Online is one promising space to develop and maintain a network, but the opportunity for older people is unclear. This study will use an exploratory mixed-methods approach to explore the potential of digital connection and online communities for reducing social isolation and loneliness, and/or to buffer the mental health impact of life disruption and social isolation, among older people.

How to apply

Candidates are required to prepare a two A4 page research proposal. Please contact the supervisor of your proposed topic to discuss your proposal prior to submission.

Applications should be submitted to Postgraduate Admissions. Please ensure you apply to MVLS - MRC/CSO PhD Studentship.

The full set of supporting documents that are required to be uploaded at the point of application can be found here

  • CV/Resume
  • Degree certificate (if you have graduated prior to 1 July 2015)
  • Passport
  • Two A4 page research proposal (This should have been discussed with the Programme Leader/supervisor prior to submission).
  • Reference 1 (a full reference should be submitted from an academic who has a knowledge of your academic ability from your most recent study/programme)
  • Reference 2 (a full reference should be submitted from an academic who has a knowledge of your academic ability)
  • Transcripts

Full eligibility criteria is available here.

Once you have submitted your application, please email [email protected] to confirm. General enquiries regarding the application process can also be directed to this email address.

Closing Date: 24 February 2020
Interviews: 21 and 23 April 2020


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