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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Autism and Co-occurring Health Conditions

Project Description


Autism is characterised by social-communicative difficulties and restrictive behaviours. Most autism research has focused on biological and cognitive approaches to explain autistic symptomatology and related conditions. However, there is also an ongoing need to account for important sociocultural factors (e.g., personal relative deprivation; Callan, Kim, & Matthews, 2015: to improve understanding and management of autism and co-occurring ‘physical’ (e.g., gastrointestinal disturbance) and ‘mental’ (e.g., depression) health conditions.

To address these issues, the student will complete a highly interdisciplinary PhD through publication of research articles (see, under the supervision of experts in autism, social-cognitive psychology, and the biological basis of ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ health.

This will begin with an interdisciplinary review of the literature on autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions (Proposed Articles 1 & 2), which will inform ambitious and novel experiments on (a)typical socially-driven health behaviours (Articles 3 to 5). This will involve using advanced quantitative methods to analyse primary and secondary datasets, e.g., involving (epi)genetic and social psychological variables, in non-clinical, autistic, and psychiatric populations.

Together, this project aims to create a novel approach to studying autism and related conditions. This will generate new, evidence-based, adjustments in education and workplace settings, with the aim of improving health and wellbeing in autistic people (Article 6). The successful candidate will help design the proposed studies and conduct additional research in line with their research interests.

The articles will be submitted to medical, psychology, and specialised autism/social psychology journals. The research will be conducted with, and include lab visits to, academic partners in Cambridge and Cardiff. The project, including patient and public involvement in the research process, will also be conducted within nationwide frameworks for supporting autistic people, such as the National Autistic Society’s Student Support Services:


Applicant should have a high 2.1 (68+) or 1st class undergraduate degree in Psychology or a related discipline. An MSc at Merit or Distinction level or relevant research experience is also desirable.


Please contact Professor Callan () with a CV to express your interest in applying for this studentship and find out more about the proposed project.

The application process has two stages: the first involves submitting a short research proposal (2-3 paragraphs), a CV, and degree transcripts to Professor Callan by 1st December 2019. The second involves submitting a formal online application to study a PhD in Psychology, if advised to do so, to the University of Bath by 21st January 2020 12 noon GMT. The successful applicant will be closely supported in developing a research proposal.

Funding Notes

If successful, funding would be provided by either an SWDTP ESRC studentship or a University of Bath studentship (URSA). Eligible applicants may receive for three years of full-time study: Home/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend for living costs as per research council rates. Students also receive a personal allowance for training and conference attendance.

Please check what kind of award you may be eligible for: View Website

Successful applicants would be expected to commence their PhD studies in September 2020. The successful applicant will acquire skills that will equip them for careers in academia or further study (e.g., the DClinPsych).

How good is research at University of Bath in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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