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Better outcomes in motor neuron disease– NIHR funded clinical and non-clinical doctoral studentships

   Department of Neuroscience

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  Prof Chris McDermott, Dr E Hobson, Prof Donna Rowen, Dr Jill Carlton  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The specialist Sheffield MND Care and Research Centre at the Sheffield Institute of Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), University of Sheffield is leading the drive to develop and implement new technologies to improve the care for patients with motor neuron disease (MND). MND is an incurable disease and therefore, current treatment is focussed on slowing the progression and managing symptoms.

To help improve outcomes for people with MND, Professor Christopher McDermott has recently been awarded a Research Professorship from the National Institute for Health and Care Research. Through this, we can fund at least two attached PhD projects to address one of the following issues:

1)    Caring in MND – Measuring and understanding health related quality of life

The aim of this project is to explore how informal caring for people with MND impacts upon the health-related quality of life (QoL) of carers. This PhD project will seek to improve the measurement of QoL of MND carers through a systematic review and COSMIN (COnsensus-based Standards for the selection of health Measurement INstruments) assessment of the existing literature which reports on QoL of MND carers. This will be supplemented by a qualitative study with carers to further understand how caring in MND impacts on QoL.

2)   Preferences in MND – patient goals of therapy

The aim of this project is to estimate the outcome and/or treatment preferences of people living with MND (plwMND) and understand the relative importance of the different aspects of health related quality of life impacted by MND. This mixed methods project will involve systematic reviews, a qualitative interview study with plwMND and a discrete choice experiment (DCE) to estimate preferences.

3)   Development of decision aids for treatment choices in MND

The aim of this project is to develop decision aids to support key treatment choices in MND (nutritional management, respiratory support and end of life care). This project will involve systematic reviews and qualitative research to inform the development of the decision aids and iterative user-centred design approach to refine decision aid content, presentation and functionality.

Students will benefit from supervision from world leading researchers and a multidisciplinary professional team of clinicians and researchers. Along with the University of Sheffield’s doctoral development programme they will have access to research development from the NIHR Academy and the Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre and be encouraged to develop their research expertise with exposure to a range of subject areas including MND clinical therapies, PPI, user-centred design, qualitative and quantitative methodology, health economics and clinical trials.

Clinical applicants would deliver some clinical activity within the MDT based at the Sheffield MND Care Centre at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Students would also be expected to travel to other MND care centres or community services as part of their studies.

Entry Requirements:

Candidates must:

  1. have a relevant honours degree (2:1 or equivalent) in a relevant discipline (social or health sciences, economics), nursing or equivalent allied healthcare professional (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, dietician, physiologist) qualification
  2. have completed a master’s degree with merit or distinction (or a non-UK equivalent) in a relevant subject, or have relevant research experience
  3. have excellent verbal and written communication skills
  4. meet English language requirements (international applicants)
  5. for clinical applicants: have at least two years clinical relevance experience (e.g. neurology, long-term conditions, palliative care, service delivery).

How to apply:

Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here: www.shef.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/apply

Please clearly state the title of the studentship, the prospective main supervisor (Professor Christopher McDermott) and select Neuroscience as the department.

You will also need to include:

A personal statement stating which project you are interested in and why, your experience and your suitability for doctoral study

A document of 500 words describing how you would answer the research question and the research methods you would apply.

A copy of your CV.


Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Professor Christopher McDermott, Professor of Translational Neurology email [Email Address Removed] 

Proposed start date: October 2023

Funding Notes

The project is funded through the ‘Better outcomes in MND’ Research Professorship sponsored by the National Institute of Health Research (Chief Investigator: Professor Christopher McDermott).
For clinical applicants – Funding to cover 3.5 years, paid at equivalent to NHS Band 6 or Band 7 and clinical appointment as part of this PhD Fellowship.
For non-clinical applicants – Funding to cover 3.5 years, paid at the standard UKRI stipend rate.
Registration fees covered at UK rate. International registration fees would need to be covered by the student.
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