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PhD Studentship Opportunity in Advancing knowledge of Autism in rare genetic syndromes

Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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Dr J Moss No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Children with genetic syndromes associated with intellectual disability are more likely to show characteristics of autism relative to other children with intellectual disability who do not have a genetic syndrome and to the wider general population (Moss & Howlin, 2009; Richards et al., 2015). Despite this increased risk, recognition of autism and related characteristics as part of clinical practice is significantly reduced in this population, leading to poorer long-term prognosis for these individuals (Reilly et al., 2015). Contributing to these lower recognition rates is the fact that the presentation of autism characteristics is often atypical within individual syndrome groups and highly heterogenous across different genetic conditions (Moss et al., 2013). The aims of this PhD are to:

i: evaluate the social-cognitive mechanisms that underly the development of atypical presentations of autism in individuals with genetic syndromes.

ii: identify the predictive factors that contribute to the complex pattern of heterogeneity of autism characteristics evident in this population.

iii: consider how these complexities impact on the utility of existing autism diagnostic assessments for this population.

The successful candidate will use a range of research methods including informant questionnaire surveys, behavioural observation and eye-tracking methods to address the aims. They will communicate with families and stakeholders to ensure effective dissemination of the work, as well as traditional scientific communication via academic papers and conferences. They will contribute to the wider Network of research and work with PhD students and researchers across the Network.

Entry requirements:

• 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 2020
• 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
• Evidence of being able to disseminate research findings (e.g. via a seminar or conference presentation, or a journal publication)
• Familiarity with open research practices

How to apply:

Prospective candidates are required to apply first using the University of Surrey on-line application system. Although the standard application deadline is 20 July, you will be able to apply until the 7 August deadline for this studentship.

With your application, please provide:
• A two-page project proposal for the PhD, outlining a plan for your PhD research. The project can include a single syndrome or multiple rare syndromes associated with ID. It can address one or more of the stated research aims. Within the two-page proposal, please include a 250 word lay-summary suitable for families of children with rare genetic syndromes, explaining the purpose and value of the research.
• CV
• 2 references
• Transcript of grades

Interviews will be held w/c 17th August.

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover all UK/EU tuition fees with a stipend of £15,285 per annum.

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