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Positive balance: building wellbeing and resilience skills for youth via digital technologies

   School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

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  Dr Elisabetta Versace, Prof Nick Bryan-Kinns  No more applications being accepted  Awaiting Funding Decision/Possible External Funding

About the Project

  • Supervisors: Dr Elisabetta Versace, Prof Nick Bryan-Kinns, Dr Sevasti Foka and Dr Giorgia Michelini
  • Funding: China Scholarship Council (CSC)
  • Deadline: 31st January 2023

Research environment

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 180 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

The successful applicant will be part of the vibrant Department of Psychology, in the Resilience, Health and Well-being thematic group and in the Prepared minds lab (Dr Versace,https://www.preparedmindslab.org/ ), and will also be part of the Bryan-Kinns lab, contributing to the Interaction Design theme of the Sonic Interaction Design Lab ( http://sid.eecs.qmul.ac.uk ).

More broadly, the student will join the Social Interaction Health and Wellbeing (SIHW) group, a research group joint between Psychology, Engineering and Psychiatry at Queen Mary University of London. This will be an opportunity to expand skills in different research areas.

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

Our team will offer specific trainind in positive psychology, mental health and human/computer inteactions. The training at Queen mary UNiversity includes professional development courses on soft skills, scientific communication, data analysis, specific content courses offered by the univerisity, tailored on the needs and interests of the student.

Project description

Diigital apps to support mental health interventions are becoming popular, so rigorous experimental studies are needed to validate these approaches. The efficacy of positive psychology interventions delivered via digital apps has just started to be investigated. We have showed that short positive psychology interventions delivered during adolescence can counteract the negative effects of stressful events, enhancing character strengths, positive emotions, hope and meaning in life. However, few adolescents have access to positive psychology interventions.

An app to deliver positive psychology interventions for adolescents and young adults could address this need. The aim of this project is to develop and test a smartphone app to support positive psychology interventions during adolescence and compare its efficacy to in-person delivery. We will focus on a general population of vocational dance students, since this is a non-clinical population exposed to potentially stressful events and life transitions, that can benefit from a positive psychology intervention.

In this interdisciplinary project, the student will develop the smartphone app, become familiar with positive psychology interventions, learn how to deliver the positive psychology intervention in person and using the app, test its efficacy on a general population of adolescents/young adults using advanced statistical methods. This project will provide much needed evidence to evaluate, validate and improve positive psychology and mental health digital interventions. 

Eligibility and applying

Applicants must be:

- Chinese students with a strong academic background.

- Students holding a PR Chinese passport.

- Either be resident in China at the time of application or studying overseas.

- Students with prior experience of studying overseas (including in the UK) are eligible to apply. Chinese QMUL graduates/Masters’ students are therefore eligible for the scheme.

Please refer to the CSC website for full details on eligibility and conditions on the scholarship. 

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project such as clinical and positive psychology, mental health, interactive technologies, interaction, human-computer interaction, digital interfaces . A masters degree is desirable, but not essential. We don't expect candidates to have experience in all the areas of this interdisciplianry project, but at least in some, and to have interest in both digital technologies and mental health/psychology.

Self-motivation, commitment, Interest in mental health and digital technologies, computational skills, excellent communication and interpersonal skills are required.

Applicants from outside of the UK are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/international-students/englishlanguagerequirements/postgraduateresearch/

Informal enquiries about the project can be sent to Dr Elisabetta Versace at [Email Address Removed]. PLease get in touch as soon as possible since formal applications must be submitted through our online form by 31st January 2023 for consideration, including a CV, personal statement and qualifications. 

Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a formal interview by the project supervisor. Those who are successful in their application for our PhD programme will be issued with an offer letter which is conditional on securing a CSC scholarship along with academic conditions still required to meet our entry requirements.

Once applicants have obtained their offer letter from Queen Mary they should then apply to CSC for the scholarship by the advertised deadline with the support of the project supervisor.

For September 2023 entry, applicants must complete the CSC application on the CSC website between 10th March - 31st March 2023. Only applicants who are successful in their application to CSC can be issued an unconditional offer and enrol on our PhD programme.

For further information, please go to: https://www.qmul.ac.uk/scholarships/items/china-scholarship-council-scholarships.html

Apply Online

Funding Notes

This studentship is open to students applying for China Scholarship Council funding. Queen Mary University of London has partnered with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to offer a joint scholarship programme to enable Chinese students to study for a PhD programme at Queen Mary. Under the scheme, Queen Mary will provide scholarships to cover all tuition fees, whilst the CSC will provide living expenses for 4 years and one return flight ticket to successful applicants.


Foka, Sevasti, Kristin Hadfield, Michael Pluess, and Isabelle Mareschal. ‘Promoting Well-Being in Refugee Children: An Exploratory Controlled Trial of a Positive Psychology Intervention Delivered in Greek Refugee Camps’. Development and Psychopathology 33, no. 1 (February 2021): 87–95. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579419001585.
Patton, George C, Susan M Sawyer, John S Santelli, David A Ross, Rima Afifi, Nicholas B Allen, Monika Arora, et al. ‘Our Future: A Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing’. The Lancet 387, no. 10036 (June 2016): 2423–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00579-1.
Torous, J., Andersson, G., Bertagnoli, A., Christensen, H., Cuijpers, P., Firth, J., Haim, A., Hsin, H., Hollis, C., Lewis, S., Mohr, D.C., Pratap, A., Roux, S., Sherrill, J. and Arean, P.A. (2019), Towards a consensus around standards for smartphone apps and digital mental health. World Psychiatry, 18: 97-98. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20592
Gallo, Vincent, Xin Zhou, Diane Abdallah, Manuela Angioi, Emma Redding, Beth Ackroyd, Chiara Galvan, and Elisabetta Versace. ‘MotionPerfection: An Agile Tool for the Visualisation, Analysis, Annotation, and Record of Motor Practice’, 2022, 5.
Twitchett, Emily, Manuela Angioi, Yiannis Koutedakis, and Matthew Wyon. ‘The Demands of a Working Day Among Female Professional Ballet Dancers’ Journal of dance medicine & science 127–132.
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