- Supervisors: Dr Elisabetta Versace, Prof Nick Bryan-Kinns (EECS), Dr Manuela Angioi (WHRI), Dr Sevasti Foka, Dr Giorgia Michelini
- Funding: ESRC-Funded LISS DTP Case Studentship
- Deadline: 1st March 2023
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 150 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.
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.
The successful applicant will be part of the vibrant Department of Psychology, in the Resilience, Health and Well-being thematic groups, in Dr Versace's Prepared Minds Lab and the Bryan-Kinns lab, contributing to the Interaction Design theme of the Sonic Interaction Design Lab. You will also join the Social Interaction Health and Wellbeing (SIHW) group, a research group joint between Psychology, Engineering and Psychiatry at QMUL and also collaborate with prestigious dance schools.
Stressful events, such as life transitions and a demanding lifestyle can be detrimental to mental health and well-being, which is exacerbated in adolescence, during the transition to adult life. We previously showed that short positive psychology interventions delivered during adolescence can counteract the negative effects of stressful events, offering protection by drawing attention to character strengths, experiences of positive emotions, hope and meaning in life- effectively promoting psychological well-being. However, few adolescents have access to positive psychology interventions, which can be addressed with digital technologies open to a broader audience.
The aim of this project is to develop and validate an open-source smartphone app (PositiveBalance) to support positive psychology interventions in adolescence for a wide audience. We will focus on a group in the general population that can particularly benefit from this intervention- exposed to stressful events during adolescence: dancers in vocational dance schools, that experience a quick transition to adult life while being exposed to high expectations and a demanding lifestyle, often from their family. Through a user-centred approach, we will adapt an in-person positive psychology intervention(based on fostering self-esteem, hope, optimism, self-compassion) to the digital format.
Year 1: We will run an in-person positive psychology intervention. To test for efficacy of the intervention, we will compare mental health and well-being before and after the intervention in control and experimental groups. Results and participants’ feedback will be used to adapt the intervention to the digital format and to refine the app for the second cohort.
Year 2: The in-person positive psychology intervention will be alternated with digital activities delivered via the app, comparing the effect of in-person and digital delivery. We will also digitally engage with the previous cohort, to test the efficacy of follow-up digital activities and further improving app usability.
Year 3: We will deliver the entire intervention via the app, compare the efficacy of in-person/partially digital/fully digital delivery and evaluate the potential advantages of follow-up digital interventions.
The project will be run in collaboration with two world leaders in the field of dance training: The Royal Ballet School and The English National Ballet School; advocates for mental health. Through close collaboration with the institutions' health managers, the project will benefit from access to an international cohort of adolescents, reflecting the needs of a variety of cultures. They are likely to continue with a demanding lifestyle, so participants will benefit from using the PositiveBalance during professional life, contributing to the impact of the project and long-term validation.
Our partners will support us in tailoring the positive psychology activities to the dancers and manualising the intervention. The project will have a direct impact on the dancers and will provide fundamental evidence needed to evaluate and improve positive psychology and mental health digital interventions.
This studentship is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (LISS-DTP), covering home tuition fees, and an annual tax-free maintenance allowance for 3 years at the UKRI rate (£19,668 in 2022/23)
International (including EU) applicants are eligible to apply; however international fees are substantially higher. We are able to recruit a limited number of international students to the programme in line with ESRC guidance (maximum 30% of intake), so we are unable to guarantee places to any/all international applicants.
Click here to find further details about the award.
Eligibility and applying
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.
Some computational skills are required. A masters degree is desirable, but not essential.
Candidates are not expected to have experience in all areas, but in some and to have interest in both digital technologies and mental health/psychology. Self-motivation, commitment, computational skills and excellent communication and interpersonal skills are essential.
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/
Please include the following documents in your application:
1. A motivation letter (max 1 A4 page)
3. Draft project that explains how they would like to develop the project (max 1 A4 page)
4. 2 x Reference Letters
5. A copy of a completed LISS DTP Application Form 2023 [DOC 123KB]
The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences is committed to promoting diversity in science; we have been awarded an Athena Swan Silver Award. We positively welcome applications from underrepresented groups.