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Using social networks to encourage teenagers to become more physically active

   School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences

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  Dr M Donnelly, Dr R Hunter  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project


The PhD student will work within a multidisciplinary team of researchers (including Prof Tom Valente, University of Southern California) to design, implement and evaluate a novel social network intervention to increase physical activity in teenagers.

Method: The PhD programme will comprise 3 main components:

(i) Systematic review – investigating the effectiveness of previous social network interventions for health behaviour change (physical activity, smoking, diet, alcohol) in adolescents (13-18 year olds);
(ii) Exploration of social networks for physical activity behaviour change – using quantitative and/or qualitative methods, the student will explore, with a sample of adolescents, how their social networks, including friends and family, influence health behaviours and to investigate how we can utilise these networks to increase physical activity;
(iii) Feasibility study – this information will be used to inform the development of a novel social network intervention to increase physical activity in adolescents.

We welcome applications from honours graduates (2.1 or higher degree classification) in a relevant discipline who have an interest in public health interventions designed to increase physical activity.


Candidates should have or expect to obtain a 2:1 or higher Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant biomedical or life sciences subject or behavioural and social sciences.

English Language

Candidates applying from countries where the first language is not English should produce evidence of their competence through a qualification such as IELTS or TOEFL score.
The minimum recommended score for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science is:

• IELTS score of 6.5 with not less than 6.0 in each of the four component elements of listening, reading, speaking and writing taken within the last 2 years;
• TOEFL score of 90+ (internet basted test), taken within the last 2 years, with minimum component scores of; Listening 20, Reading 19, Speaking 21, Writing 20);
• A valid Certificate of Proficiency in English grade A or B;
• A valid Certificate of Advanced English grade A; or
• A first or upper second class honours degree from a university based in the UK, Republic of Ireland or other suitably quality assured location in a country deemed by the UK Border Agency to be majority English speaking.

For a list of English Language qualifications also accepted by the School and University please see the following link:

The English Language Unit (ELU) offers both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in English for academic purposes and study skills. Courses vary in length and full information can be obtained from the ELU


This project will involve Regulated Activity (working with children and/or vulnerable groups).
The successful applicant will be required to supply their details to the School Postgraduate Office in order for a criminal history check to be undertaken (Enhanced Disclosure Checks). The project will be conditional on the successful applicant being issued with a satisfactory Enhanced Disclosure Certificate.

Funding Notes


UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health (NI)

Eligibility for both fees and maintenance (£14,057 for 2015/16) depends on the applicants being either an ordinary UK resident or those EU residents who have lived permanently in the UK for the 3 years immediately preceding the start of the studentship. Non UK residents who hold EU residency may also apply but if successful may receive fees only.


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Public Health, website for further details about this project and the Research Centre:

When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School.

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