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Applications for PhD Studentships in Psychology 2021 now open

Thu, 06 May 2021

PhD Studentships in Psychology 2021
Applications are invited from excellent candidates in relation to the PhD projects described below. It is recommended that potential applicants contact the supervisors informally prior to applying. Interested candidates may apply for PhD study throughout the year. However, two fully funded PhD studentships are available for PhD study starting autumn 2021. The Studentships include stipend and EU fees. For non-EU applicants, a non-EU fee waiver may also be available, but this cannot be guaranteed (a difference of approximately €6000p.a.). Selection for studentships will be competitive and will take place in May/June 2021. Shortlisted candidates should be available for interview in late May/early June for a virtual interview. Note that admission to the faculty of Education and Health Sciences to undertake a PhD degree is a separate process.

Applications can be made by submitting (1) a current two-page academic CV and (2) an expression of interest document to psychology@ul.ie with the subject PhD Studentship Application. The expression of interest document should be submitted in Word (.doc or .docx) format and should be no more than two pages. The applicant should describe their own suitability for one of the advertised projects (50% weighted) and how they propose to develop the project (50% weighted). Queries about the process can be made to mike.quayle@ul.ie.

The closing date for applications to the studentship competition is May 21st at 5pm (Irish Standard Time). We reserve the right to not make an award.

Title: On the Containment of Existential Concerns: The Role of Positive Existential Experiences
Supervisors: Dr Eric R. Igou (Eric.Igou@ul.ie), Dr Elaine L. Kinsella, Wijnand van Tilburg (University of Essex).
Project Description: People are likely to experience various existential threats such as boredom, regret, or disillusionment. (e.g., Igou, Van Tilburg, Kinsella, & Buckley, 2018; Maher, Igou, & Van Tilburg, 2020; Van Tilburg & Igou, 2018). Our research proposal builds on the idea that positive existential experiences (e.g., gratitude) reduce such existential threats and increase well-being. Specifically, we argue that positive existential experiences buffer against potential threats to people’s perceived meaning in life.
We are seeking a PhD student to become part of our large, internationally highly regarded research programme on existential experiences. Specifically, the PhD student will systematically examine 1) whether a particular positive existential experience is negatively associated with existential threat experiences, and 2) how the positive experience reduces such threat, and 3) whether and how the positive experience increases well-being by buffering against existential threats. Besides examining these fundamental psychological processes, the research seeks to contribute to insights that allow for the development of intervention programmes in everyday life and specific applied areas.

Title: An examination of the pathways that link personality traits to longevity across the lifespan
Supervisors: Dr. Páraic Ó Súilleabháin (paraic.osuilleabhain@ul.ie; Primary), Prof. Stephen Gallagher (University of Limerick), and Prof. Angelina Sutin (Florida State University)
Project Description: A large body of replicated research has demonstrated that personality traits are of crucial importance to health (Ferguson, 2013), and longevity (Jokela et al., 2013, O’Súilleabháin & Hughes, 2019; O’Súilleabháin et al., 2021). The different ways that our personality traits are linked to long-term risk of early death or a longer life is not clear. Some research has found pathways through behavioural factors (Turiano et al., 2015) with more recent research showing that biological markers such as the immune system link personality to a longer life (O’Súilleabháin et al., 2021). We are looking for a PhD student to become a member of our exciting international programme of research to uncover mechanisms that link how personality traits impact our mortality through both biological and behavioural processes across the lifespan. The successful student will avail of structured training and development opportunities throughout. This project will also have opportunities to collaborate with other international researchers throughout. This project will comprise of utilising existing international longitudinal data. Research methods will be quantitative and a student’s interest in developing skills in SPSS and in using other statistical software (namely MPlus) will be important. Those interested in this project should make contact with Dr. Páraic Ó Súilleabháin prior to making their application.

Title: Sense of coherence and cardiovascular adaptation to stress
Supervisors: Dr Siobhán Howard (siobhan.howard@ul.ie) and Prof Stephen Gallagher (stephen.gallagher@ul.ie)
Project Description: How people react and adapt to stress has long been the interest of researchers and clinicians in a wide range of health-relevant domains of study. In fact, one of psychology’s greatest contribution to the discipline of medicine has been detailing how stress affects the body. The guiding framework in this area has been the cardiovascular reactivity hypothesis, which has explored in detail how the magnitude of our blood pressure responses to stress predicts the development of cardiovascular disease. However, this paradigm has been under-explored as a means to detail how exactly one’s ability and capacity to adapt to stress can be protective. This PhD will explore this concept in further detail, looking at patterns of cardiovascular habituation-sensitization to stress. The PhD candidate will develop a programme of research aiming to explore how sense of coherence, a psychological marker of stress adaptive capacity, is associated with patterns of cardiovascular habituation-sensitization, a physiological marker of stress adaptive capacity.
We are seeking a PhD candidate to become part of our ongoing international research programme on stress research. The PhD candidate will become part of our SASHLab group (https://www.sashlab.com/) working within a team of researchers with the common goal of investigating how stress and anxiety affect our health.

Title: Health and well-being of caring in young caregivers.
Supervisors: Prof Stephen Gallagher (Stephen.gallagher@ul.ie) and Dr Jennifer McMahon
Project Description: Providing care to a sick or disabled family member is often associated with poorer health. The majority of this research tends to concentrate on adult carers, with little attention paid to children and young adult caregivers. We are interested in looking at the short and long-term health and social impact on young adults who provide care to family members. The PhD candidate will develop a programme of research aiming to explore protective or harmful effects of psychosocial factors on young caregivers’ health and examine underlying pathways, which may include biological parameters.
We are seeking a PhD candidate to become part of our ongoing international research programme on stress and health research. The PhD candidate will become part of our SASHLab group (https://www.sashlab.com/) working within a team of researchers with the common goal of investigating how stress and anxiety affect our health.

Title: Who Belongs and Why? Mapping the Terrain : Immigrant and Receiving Country Social Identities
Supervisors: Dr Ronni M. Greenwood (ronni.greenwood@ul.ie) and Dr Anca Minescu
Project Description: In the social sciences, researchers have mostly overlooked the capacity of a host country to respond positively to immigrants, and perhaps for honest reasons. Debates and discourses about immigrants and immigration are often vitriolic and contentious; accordingly, researchers have attended to the receiving country’s propensity for negative and punitive responses. But for a fuller picture of how immigrants are received, it is important to develop theories and design research that account for positive responses to immigrants and their concerns. The goal of this project is to shift away from the assumption that receiving countries’ default response to immigrants is antipathy, and shift toward an approach that accounts for a fuller range of possible responses. Our goal is to take an intersectional approach to social identities and intergroup relations to develop a programme of research that begins from the assumption that responses to immigrants and immigration are variable, fluid, complex, and often mixed in terms of attitudes, behaviours, and emotions. We will explore the identity-related psychological processes and socio-cultural factors that either facilitate or inhibit pro-social emotions, pro-immigrant attitudes and support for pro-immigrant policies and actions. Specifically, the PhD student will work with Dr Ronni Greenwood and Dr Anca Minescu build on recent research (Deaux & Greenwood, 2013; Greenwood, 2012; Greenwood et al., 2017; Savas et al., 2021; Vine & Greenwood, 2021). Activities will include a series of quantitative and qualitative studies in which the PhD student will test hypotheses about intersecting identities and, for example, positive intergroup emotions, pro-immigrant attitudes, and political solidarity.

Title: The effects of identity strategies on well-being and social inclusion
Supervisors: Dr. Anca Minescu (Anca.minescu@ul.ie) and Dr. Ronni Michelle Greenwood
Project Description: Diversity can be challenging for an individual (whether people belong to two/more cultures, or encounter diversity in everyday life), for communities and organizations, where separation, intolerance and exclusion can occur. This research expands psychological theory and applications by exploring how individuals overcome these challenges and why some adjust to diversity better than others. This research aims to develop an innovative approach based on identity strategies people use in culturally diverse context, and a valid measure to evaluate strategies. It also explores the effect of identity strategies (categorical vs fluid) on well-being and social inclusion in universities and multinational companies. Based on findings, an “Identity Training Toolkit” will be developed to support people in negotiating diversity with better psychological and social results.
In particular we are interested to explore fluid identities strategies expected to result in less exclusion of people who are different, because it does not reify group categories.
This association can have a profound effect on a larger social scale: increased well-being of individuals and increased ability to accept differences will result in more inclusive work and educational contexts, and society, more generally. A combination of experimental and field methods will be used to test hypotheses among international students and employees at multinational companies.

Title: Understanding loneliness in adolescents: Prevention and intervention in school settings
Supervisors: Dr. Jennifer McMahon (Jennifer.mcmahon@ul.ie) and Dr. Ann-Marie Creaven
Project Description: Loneliness is a subjective negative experience that results from perceiving our social relationships to be inadequate. It is an important issue for adolescents, with lifelong mental health consequences, and school is a critical setting of interest for understanding and intervening with young people. This PhD will examine factors associated with loneliness specifically in adolescence with a particular focus on school factors e.g., school climate, class and teacher relationships. Naturally, we are seeking a student with a keen interest in school-based mental health initiatives and adolescent development. In addition, the ideal candidate will also have an interest in developing key methodological skills (primarily, quantitative statistical analysis skills but also, qualitative, and systematic review skills). The PhD is supervised by Dr. Jennifer McMahon and Dr. Ann-Marie Creaven.