PhD Studentships in Psychology 2022/23
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, fully funded PhD studentships are available for PhD study starting January 2023. The Studentship will include a stipend (€11,000) 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 early December 2022. Shortlisted candidates should be available for interview in early December for an online 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com. The closing date for applications to the studentship competition is December 5th at 5pm (Irish Standard Time). We reserve the right to not make an award.
Title: Psychological resilience and cardiovascular adaptation to stress
Supervisors: Dr Siobhán Howard (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Prof Stephen Gallagher (email@example.com)
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. The guiding framework in this area has been the cardiovascular reactivity hypothesis, which has explored in detail how 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 psychological resilience, a psychological marker of stress adaptive capacity, is associated with patterns of cardiovascular habituation-sensitization.
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: Pre-burnout in Workplace Heroes: Identifying the early warning signs for burnout at work
Supervisors: Dr Elaine L. Kinsella (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Rachel C. Sumner (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
Project Description: Burnout is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a syndrome resulting from unmanaged chronic workplace stress (ICD-11); and is characterised by feelings of emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy at work. The cost of burnout is carried not only by the worker and the people close to them, but also, by organisations and governments through absenteeism and turnover.
While burnout has become part of everyday discourse (e.g., feeling ‘burnt-out’) and decades of research on topic exists, there are many questions left unanswered in relation to the psychological, social and biological influences on burnout trajectories. At present, there is limited knowledge about the early warning signs for burnout and it is difficult to make predictions about which workers, in which contexts, are at the greatest risk of burnout.
This proposed PhD project will include a novel programme of work to:
i) Scope existing literature on the early indicators (i.e., early warning signs) for burnout via scoping or systematic review with focus on individual, social and occupational factors.
ii) Conduct new empirical research via semi-structured interviews to examine precursors to burnout with samples from different occupational groups (with particular focus on heroic roles involving physical, social or financial risk).
iii) Begin the process of piloting scale items for a brief tool for identifying early indicators of burnout. By identifying the early warning signs for burnout, it is hoped that people in particular work contexts who are most vulnerable to burnout will be identifiable, receive targeted supports, and avoid burnout.
We are seeking an ambitious and capable PhD candidate to become part of our ongoing international programme on burnout research. They should have an interest in working with multiple methods of research and analysis, and have a keen interest in psychometric assessment. This opportunity would be well-suited to a researcher with postgraduate experience in health or work/organisational psychology.
Title: Feeling trusted – effects on stress experience, physiological reactions, and health
Supervisors: Dr. Ann-Christin Posten (email@example.com) and Prof Stephen Gallagher
Project Description: Trust comes with generally positive effects, such as cooperation on the interpersonal level and positive physiological reactions on the individual level, such as a more adaptive response to COVID-vaccinations. However, building trust is a complex endeavour that is influenced by many variables. Specifically in the setting of institutions and authorities (e.g., states, governments) increasing the level of trust is hard to achieve. Recent research shows that not only experiencing trust, but also the feeling of being trusted comes with substantial positive effects, such as increased levels of interpersonal cooperation. Thus, being the recipient of someone’s trust also benefits relationships. However, little is known about positive outcomes of the experience of being trusted on the individual’s end. This research builds on initial findings showing the impact of being trusted on emotional reactions and aims to derive a deeper understanding on how an individual’s well-being is affected by the feeling of being trusted. Thereby, we aim to investigate if people who experience that others (e.g., their school, government, parents, peers) trust them benefit as an individual by being able to cope with potential stress, which could stem from different psychological mechanisms, such as increased self-efficacy. The proposed effect might show on self-report measures, physiological stress parameters, as well as in the long-run on increased feelings of personal well-being and health. Importantly, expressing one’s trust is something that can be actively steered by individuals as well as by authorities. Investigating how expressed trust affects people’s well-being might therefore influence campaigns to enhance people’s psychological and physiological well-being.
Title: A social identity approach to internalised stigma
Supervisors: Dr. Aisling O’Donnell (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Daragh Bradshaw (email@example.com)
Project description: Stigma is the devaluing of a person or group on the basis of some characteristic. People who are the subject of stigma can be thought of as having or acquiring a stigmatised identity; something that labels them but also groups them together with others who share that identity, much like any other social identity. Some stigmatised identities may be otherwise valued (e.g., minority sexual identities) while others may be more difficult to identify with (e.g., chronic illness; overweight and obesity; drug use). Importantly, there are different aspects to stigma: stigmatised people not only perceive that others stigmatise them, but they may anticipate experiencing discrimination if their stigmatised status becomes known, and internalise stigma, where negative stereotypes about the stigmatised identity are accepted and applied to the self. This latter aspect, internalised stigma, has been argued to be most closely related to psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety. When it comes to predicting who will internalise stigma the most, though, social psychology has not had much to say. Most research focuses on individual difference variables such as personality traits and self-esteem in predicting internalised stigma. The proposed PhD project would start to develop a social identity analysis of internalised stigma, investigating factors from the social identity approach to health, such as the (in)compatibility between the stigmatised identity and the person’s pre-existing social identities, and the perceived stability and permeability of stigmatised status.
Title: Exploring optimal management of gestational diabetes
A mixed methods study Supervisors: Dr Ann-Marie Creaven (firstname.lastname@example.org); Dr Aisling O’Donnell (email@example.com) & Dr Tomás Griffin (School of Medicine; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Project Description: Gestational diabetes mellitus refers to diabetes that develops during pregnancy and that usually (but not always) resolves after birth. Managing gestational diabetes requires regular testing of blood sugar levels, attention to diet, and regular exercise; it may also require insulin medication. By definition, gestational diabetes diagnosis occurs during pregnancy. This experience can be stressful, and the person must rapidly learn to manage this condition for the remainder of the pregnancy. However, factors that support optimal management of gestational diabetes in Ireland are not well-understood. The PhD candidate will develop a programme of research exploring the experience of living with and managing gestational diabetes and identifying individual and wider social and family factors that can support optimal diabetes management during pregnancy. The PhD researcher will be based in the Department of Psychology and the project will be conducted in collaboration with the School of Medicine and University Hospital Limerick.
Title: The impact of maternal incarceration on individuals, families, and communities
Supervisors: Dr Daragh Bradshaw (email@example.com), Dr Anca Minescu (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Project Description: While recent years has seen an overall decrease in prison populations, there has been a dramatic increase in maternal incarceration (The Sentencing Project, 2022). This is of particular concern as maternal incarceration is associated with negative social, emotional, behavioural, and educational outcomes for children involved (Wakefield, 2022). While some studies identify compromised social and caregiving environments as potential explanations, few studies explore the mechanisms through which negative outcomes are transmitted (Bradshaw et al., 2021). The current project aims to better understand the experience of maternal incarceration as well as its impact on families and the wider community. We are seeking a student with an interest in qualitative, quantitative, and systematic review methods.
Title: MY-Psy - Promoting Mental Health and Well-Being in Youth through Psychological Science
Supervisors: Dr Jennifer McMahon (email@example.com); Dr Siobhán Howard (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Project Description: Youth mental health issues have been increasing globally over the last decade, and are the most prominent health issue facing youth (Kelly & Coughlan, 2019).
School environments are important settings for adolescent mental health promotion and intervention (e.g., suicide prevention) due to their population reach, and mandate enactment (Walsh et al., 2022; White et al., 2012). A recent systematic review (Walsh et al., 2022) of school-based suicide prevention programmes recommended widening the scope of school based mental health and well-being programmes. Additionally, the concept of co-designing these programmes with youth has demonstrated success across the literature in improving scope, and well-being promotion outcomes (Nakarada-Kordic et al., 2017).
We are seeking a PhD candidate to become part of the design team for a positive mental health and well-being promotion programme for secondary school students in Transition year (ages 15-17 years approximately). Funded by Science Foundation Ireland, MY-Psy (MY-Psychology) is a twelve-session mental health and well-being promotion programme that emphasises co-design with youth, in collaboration with education and advisory partners.
The PhD candidate will develop a programme of research to compliment the investigation into how this pilot psychological education programme acts to promote positive mental health and well-being in a diverse group of young people. The candidate will also become part of our SCY-Lab group (School, Child & Youth Mental Health and Well-Being Lab) working within a team of researchers.
Title: On the Social & Personality Psychology of Neo-Fascism
Supervisors: Professor Eric R. Igou (email@example.com) and Dr. Paul Maher (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Project Description: This project stands in the tradition of the social and personality psychology of fascism: Examining the social context, ideologies, and personality variables that explain why some people, under some circumstances, endorse authoritarian and often racist and sexist social movements and their leaders. This project will focus on modern versions of fascist movements and leaders in the “Western” world. It will combine traditional and novel theories about the impact of personalities, contexts, ideologies, and intra- and inter-group processes. Particular – and unusual, innovative – foci will be on the concepts of societal characters and ideological constructions within the systems the people operate. One of the goals will be to make assumptions under which conditions particular social groups are most vulnerable to fascist ideas and movements and factors that prevent such developments. We seek ambitious candidates with knowledge of and a profound interest in social and/or personality psychology. As the project will involve advanced quantitative research methods, solid knowledge of statistics (using SPSS or R) is necessary. The Ph.D. student will become a member of the SOCO-UL Lab (https://socoullab.wordpress.com), which hosts regular meetings of students and staff members of the Psychology Department. Besides being an exciting project, we expect it to be promising in laying the foundation for an academic career. Thus, we would welcome candidates who want to explore this possibility.