The Department of Psychology is pleased to announce that one departmental PhD Studentship will be available for one student intending to commence PhD studies in Psychology in September 2018. Applications will be accepted up to the closing date of the 15th of July 2018. Results of the selection process will be communicated to the applicants shortly afterwards.

 The studentship will entail:

  • Full annual tuition fees support (approximately €6200 per annum);
  • A fixed maintenance award of €9007 per annum;
  • Participation in departmental activities as a Graduate Teaching Assistant with a requirement to undertake teaching support duties for up to 25% of the notional study year. This will involve up to 455 hours of teaching support duties in the course of a year, with not more than 20 hours in any one week. These duties will be carried out under the direction of the Head of Department, or a member of staff nominated by the Head.
  • The studentship will be awarded for the duration of the studies, subject to satisfactory annual review of progress in research, and performance in teaching support. PhD students may benefit from the studentship for not more than 5 years.
  • The studentship will be awarded for the expected duration of the studies, subject to satisfactory annual review of progress in research, and performance in teaching support. Master’s degree students may benefit for not more than two years and PhD students for not more than 5 years, and this benefit is cumulative i.e. a maximum of 5 years is available where a student on a PhD-track progresses from Masters to PhD.
  • The studentship will be awarded by the department on the basis of (i) research potential in an area aligned with the department’s research priorities and (ii) potential and aptitude to provide high quality teaching support. 

 
 
Available Projects
               
The following projects are available through this scheme. For further discussion, please contact the indicated supervisor directly.
 
 
Dr. Laura Coffey (laura.coffey@mu.ie)

Best Foot Forward: Developing an mHealth intervention to promote foot self-care among individuals with diabetes

Diabetic foot ulceration (DFU) is considered the most common and costly complication of diabetes and is associated with a broad range of adverse physical and psychosocial outcomes, including significantly increased risks for depression, amputation and mortality. The personal, societal and economic burden of DFU coupled with the rapidly growing prevalence of diabetes worldwide highlights the importance of developing effective prevention strategies. The active engagement of individuals with diabetes in foot self-care behaviours that reduce their risk of developing DFU (e.g., daily inspection of feet, avoidance of behaviours that place the foot at risk, consistent use of appropriate footwear, attendance of annual foot screening) is a cornerstone of successful prevention, yet adherence is often very poor. The use of mobile technologies in healthcare (mHealth) is becoming increasingly commonplace and is transforming the way health services and information are accessed, delivered, and managed. A growing body of evidence indicates the value of mHealth as a means of supporting individuals with diabetes in managing their condition, but its potential in relation to DFU prevention has yet to be explored. The aim of the proposed research project is to conduct preliminary work towards the development of an mHealth intervention to promote engagement in foot self-care among individuals with diabetes and reduce their risk of DFU.
 
 
Dr. Michael Cooke (Michael.Cooke@mu.ie)

The department of psychology has an opportunity for a PhD candidate with an interest in studying the interaction between people and technology in complex organisational systems. The TRESSPASS project is an EU project that looks at the use of risk-based screening of travellers at border crossing points in order to increase security while also increasing the flow of people and goods. The candidate should have a keen interest in the issues surrounding the design and evaluation of technology and/or the professional activities of people in organisational contexts, specifically border crossing points. Interest in qualitative and ethnographic methods is also of benefit. Issues to be addressed may include the lived experience of professionals, such as border guards, methods for evaluating the effectiveness of tools for supporting work, or communication and coordination issues. Other specific topics may also be considered. The successful candidate must have the right to work/study in the EU and may be subject to a police background check.
 
 
Dr. Rebecca Maguire (rebecca.maguire@mu.ie)

Irrational fears or well-informed expectations? Uncovering the cognitive and emotional processes associated with health-related uncertainty.

Coping with any physical or mental health condition involves a number of uncertainties. Will the condition improve or deteriorate? Will treatment help, or will possible side effects outweigh potential benefits? These uncertainties can make decision making difficult and may also lead to increased fears and anxieties regarding one’s health. An important element of this process is the various expectations that a person forms about their prognosis, however the role that expectations play in patient quality of life is not widely understood within healthcare. While expectation-building is a cognitive process, people do not reason probabilistically and may have difficulty processing large amounts of health-related information.

In this project we aim to systematically investigate the nature of the expectations people hold about their health. We are particularly interested in the emotional, as well as the cognitive, aspects of expectations. Emotional associates of expectations include experiences of fear and hope, which may also be influenced by prior experiences of surprise and regret. We aim to establish how these different elements of patient expectations influence health-related decision making and overall well-being. Understanding this process in more detail has the potential to inform future interventions aimed at supporting those with chronic illness in dealing with uncertainty.

Research questions for this project may include:

  • What factors influence people’s expectations surrounding their health and treatment?
  • How do expectations predict health-related decision making and quality of life?
  • What factors can mitigate fears surrounding health and illness?
  • How should information be presented to patients in a way that leads to more appropriate expectations about prognosis and treatment?

This project may be investigated in a specialised patient population dealing with a specific physical or mental health condition, and/or could be applied more generally to the wider population.
 
 
Dr. Brenda O’Connell (Brenda.H.OConnell@mu.ie)

 More Thankful, Less Stressed?

Previous research has identified stable characteristics (age, gender, personality, andepigenetics) that render certain people more susceptible to the harmful effects of stress than others. Similarly, psychophysiological scholars have explored the role of psychosocial factors, such as social support, in buffering against pathogenic effects of stressful events. However, none of these works have addressed the central question of how positive psychological constructs, such as gratitude, may serve a protective role in how stress is perceived and affects the physiological systems that regulate stress. Students could therefore explore how gratitude, or gratitude inductions or interventions, influences psychophysiological reactivity to stressors and health outcomes.
 
 
Dr. Unai Diaz-Orueta (Unai.DiazOrueta@mu.ie)
 
The Department of Psychology has an opportunity for a PhD candidate with an interest in developing their work in the area of cognitive screening and neuropsychological assessment using a process-based approach. The recently finished EU funded E-SPACE project (www.e-spacedementiaproject.eu) is building a solid network of researchers and clinicians from Ireland, Spain and US, with links to additional countries such as France, Cyprus and Turkey, in order to develop and validate process-based approach versions of widely used cognitive screening tools and neuropsychological tests. The goal is to move beyond the mere consideration of total test scores and pay special attention to specific answers, strategies and type of errors that test respondents may show when completing a cognitive assessment, which may be helpful in a better and earlier determination of underlying causes of cognitive decline. The candidate should have a keen interest in working with older populations, both with healthy ageing and mild cognitive impairment or early stages of dementia. Interest both in quantitative and qualitative methods of research is an asset. The successful candidate must have the right to work/study in the EU and may be subject to a police background check.
 

Application.
Appointments will be made by the Head of Department based on a transparent internal recruitment process that meets the needs of the Department. Application to be made by e-mail to psychology.dept@mu.ie (by no later than the 15th of July 2015) to include:
 

  • A CV detailing academic experience, and any prior teaching experience; 
  • A cover letter outlining their motivation and suitability for the role.