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ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) collaborative doctoral studentship - STAHR at Starlight Neonatal Unit

Technology offers potential for innovations in the delivery of early intervention (EI) for high risk babies in order to reduce geographic discrepancies and increase access to EI. This project aims to improve understanding of the transactional behaviours of high-risk infants and their parents in order to integrate technologies, capturing both emotional and behavioural data, to develop a ‘virtual’ EI programme that can bridge the transition between Neonatal Intensive Care units (NICU) and home.

The project will examine the emotional and behavioural interactions of high-risk infants and their parent in early phases of development and care-giving and consider whether technologies can enable understanding of emotional and behavioural cues, to support a better match between infants’ cues and the response of the care-giver. This project will thus provide an increased understanding of the physical and emotional interactions of high risk infants with their parents in order to develop digital health/virtual/augmented (VR) reality training to support positive parent-infant interactions and confident parenting and attachment.

We encourage applications from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and from candidates with excellent skills in secondary data analysis, qualitative research methods and developing strategies for mixed methods research. A knowledge of infant behaviour and or behaviour analysis will be important.

Precise research questions and methods to be discussed, refined and agreed between Doctoral Researcher. Mixed methods are likely to include:

  • Examination and coding of interactions of infants and parents to map transactions between emotions and movements during the EI SMART intervention delivered in the Starlight Neonatal Clinic at RFL;
  • Utilise existing technologies to measure emotional responses in infants and combine with behavioural/motion analysis to provide real-time enhanced feedback using affordable devices
  • Translation and dissemination methods

Use this information to inform remote delivery of EI-SMART therapy programme.

The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (RFL) is a National Health Service organisation providing health and rehabilitation to the population at local, regional as well as national level.. This project reflects the shared interests of Brunel University London scholars and colleagues at the RFL for advancing understanding of health and wellbeing to improve outcomes for high risk infants and their families, improving access to EI and addressing imbalances in health care delivery. Broadly, the role of the RFL within the proposed project will include:

  1. provision of supervisory support by in-house expertise in assessment and delivery of Early Intervention (EI)

2. provision of a collaborative working environment and inclusive working space at the RFL (COVID-19 managed) to enable the Doctoral Researcher to have access to training, users (parents and their infants), key meetings, training opportunities and knowledge exchange opportunities.



Studentship Details:

The PhD studentship will be funded by the Grand Union DTP for an expected 3 years (or part-time equivalent) from October 2021. The award length offered may differ depending on the candidate’s prior training and how they meet ESRC training requirements. Information about Grand Union DTP ESRC studentships and eligibility can be found on the Grand Union DTP website.

How to apply

Tuesday 26th January 2021 midday GMT

Interviews Wednesday 10th February

How to apply for this studentship 

To apply for the studentship you must submit:

  1. A Grand Union DTP Application form, downloadable from: https://www.granduniondtp.ac.uk/how-apply#tab-1440826
  2. 2000 word research proposal including references. Your proposal can draw on the description of the research detailed
  3. Two written references, they should have a good knowledge of your academic record to date and your plans for the research project. They should be in a position to judge your suitability and preparedness for doctoral study. Only one of your two referees can be a member of your proposed (or actual) supervisory team. You may ask the supervisor of your Masters dissertation to be one of your referees.

References must include: The referee’s name and their relationship to you and comment on your previous performance/achievements

  1. Your up-to-date CV;
  2. Your single A4 page, single-spaced personal statement setting out why you are interested in undertaking this project;
  3. Your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s);
  4. Evidence of your English language capability to IELTS 7.0 or equivalent, if appropriate;
  5. Completed Equal Opportunities form

Please email all completed documents to Emma.Smith@brunel.ac.uk with the subject header –Health and Wellbeing ESRC DTP Collaborative Studentship application by 24th February 2021 @ Midday.

The admissions process is in two parts: applications will be assessed by the institution and the selected candidate will then be assessed as part of the applicant pool for ESRC Grand Union DTP funding.