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STEAM Scholarships

Health, Education and Life Sciences

PhD researcher

The Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences (HELS) is centred on our City South Campus. The Faculty has a strong focus on the training of health and education professionals with a rapidly growing life sciences portfolio.

The closing date for applications is 23.59 on 13 October 2017.

HELS is making major investments in growing the quality and volume of research across its three constituent Schools (The Schools of Education and Social Work, Health Sciences, and Nursing and Midwifery) through investments in academic staff and researchers, doctoral students and new labs and equipment. Excellence in Nursing, Health Sciences and Education is essential for the development of new solutions to major societal challenges including the Ageing Population; Sustainability and Health and is driven by the faculties two research Centres: The Centre for Studies in Practice and Culture in Education (CSPACE) and the Centre for Social Care, Health and Related Research (CSCHaRR).

HELS is seeking recruit a new cohort of scholars to undertake Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant (GRTA) posts and a PhD Classic post in a number of key areas. 
The GRTA payments consist of two elements:
  1. 0.75 GRTA DTG - tax-free stipend paid monthly and has a current (2017/18) value of £10,915 per annum. The bursary is renewable annually for up to 48 months in total, subject to you making satisfactory progression within your PhD research.
  2. 0.25 fixed term contract of employment (Assistant Lecturer) - renewable for up to 48 months in total, subject to satisfactory performance and progression within your PhD research. Please note that the pro rata salary for 2017-18 will be £7,213 (and this may be subject to some taxation).
The “PhD Classic” funding model, which provides a tax-free doctoral stipend at RCUK rates (£14,553 for 2017-18) for three years and a Home fees waiver (£4,195 for 2017-18) for three years.

Projects

Education

Project title: Childhood Studies - Childhood and Celebrity (HELS -FFP1)

Contact: Dr Jane O’Connor  

Project summary: This is an exciting opportunity to undertake research in the field of Childhood and Celebrity - a growing sub discipline of Childhood Studies and Cultural Studies. We are looking for a candidate with a background in early years, education or childhood studies with an interest in cultural aspects of childhood to carry out research relating to children’s engagement with the entertainment industry. Possible areas of research include - children and reality TV, representations of children/childhood in the media, the experiences of child stars/former child stars, the history of child celebrities and child beauty pageants.

The project will be underpinned by the theoretical perspective of childhood as a social construction and the candidate will be expected to incorporate the fundamental concepts of children’s agency and children’s rights in their research. The research will be qualitative, although the use of mixed methods is possible, and can involve primary and/or secondary data.

Project title: Higher Education - policy and practice (HELS - FFP2)

Contact: Tony Armstrong

Project summary: The successful candidate will be concerned with researching into the field of Higher Education (HE) policy and practice vis-à-vis Brexit. The research will involve the exploration and analysis of current and future transformations of policy and practice in HE and will be positioned within the HE policy and political studies literature. More particularly in this study, the successful candidate will focus on and investigate the trajectory and development of post-92 universities and the experiences and responses of university leaders, academics and students who feel impacted by HE policy changes related to Brexit.

The research will also draw broadly on the philosophical and methodological notion of event as a means of exploring the lived Brexit experience as it relates to HE policy and practice. Therefore the research may include, for example, the impact of the transformations associated with Brexit on both the participants sense of belonging to the UK in a potentially unwelcoming learning space and as a consequence their problematic framing and re-framing of UK and EU identity, academic citizenship and obligation.

How to apply

To apply, please complete the project proposal form and then complete your online application where you will be required to upload your proposal. 

Health

Project title: The role of DNA methylation in COPD progression (HELS – CFP1)

Contacts: Loukia Tsaprouni

Project summary: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major and growing cause of morbidity and mortality in countries at all levels of economic development with smoking being recognized as its most important causative factor. The most effective available treatment for COPD is smoking cessation. There is mounting evidence that the rate of progression of COPD can be reduced when patients at risk of developing the disease stop smoking. More significantly, there is also evidence that the risk of developing COPD falls by about half with smoking cessation. We have recently showed that the effect of smoking on DNA methylation was partially reversible upon smoking cessation for longer than 3 months in specific loci. We also reported the first statistically significant interaction between a SNP (rs2697768) and cigarette smoking on DNA methylation. The project will investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in this interaction and will functionally validate those findings in a cellular level. The studentship will be embedded in a translational research programme investigating the mechanisms of altering DNA methylation patterns upon smoking cessation and how those could be used in developing novel approaches to COPD therapy and prevention.

We are looking for a dedicated student who brings a background in biomedical sciences, molecular biology or related discipline. Successful candidates will have a qualifying degree (usually 2:1 or higher).

Please note if you wish to apply for this project you are also required to upload with your online application a detailed CV and a personal statement outlining your relevant experience. If you need further information please contact the DoS or the School research director Dr Loukia Tsaprouni.

Informal enquiries should be directed to the Director of Studies for this project Dr Loukia Tsaprouni - Loukia.tsaprouni@bcu.ac.uk

Project title: Teens’ experiences of sexual abuse and its interventions, a participatory research based project (HELS – CFP3)

Contact: Dr Annalise Weckesser

This is funded under the 'PhD classic' model.

Project summary: There are an increasing number of teenagers who have experienced sexual violence and who require support to help them towards recovery.   An abuse survivors’ clinic in Birmingham wants to explore these people’s needs and design services around those needs. This is an area that has not been extensively explored is their experience of sexual health services following a violent episode. We are looking for PhD proposals that address this question. The applicant needs to demonstrate strong qualitative research experience and have experience of working in the field of sexual health/public health/Youth work or gender violence.

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Annalise Weckesser annalise.weckesser@bcu.ac.uk Tel: 0121 331 7154

Project title: The impact of the human microbiome on athletic performance, health and wellbeing (HELS – FFP3)

Contacts: Dr David Lee, Dr Loukia Tsaprouni

Project summary: The human gut microbiome is a diverse and complex mixture of a number of different classes of organisms including bacteria, viruses and eukaryotic microorganisms. Together, these organisms have enormous potential to influence human health and physiology, for example, by providing metabolites or preventing pathogens from establishing. Our interests are broadly focussed on the impact of the human microbiome on the performance, health and wellbeing of athletes and on the potential changes that dietary supplements have on the population dynamics of the microbiome. Our aim is to identify bacterial species-specific probiotics that may have a positive impact on the performance of athletes. In addition, such probiotics may have a role to play within sedentary population by potentially contributing to the health and wellbeing and/or the development of a more active lifestyle when supplements are taken in combination with exercise.

The project will involve identifying populations for study that encompass a wide range of levels of physical activity levels (e.g. from sedentary through to elite athletes). It is anticipated that the project will also involve designing test experiments using a range of sport dietary supplements. Data collection will primarily involve the processing samples for microbiome studies using DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics approaches.

We are looking for a dedicated student with a strong academic background (at least a good first degree –usually at 2:1 or higher) in biomedical sciences, microbiology or related discipline.

The successful candidate will be based in the School of Health Sciences. In the Graduate Research & Teaching Assistant role, they will be expected to be able contribute to teaching and related activity for courses based in the School, which include Applied Biosciences.

Please note if you wish to apply for this project you are also required to upload with your online application a detailed CV and a personal statement outlining your relevant experience. If you need further information please contact the DoS or the School research director Dr Loukia Tsaprouni.

Project title: The epigenetics of chronic pain (HELS – FFP4)

Contact: Dr Loukia Tsaprouni

Project summary: Chronic pain is a global public health problem, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. Neuropathic and inflammatory pain induce a large number of persisting adaptations at the cellular and molecular level, allowing tissue or nerve damage to elicit changes in cells that contribute to the development of chronic pain and associated symptoms. There is evidence that injury-induced changes in chromatin structure are the drivers of stable changes in gene expression and cellular function. Recent findings on epigenetic changes in the spinal cord and brain during chronic pain may guide fundamental advances in understanding the condition and developing new treatments. The successful candidate will use a variety of approaches to investigate how epigenetic modifications contribute to the development of chronic pain. The studentship will be embedded in a translational research programme investigating the causes of chronic pain and developing novel approaches to therapy.

We are looking for a dedicated student with a strong academic background (at least a good first degree –usually at 2:1 or higher) in biomedical sciences, molecular biology or a related discipline.

The successful candidate will be based in the School of Health Sciences. In the Graduate Research & Teaching Assistant role, they will be expected to be able contribute to teaching and related activity for courses based in the School, which include Applied Biosciences.

Please note if you wish to apply for this project you are also required to upload with your online application a detailed CV and a personal statement outlining your relevant experience. If you need further information please contact the DoS or the School research director Dr Loukia Tsaprouni.

Project title: Experiences and Impact of the Nursing Associate on the Nursing Workforce (HELS – FFP5)

Contacts: Professor Mervyn Morris, Dr Barbara Howard Hunt

Project summary: The Shape of Caring Review, published in March 2015, made a series of recommendations to strengthen the capacity and skills of the nursing and caring workforce. One key recommendation was to explore the need for a defined care role acting as a bridge between the unregulated care assistant workforce and the registered nursing workforce.

The creation of the Nursing Associate (NA) role is a landmark innovation for the nursing and care professions. The introduction of this new role has been welcomed by a broad spectrum of health and social care stakeholders, all of whom want a defined highly trained support role to help Registered Nurses (RN) deliver effective, safe and responsive care. The Nursing Associate will also play a key part of the multi-disciplinary workforce that is needed to respond to the future needs of the public and patients.

The Nursing Associate (NA) two year programme has been developed with our local stakeholders who are keen to develop this role as an addition to their current work force. It is envisaged that this role will be regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council by the end of 2019. This is an initiative from Health Education England (HEE) as part of a strategy to increase the number of nurses given the current acute shortages. Birmingham City University in collaboration with two stakeholders; Birmingham and Solihull Partnership and Transforming Care Together were successful in a bid to HEE for 78 students to develop the NA programme which commenced 24th April 2017.

We are seeking proposals for a PhD study that explores the experiences of the trainee NA whilst undergoing the programme, to identify challenges and opportunities. Also, to revisit trainees 12 months post qualification to find out if they are still in the role or have they gone on to a pre-registration programmes to become a RN. This is important as partners will be reviewing their workforce i.e. number of RNs needed and has the NA role replaced some the shortfall in RNs numbers. We envisage the project involving a pragmatic, mixed method approach, e.g. interviews and questionnaires.

Candidates should have a strong academic background in a relevant area. In the Graduate Research & Teaching Assistant role, the candidate will be based in the Department of Pre-qualifying Healthcare Practice. They will be expected to contribute to teaching and related activity for courses including Nursing Associate and the Foundation Degree in Health and Social Care.

Project title: Universities' Role in Supporting Learning in Practice (HELS – FFP6)

Professor Mervyn Morris

Project summary: Birmingham City University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery has a track record in leading on assessment in practice research. We are seeking proposals for a PhD study that will explore existing provision and devise a new model for supporting practice learning which will be fit for student nurses, nursing assistants and Higher Apprenticeships.

Clinical education is an essential part of the undergraduate nursing curriculum. Students require effective clinical placements to allow the application of theory to practice. These experiences are central to the student’s preparation for entering the workforce as a competent and independent practitioner. Our School offers a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC)-approved programme for mentors, ‘Supporting Learning and Assessment in Practice’ (SLAiP), which clinical staff are required to complete successfully. The programme allows mentors to assess and ‘sign off’ student nurses so they can register with the NMC. While there is a clear process for clinical practice, there is very limited guidance for universities regarding the support of students and their learning in practice.  

Currently, we use two models for supporting students’ practice learning. Placement Support and Development involves academic staff working with practice to support mentors in failing students, carrying out educational audits in clinical areas and supporting students who are having difficulty. The second model is for Placement Support Staff - academic staff who are mainly university based but may visit practice half a day a week or less to support placement. However, there is a lack of good evidence about what works best and in what circumstances, for students, mentors and academic staff. The rapidly changing context of nurse education, including the introduction of student fees, withdrawal of placement tariffs for practice settings and the growth of related undergraduate programmes which also require placement support, make this a very timely area for investigation.

Candidates should have a strong academic background and relevant professional experience. In the Graduate Research & Teaching Assistant role, the candidate will be expected to contribute to teaching and related activity for courses including SLAiP and the Academic Practice Enquiry module.

How to apply

To apply, please complete the project proposal form and then complete your online application where you will be required to upload your proposal.