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Brighton & Sussex Medical School

PhD opportunities

BSMS > Postgraduate > Research degrees > PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities

All our current PhD opportunites are listed on this page. 

In order to apply, please visit the University of Brighton website by clicking the “Apply Now” link below, and select “Doctoral College” as the School, and “Medicine” as the keyword. You should then select the project that you wish to apply for. There is no need to supply your own research proposal, unless you are submitting a speculative application. 

Apply for your PHD here >

If you are applying for a specific project that is advertised below, there is no need to write a research proposal. Simply give the details provided in the advertisement in the Research Proposal section of the online application form.

If you require entry clearance to study in the UK, please see the ATAS information.


Substance use in relation to the mental and sexual health of vulnerable adolescents and young adults under 25 in coastal areas of Kent and Sussex

Supervisors: Prof C Llewellyn, Dr N Edelman 

Application deadline: Friday, November 13, 2020 

Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

We are looking for an enthusiastic student, with a master’s degree in a psychology, health, epidemiological or social care related subject, who wishes to study for a PhD within the structure of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. The appointable candidate will have a background and/or interest in marginalised adolescents and young people and/or substance use and will bring skills in communicating with members of the community or co-design of research or services and an interest in bringing health interventions to people who need them. 

We need to meet particular health and social challenges in our region. Despite general affluence across Surrey, Sussex and Kent we have some of the most socially deprived wards in England mainly located in our coastal towns; higher than average children in care, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and young people with self-harm and emotional problems. Data has shown that mental health and adverse sexual health outcomes are linked. Alcohol and recreational drugs are a major factor in sexual risk taking. Data indicates that frequent binge drinking and recent drug use are associated with adverse sexual health outcomes such as unprotected first sex with one or more new partners, emergency contraception use and sexually transmitted infections (Khadr et al., 2016). One in five 16-24 year olds have used an illicit drug in the last year (BASHH 2014). Chemsex (the use of drugs to facilitate or enhance sex) is a risk factor for enhanced sexual risk taking. There is increasing recognition of the problematic use of these substances and its potential negative impact on sexual and public health. There is also increasing recognition that, for some people, preventing such negative impacts on sexual health requires also addressing effectively their problematic drug use. 

This PhD will focus on one of the four ARC Public Health subthemes of substance use in relation to mental health, sexual health and blood borne viruses in adolescents and young adults (age 16-25 years old). The aims will be to better understand how substance use is related to the mental and sexual health of vulnerable adolescents and young adults under 25 across Kent, Surrey and Sussex and to better understand the emerging contribution of chemsex within this population and young people’s understanding of their own health behaviours and how this impacts on engagement with mental and sexual health services. 
These aims will likely be achieved through the following activities: Evidence reviews; Scoping of target populations for co-production: Identification of those young people (aged 16-25) who represent ‘seldom heard’ voices, including those who identify within LGBT communities, those in deprived coastal communities, those from refugee and other immigrant populations, young people of colour and under 25s living separate from primary family/kinship groups including looked after children; Collaborations with third sector youth community organisations across Kent, Surrey and Sussex with a view to reducing ‘intervention generated inequalities’; Qualitative/ethnographic work to better understand substance misuse patterns and needs in coastal areas addressing its relationship/ contribution to sexual risk and understanding the barriers to engaging with existing community based interventions designed for young people; quantitative methods and risk assessment tool designed and co-produced with and for young people. 

It is envisaged that links will be made across ARC themes of: Social care; Starting Well: Early detection and Intervention of Mental Health Problems in Children and Adolescents; Primary and Community Health Services; and cross cutting themes: Public Health; Co-Production and Digital Innovation. 

An interest/ knowledge of marginalised youth communities in the south east of England would be an advantage. 

Funding Notes

Applicants for this 3-year PhD funded by Kent, Surrey & Sussex ARC and BSMS starting January 2021 should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent). 

UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply (home fees will be paid for UK/EU citizens; non-UK/EU citizens will be liable for the difference in home and international fees). Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Natalie Edelman ( or Prof. Carrie Llewellyn ( To apply, please visit University of Brighton website. Please contact the BSMS Doctoral and Research Officer ( if any queries.


Clinical Effectiveness Group: British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (2019) UK National Guideline for consultations requiring sexual history taking. Read more here >

British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (2014) BASHH statement on ‘club’ (recreational) drug use. Read more here >

Khadr SN, Jones KG, Mann S, Hale DR, Johnson AM, Viner RM, Mercer C and Wellings K (2016) Investigating the relationship between substance use and sexual behaviour in young people in Britain: findings from a national probability survey BMJ Open 6(6): e011961.

The Mental Health and Well-being needs of Looked After and Displaced Children in South East England 

Supervisors; Dr Richard DeVisser, Dr Priya Paudyal, Dr Ruth Sellers 

Deadline: Friday, November 13, 2020 

Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to join our Public Health and Primary Care Department at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School. This studentship is funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration, Kent Surrey and Sussex (ARC, KSS). 

Looked After Children (LAC) often experience substantial life challenges that affect their mental health and wellbeing. Almost half of children and young people in care meet diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder, compared to one in 10 in non-looked after children1,2. Unaccompanied migrant children in particular face extra complexities due to their immigration status, which may be compounded by the social, cultural, and linguistic differences in the new setting3. This PhD aims to increase understanding of the mental health and wellbeing needs and experiences of Looked After Children to identify good practice and to identity areas for improvement and suggestions for improvements. 

This PhD studentship will provide the opportunity for the student to enhance their knowledge in the subject area as well as develop their methodological skills in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods public health research as well as evidence synthesis. This will be achieved through working with supervisors to develop a research programme that may include a systematic review, secondary analysis of existing quantitative data, collection and analysis of novel qualitative data, and cross-study synthesis. Of key importance to all aspects of the research programme will be engagement with LAC, carers, health and social care professionals and local authorities to co-design and co-produce outputs and potential interventions. This process encourages active engagement and partnership work, and is valuable for gaining a deeper understanding of the issues faced by the LAC and related parties. 

The project will be supervised by Dr Richard De Visser, Dr Priya Paudyal and Dr Ruth Sellers. Dr Visser has studied a range of topics across health and social psychology and has expertise in and expertise in qualitative, quantitative, intervention, and mixed-methods designs. Dr Paudyal has research expertise in migration and marginalised communities, and has methodological expertise in co-production and evidence synthesis. Dr Sellers has expertise in child development, with research focusing on risk and resilience-based processes underlying youth mental health. Dr Sellers also has expertise in research design, and advanced quantitative methods.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this 3-year NIHR ARC KSS-funded PhD starting in January 2021 should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in Psychology, Public health, Social science or relevant subject, and related masters degree. Home fees will be paid for UK/EU citizens; non-UK/EU citizens will be liable for the difference in fees between the home and overseas rate). Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Richard DeVisser ( Dr Priya Paudyal ( or Dr Ruth Sellers ( Please contact the BSMS Doctoral and Research Officer ( if any queries.


1.House of Commons Education Committee (2016). Mental health and well-being of looked-after children (HC481). London: House of Commons. Available at: 

2. Luke, N., Sinclair, I., Woolgar, M. & Sebba, J. (2014) What works in preventing and treating poor mental health in looked after children? London: NSPCC/Oxford: Rees Centre. 

3. Fazel, M., Reed, R.V., Panter-Brick, C. & Stein, A. (2011). Mental health of displaced and refugee children resettled in high-income countries: risk and protective factors. Lancet, 379, 266-282. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60051-2

Helping young people to live successfully with long-term health issues 

Supervisors: Prof Jorg Huber, Dr Catherine Aicken 

The project will adapt resilience-oriented interventions for young people with long-term conditions, primarily type 1 diabetes, drawing on a co-production approach. 

Young people up to the age of around 25 years have frequently been neglected in health research despite a considerable number living with long-term conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Successfully adjusting and living with the condition(s) is an indication of resilience which in the context of this proposal is considered to be a function of the person, and their social and physical environment. Social support is of particular importance, and so is stigma resistance. A PhD project is proposed exploring the potential of a brief intervention helping to adjust to diabetes/long-term conditions and which can be linked or even embedded into existing structured education programmes, and other forms of support including the IAPT-LTC (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies for Long-term Conditions) programme and peer support. 

The proposed PhD will aim to update existing reviews on resilience or strength-based interventions for physical chronic conditions. This narrative synthesis will provide the basis for the development of a brief intervention which in the first place can be used by health professionals, but which, due to its simplicity, might be expected to be rolled-out to trained peer supporters (community health workers, expert patients). Working with clinicians and people living with diabetes and possibly other chronic conditions will allow the student to develop an intervention which is feasible, acceptable, effective and ideally enjoyable. Borrowing from engineering, but occasionally also used in other areas such as organisational development and psychology, a rapid prototyping methodology will be adopted, and implemented within a case study approach. 

Working with others associated with the Applied Research Collaboration Kent, Surrey and Sussex (ARC KSS) (see below) and with experts in the field, the supervisors will provide a stimulating research environment with the aim of building up a research group. 

Closing date

Monday 23 November 2020 

Stigma towards dementia in young people: The impact of media

Supervisors: Dr Nicolas Farina, Dr N Tabet, Dr Alys Griffiths 

Applications accepted all year round 

Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a 3-year PhD studentship to join the internationally recognised Centre for Dementia Studies, Brighton and Sussex Medical School at the University of Sussex Campus. 

The aim of the project is to better understand what dementia-related media young people engage with but also interrogate the relationship between various national and international media messages about dementia (social media, ad campaigns, movies) and how they affect attitudes towards dementia. 

Combatting stigma and raising awareness towards dementia is an international policy priority. As it stands, we know that negative attitudes towards dementia already exist from a young age, and that based on existing theories, attitude change might be easier during these younger years. Young people already have experiences of dementia, despite receiving little formal education about the condition. Whilst there is a significant minority that have provided support for a family member with dementia, many have experienced dementia only through the media (i.e. movies, news) and online sources. Previous research has identified that media messages of dementia can often be negative or stigmatizing, which could be in part responsible for attitude formation. However, it is unclear how young people engage with such media content about dementia and how this ultimately shapes stigma towards dementia. Such stigma ultimately influences how individuals engage with dementia, both now and in the future, and might ultimately determine career preferences. The research builds upon an existing theme of work led by Dr’s Farina, Tabet and Griffiths. 

The project provides a wide range of training that includes quantitative, qualitative and review methodology. The project, will also provide an opportunity to work with both young people and people living with dementia. This should provide the successful candidate with critical skills and substantial experience to make them a highly competitive candidate for a postdoctoral research position within applied health research, particularly in the field of dementia.

Funding Notes

Applicants for this 3-year PhD should possess or expect to be awarded a minimum of a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in psychology, health sciences, public health, or related subject. Both UK/EU and non-EU citizens can apply. Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Nicolas Farina ( Please contact the Brighton and Sussex Medical School Doctoral and Research Officer (, with any other queries.


Alzheimer’s Disease International. World Alzheimer Report 2019 : Attitudes to dementia. Read the report here. Published April 10, 2019. Accessed June 17, 2019. 

Cheng TY-M, Liu L, Woo BK. Analyzing Twitter as a Platform for Alzheimer-Related Dementia Awareness: Thematic Analyses of Tweets. JMIR Aging. 2018;1(2):e11542. doi:10.2196/11542 

Farina N, Hughes LJ, Griffiths AW, Parveen S. Adolescents’ experiences and perceptions of dementia. Aging Ment Health. 2019;0(0):1-7. doi:10.1080/13607863.2019.1613343 

Farina N. What is taught about dementia in secondary schools? A survey of schools in Sussex, England (Innovative Practice). Dementia. July 2017:1471301217720016. doi:10.1177/1471301217720016 

Isaac MG, Isaac MM, Farina N, Tabet N. Knowledge and attitudes towards dementia in adolescent students. J Ment Health. 2017;26(5):419–425. 

Parveen S, Farina N, Shafiq S, Hughes LJ, Griffiths AW. What do adolescents perceive to be key features of an effective dementia education and awareness initiative? Dement Int J Soc Res Pract. 2019.

Wellcome clinical PhD programme in Global Health Research

Open for applications from 18 September 2020 

The Wellcome Clinical PhD Programme in Global Health Research is a partnership between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, St George’s University of London and Brighton and Sussex Medical School bringing together their expertise in global health research. The Programme provides postgraduate training opportunities to clinicians committed to undertaking research on the health problems of low and middle income countries.

The Programme will support up to four clinical PhD fellowships in 2021.

The aim of the Programme is to support the most promising clinicians who wish to undertake rigorous research training and complete a research project in the field of global health.

The Programme will focus on the following six key areas:

  • HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria
  • Neglected tropical diseases
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Non-communicable diseases.

The Programme has a large pool of potential-supervisors who have a breadth of clinical specialities and experience in these areas.

Successful applicants will develop their potential to become academic clinicians within a structured and mentored training environment. They will, usually, spend up to two years overseas in a low or middle income country based in well-established research groups.

Financial support is for three years and includes a clinical salary, research expenses, general training funds and travel costs.

Applicants must be fully-qualified medical doctors (with no more than 10 years’ whole time equivalent [WTE] career experience after full medical qualification at the time of applying), have a right to work in the UK, be eligible for home/EU PhD fees and should be currently engaged in a specialist training programme and not yet awarded a CCT or equivalent. They must demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to pursuing a career as an academic clinician with an interest in global health.

Find out more about the programme and how to apply >

PhD studentships now recruited

  • Resourcing Resilience: Positive psychology among adolescents living with HIV 
  • Widening access to psychological interventions for diverse communities: exploring the potential of community-led interventions 
  • Co-producing stigma-proof mental health interventions with and for newcomers (asylum seekers, refugees and migrants) in southeast England 
  • Defining Mycobacterium tuberculosis in lung tissue – a novel discovery platform for new vaccine and drug targets
  • Epidemiology of cancer in the elderly (aged > 65 years) in England
  • The roles of oxidative stress and redox regulation in chronic inflammatory disease (Supervisors: Dr Lisa Mullen, Prof Pietro Ghezzi, Prof Kevin Davies)
  • Pillars of Expertise: Visual Perception & Memory (Supervisors: Dr Natasha Sigala, Prof Mara Cercignani)
  • Investigating the genetic basis of osteosarcoma in children & dogs (Supervisors: Prof Sarah Newbury, Dr Peter Bush, Dr Chris Jones)
  • The embodiment of unconscious knowledge in maladaptive behaviour (Supervisors: Prof Hugo Critchley, Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Dora Duka)
  • Can simulation clarify diagnostic skills for newly qualified doctors? (Supervisors: Dr Inam Haq, Dr Wesley Scott-Smith)
  • Impact of oxytocin on emotional regulation in binge drinking and alcoholism: behavioural, physiological and fMRI investigations (Supervisors: Prof Hugo Critchley, Prof Dora Duka)
  • Developing an algorithm for predicting children with severe asthma (Supervisors: Prof Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Dr Katy Fidler)
  • Development of a refined model of neuropathic pain: a model without frank nerve injury (Supervisors: Dr Andrew Dilley, Prof Pietro Ghezzi)
  • Role of secreted oxidoreductases in osteoarthritis, rheumathoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (Supervisors: Prof Pietro Ghezzi, Dr Manuela Mengozzi)
  • Measuring quality of life in severe dementia: validation of DEMQOL-Proxy in family and professional carers of people with severe dementia (Prof Sube Banerjee, Dr Naji Tabet)
  • Stigma in health care: Does it influence the way general practitioners record consultations? (Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Ford, Prof Helen Smith, Prof Flis Henwood)
  • Interoception and preventative intervention for anxiety in adults with autism (supervisors: Dr Sarah Garfinkel, Prof Hugo Critchley)