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PhD Studentship in Applied Mental Health Research (PhD2019CFCApril)

The Department of Health Sciences, University of York, is inviting applications for a fully funded PhD studentship, available on a full-time basis to start in October 2019 or January 2020, on a collaborative research project between the Mental Health and Addiction Research Group (MHARG) and the Hull York Medical School (HYMS).

The successful candidate will be part of the Mental Health and Addiction Research Group (MHARG) research team, and will be supervised by Professor Christina van der Feltz-Cornelis (MHARG), and by Dr Dimitris Lagos (HYMS and York Biomedical Research Institute).   

Project details

This PhD studentship will be embedded in the Conversion and Neuro-inflammation Disorder Observational (CANDO) study, which aims to address whether neuroinflammation plays a role in conversion disorder, also known as functional neurological disorder.

Conversion disorder represents an unmet clinical need. It is one of the medically unexplained symptoms (MUS) that can present itself as e.g. unexplained paralysis. It affects 764,000 people in the UK annually and leads to long-term distress, disability and utilization of health care services; its origin is unknown, hence treatment has limited effects.

The PhD student will work with this unique patient cohort to explore links between neurological function and systemic inflammation using statistical and quantitative and qualitative research methods. The findings of this work will contribute to development of novel clinical management regimes for conversion regimes.

Candidates with an interest in applied health research and cohort studies are particularly encouraged to apply.


The scholarship is open to UK/EU citizens on a full-time or part-time basis. The studentship provides a tax free stipend per annum for UK/EU citizens in line with RCUK standard rates (currently £14,777 for 2018/19), plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.    

Essential and desirable requirements

Applicants will normally be applied health sciences students i.e. psychology students and need to hold, or expect to gain, at least an upper second class honours (2:1) degree or equivalent in an applied health related subject.

Applicants are required to submit a short research proposal (max 500 words) outlining their ideas for studies in one or more of the areas above. Applicants will not be considered if a proposal for study in at least one area is not submitted. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Professor Van der Feltz-Cornelis to discuss proposal ideas before applying (contact details under Informal Enquiries below).

For students whose first language is not English there is a minimum requirement of an IELTS score of at least 6.5 in each component of the test and an overall score of at least 7.

Desirable requirements

A Masters degree in psychology, biomedical sciences, or health/medical sciences related subjects with a strong element of research methodology is highly desirable. Alternatively, research experience in a relevant subject gained in formal employment in a university environment is highly desirable if there is no masters degree.

Process for Application

Applications should be received no later than Thursday 6th June before 16:00h UTC. Applications will not be considered for the studentships after this date.

Applications should be made using the Department of Health Sciences on-line application process which can be accessed using the following link.

When completing the electronic form, applicants will need to state that they are applying for the advertised studentship and include ref: PhD2019CFCApril under the ‘How studies will be funded’ section, in order to be considered for the scholarship.

Shortlisting: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and shortlisted applicants will be notified promptly.

Start date: October 2019 or January 2020.


Individuals with the strongest academic record, experience, and research proposal ideas will be shortlisted and invited to interview in June. Interviews will be conducted face-to-face or via Skype or similar communication tools, if required.   

Informal enquiries

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Christina van der Feltz-Cornelis

Department of Health Sciences

The Department of Health Sciences includes over 280 academics, teachers, researchers and support staff engaged in delivering research, professional development, education and training. Our core aim is excellence in research and teaching, while contributing to improving health and healthcare through the application of our research to policy and practice. We are a multidisciplinary department, involving clinicians from a range of health professions including medicine, nursing and midwifery alongside disciplines such as statistics, health economics, health services research, psychology, sociology and epidemiology. In the most recent assessment of research quality in the UK (the 2014 Research Excellence Framework), the Department was ranked equal first nationally for its research environment and all aspects of our research environment was judged to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of vitality and sustainability.  

Our research activity is organised around six core themes: mental health and addiction; trials and statistics; public health and society; cancer epidemiology; cardiovascular health; and health services and policy Within the Mental Health and Addiction Research Group, Professor Christina van der Feltz-Cornelis leads research on understanding somatic symptom disorders including conversion disorder (SSRD), other common mental disorders (CMD) and comorbid chronic medical conditions including chronic pain, and development of personalised interventions that may include blended e-health, shared decision making, and personalisation taking biomarkers and social circumstances into account. See 

The successful candidate will join a vibrant community of over 200 postgraduate students in our Graduate School, including over 50 PhD students. Our PhD students are embedded in one of our research groups and have the flexibility to tailor their studies to pursue their own research interests, and a bespoke training programme is designed in conjunction with the supervisory team to support the development of essential subject-specific and transferable skills for their future careers.  

The University

The University of York is one of the foremost Universities in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of leading UK Universities. It has an outstanding record of research, teaching, and training across a full range of disciplines. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, The University ranked 10th on the impact of our research and 14th overall. The University has a particular strength in health-related research.

The main campus is a 200-acre landscaped park, with colleges and academic buildings within walking distance of each other. Proximity to the historic city of York makes the University a popular choice and provides a pleasant working environment. Transport connections to York are fast and effective.

University of York Graduate Research School