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Psychology - Research

Offering the opportunity to conduct research in a range of areas with associated training in contemporary research methods

The Psychology Research Institute offers supervision of research leading to a PhD degree in four main areas of psychology on either a full-time (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis. Research students will work within one of these areas and quickly become part of an exciting and productive research group that addresses important theoretical and translational research questions. There will be opportunities to engage with fellow students, staff and researchers in formal research seminars and informal discussions. We also expect our research students to develop their research skills and academic networks by collaborating with researchers in other UK and international universities and research centres.

Research students on our programme are supported by a range of general and specific training programmes through the Researcher Development Programme to help develop research skills and employment prospects. There are currently over 60 research students being supervised by staff in the Psychology Research Institute.

The research areas are:
- Peace, Conflict and Equality
- Health, Education and Wellbeing
- Behavioural Neuroscience and Behaviour Analysis
- Population Health Sciences and Mental Health Services
- Psychotraumatology, Mental Health and Suicidal Behaviour

Postgraduate research is located within the Psychology Research Institute The Institute aims to be a leading centre for applied psychological research drawing upon our cutting edge expertise in statistical methodology and theoretical research. Researchers are committed to multi-disciplinary approaches to help address complex health and social issues and have developed extensive collaborative partnerships with international centres of excellence to produce findings which have real benefits for society.

Postgraduate research is located within the Psychology Research Institute. The Institute aims to be a leading centre for applied psychological research drawing upon our cutting edge expertise in statistical methodology and theoretical research. Researchers are committed to multi-disciplinary approaches to help address complex health and social issues and have developed extensive collaborative partnerships with international centres of excellence to produce findings, which have real benefits for society.

As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study. We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master's Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Additional information for International applicants may be found

English language requirements

In order to be admitted to research study at Ulster, you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application.


PhD Research
You can study for a PhD on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis and by the end of your programme, you will have produced a body of work that makes a contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

We have various routes to obtaining a PhD - for example, in some areas you can submit a practical element as part of your submission, such as a piece of art or a musical composition.

The MPhil programme is studied over a 2 year period on a full-time basis or 4 years on a part-time basis.

We would recommend that you contact one of our academic staff whose interests align with your own to discuss your intended research prior to submitting an application.

Careers or further progression

Career options
Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).

Further enquiries

Contact supervisor
Professor Julian Leslie

+44 28 7012 3090




The Master of Research Programme (MRes) offered by the Faculty of Life and Health Sciences, provides a one year training in research suitable for those who wish to proceed to enrol for a PhD programme, but at the same time is a research degree recognised in its own right.

The overall educational aim of the MRes programme is to provide graduate students with knowledge and understanding of research methods, training in appropriate technical skills and scholarship skills, such as critical thinking and the capacity to write in the style of their discipline, along with advanced study in areas of their discipline. Importantly, students apply for and enrol to complete a specified research project, and the rest of the course is tailored to support conducting that research.

The function of this programme is to provide students with a range of research-related skills and the capacity to proceed to PhD programmes. Undergraduate programmes do not necessarily provide enough of these skills, and there is a national and an international trend towards requiring completion of a Master's degree prior to entry to PhD programmes.


The overall structure allows for several pathways in areas of Biomedical Sciences, Geography & Environmental Sciences, Psychology and other disciplines. This a research degree where initial training in discipline areas and research methods is followed by research project preparation and scholarship skills training, and then by completion of the research project and the dissertation. Students apply for and are accepted onto approved projects put forward by the pathway staff team. Inclusion of a project on the advertised list for an academic year indicates that the named supervisors have undertaken to offer support of research project preparation in Semester 2 linked to research project supervision in Semester 3. The overall programme takes 12 months to complete through full-time study, with dissertation submission being required in September.

As indicated in Table 1, below, the overall structure consists of five related elements. These are:

Advanced study in discipline: 30 credit points (through one or two modules) are completed that are appropriate to the discipline and planned research project topic. These are normally selected from MSc modules taught on the campus where the student and planned project are located.

Advanced research methods: 30 credit points (through one or two modules) are completed that are appropriate to the discipline and planned research project methodology. These are normally selected from MSc modules taught on the campus where the student and planned project are located.

Scholarship skills: This is a 30-credit module taken by blended learning, usually in Semester 2. It covers critical thinking skills and scholarly writing skills and is focussed on materials from the student's discipline area.

Research project preparation (30 credit points): The student is in contact with the project supervisory team throughout the year. Usually in Semester 2, directed training to develop specific skills for the conduct of the research project is undertaken and assessed.

Completion of research project and dissertation: Work on the project may begin in Semester 2 (or even earlier) but is completed and assessed through dissertation submission (in the format of a manuscript suitable for submission to a relevant science journal along with an extended literature review) in Semester 3, the summer period. Projects undertaken are typically in similar areas to those being undertaken by PhD students in the research group to which the supervisors are attached, but they are of a scope and level appropriate for the MRes.

Table 1: Programme elements and possible sequence (note that the sequence may vary in some cases).

Semester 1
Advanced study in discipline (30 credit points)
Advanced research methods (30 credit points)

Semester 2
Scholarship skills (30 credit points)
Research project preparation (30 credit points)

Semester 3
Completion of research project and dissertation (60 credit points)

The programme is administered by the Doctoral College. A leader is appointed from the relevant School for each named pathway. For each student, the pathway leader ensures that the assessment load is appropriately distributed across the three semesters.


Current opportunities include:

Investigation of Neuroplasticity and individual response to Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation

The assessment and treatment of suicidal behaviour in NI: Examining the impact of the Towards Zero Suicide programme

Towards Zero Suicide in NI Health Services: Staff attitudes towards the preventability of suicide

Digital natives: Young children and their interactions with digital technology

Understanding children's mathematical thinking: Use of eye-tracking technology

Application date


We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies. Full details on the application process and further guidance on how to apply, and what you will need to upload as part of your application, is available at the link below.

Once you have identified supervisors, discussed a research proposal and are ready to make an application, please apply using the online application system.

Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.

Research areas

Staff research areas
Professor Gary Adamson
Statistical modelling; Psychological Epidemiology; Mental Health and Addictions; Early Life Events and Mental Health.

Dr Cherie Armour
Mental Health; Mental Health promotion programmes; Accesses to supports and services for Mental Health; Veteran health and wellbeing; Secondary traumatisation; Technological solutions / interventions for Mental Health; Male interpersonal violence; The psychological impact of childhood sexual assault; The psychological impact of intimate partner violence; Police and services response to domestic violence; Help-seeking & stigma associated with Mental Health; Latent variable modelling; The nosology of PTSD in the DSM-5 & ICD-11.

Dr Robert Bones
Precision teaching and sport; Precision teaching and learning; Stimulus equivalence and transfer of function; Evolutionary psychology.

Professor Brendan Bunting
Statistical modelling; psychology and health.

Dr Noel Brick
Sport and exercise psychology. Effects of attentional focus and cognitive strategies on endurance performance and exercise adherence. Effects of exercise on cognitive function

Dr Claire Campbell
Intergroup relations, social identity theory and social cognition

Dr Tony Cassidy
Health Psychology: Child and Family Psychology: Psychosocial aspects of stress, coping and health: Psychosocial aspects of child and family health. Cancer, chronic illness, physical activity, rehabilitation, complementary therapy, palliative care.

Dr Janine Cooper
Pharmacoepidemiology, mental health

Dr Dagmar Corry
Positive mental health across the lifespan; young people's mental health; living well with dementia; spirituality and religion in mental health; coping and resilience through creativity and spirituality; qualitative research, and mixed methods research

Dr Emma Curran
Epidemiology; Administrative data; Child and adolescent mental health

Dr Paul DeCock
Early (perinatal) predictors of child psychological development as well as in the potential for public health interventions to promote psychological wellbeing. Health services research, with a focus on perinatal health care.

Dr Edel Ennis
Seasonal Affective Disorder; Individual difference, with particular emphasis on personality, emotional intelligence and attachment and their relevance to understanding various behaviours, e.g. deception, work burnout and engagement.

Dr Finola Ferry
Mental health epidemiology; mental health economics; statistical and econometric modelling using administrative data.

Dr Andrea Furey
Social identity theory; prejudice; segregation; cross-community contact.

Dr Stephen Gallagher
Applied Behaviour Analysis in addressing the needs of those individuals with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and their carers. Behavioural Gerontology. The use of eye tracking equipment as a method of assessing and changing gaze behaviour (with reference to autism, obesity, behavioural safety). Stimulus Equivalence.

Professor Melanie Giles
Attitudes and attitude change. The application of social cognition models to Health Psychology. Child and family health; student engagement, employability and peer mentoring.

Dr Colin Gorman
Forensic mental health, assessment and treatment of victims and perpetrators of violent and sexual offences. Emotional empathy and emotional regulation.

Dr James Houston
Mental health, cannabis and psychosis.

Dr Mickey Keenan
Experimental Analysis of Behaviour, Applied Behaviour Analysis, Stimulus Equivalence and Creativity, Autism, Parent Training.

Dr Eun-Mee Kim
Behavioural neuroscience, models of psychological disorders.

Dr Niamh Kennedy
Research into the motor, cognitive and psychological aspects of recovery of individuals with stroke and brain injury. I have investigated this using a range of techniques including neuroscience, neurophysiology and experimental psychology, to add to our understanding of recovery and the healthy brain.

Dr Karen Kirby
Child and Adolescent Mental Health: to include mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention (addressing self-harm, anxiety, depression, and prevention of cyberbullying). Assessing the utility and effectiveness of brief CBT for a range of mental health conditions. Health Psychology in particular links between mental health and health /lifestyle behaviours which impact control of existing chronic conditions and the prevention of others ( such as Type 2 Diabetes in particular).

Professor Gerry Leavey
Access to and acceptability of mental health services. Improving the quality of life for people with mental health problems. Improving the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers; Access to, and acceptability of, health and social care provision. Understanding the needs of family caregivers and improving support, health inequalities and health service outcomes; Young people and help-seeking for mental health and emotional problems; Medical anthropology and sociology: health beliefs, religion and spirituality related to mental health

Professor Julian Leslie
Behavioural neuroscience, experimental analysis of behaviour, applied behaviour analysis, stimulus equivalence.

Dr John Mallett
Multivariate statistics, measurement models, missing data analysis, health psychology in particular, healthy ageing, positive psychology and mental health.

Dr Donal McAteer
Psychological therapy evaluation; therapy process, the therapeutic relationship, and therapist factors' influence on therapy outcome; mental health; well-being in isolated community populations and their access to mental health services; qualitative methods.

Dr Orla McBride
Addiction, the development of problematic alcohol use, latent variable modelling.

Dr Claire McDowell
Evidence based education, Autism, Childhood feeding disorders.

Dr Adele McKinney
Cognitive functions specifically memory and attention and the impact of perceived healthy behaviours.

Dr Marian McLaughlin
Psychosocial aspects of child and family health, health psychology, behaviour change, sexual health, oral health and e-cigarette use

Dr Frances McLernon
Forgiveness, intergroup conflict, group processes.

Dr Jamie Murphy
Dimensional and continuous representations of psychosis; psycho-social etiology of psychosis; trauma-psychosis mechanisms of association; lay/professional attitudes towards 'severe mental illness'.

Professor Siobhan O'Neill
Suicidal behaviour. Self-harm. Mental health in Northern Ireland. Mental health in college students. Crisis line caller behaviour. Mental health services research. Qualitative and quantitative methods

Professor Gillian Robinson
Research methodology; social attitudes and good relations; peace monitoring; role of digital archives in peacebuilding

Dr Michael Rosato
Mental health and wellbeing – using both specific dedicated
datasets, and the more generically defined Longitudinal Studies; health outcomes of ethnic minority populations (in E&W and in the wider European setting); chronic disease epidemiology and health inequalities.

Professor Mark Shevlin
Latent variable modelling, psychosis, PTSD and trauma.

Dr Gillian Shorter
Addiction, Alcohol Brief Interventions, Addictive behaviour change, Randomised Trial Design, Systematic Reviews, Consensus Methods, Community Mental Health, Public Mental Health, Polydrug use, Gambling.

Dr Victoria Simms
Developmental psychology; mathematical thinking and reasoning in childhood, cognition, working memory, executive functions. Learning in pre-school and primary school aged children. Long-term impact of premature birth on cognitive and educational outcomes. Developmental disorders.

Dr Liz Simpson
Psychological well-being and health during pregnancy, menopause, and infertility; cognition and ageing and the underlying event related potentials (EEG); Health needs of carers with dementia; predictors of early diagnosis; designing more appropriate dementia friendly environments; dietary patterns, health and well-being, predictors of supplement use; psychoneuroimmunology and the role of zinc in cognition and well-being; promotion and maintenance for health and well-being across the lifespan; PA guidelines and their meaning.

Professor Maurice Stringer
Intergroup conflict, group processes, student feedback, mental health, health psychology.

Dr Emma Walker
The wellbeing of those who are working or have worked in uniformed occupations.

Dr Bethany Bradley-Waterhouse
Research on the experiences of marginalised groups in accessing services

Enrolment and start dates

Year of entry: 2020/21

Postgraduate Information Session 26 March 2020
Register at:

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