Openings in the lab

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ESRC CASE PhD studentship

Apply by 26th February 2016, Start Sept/Oct 2016

(Click here to download this information in a pdf)

Individual differences in executive functions during adolescence: influence of technology use and association with educational achievement.

Principal Supervisor: Dr Iroise Dumontheil (Birkbeck, University of London)

Co- Supervisors: Professor Michael Thomas (Birkbeck, University of London)

Non-Academic Partner: Delosis (

This is a highly innovative multidisciplinary project in the emerging field of educational neuroscience. This project fits within the larger Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones (SCAMP, SCAMP is led by a team of researchers at Imperial College and involves the collection of longitudinal cognitive, questionnaire and educational data in a large (2,000-5,000) sample of adolescents in schools within Greater London. The first SCAMP data collection has been completed. The student will be expected to help with the second phase of SCAMP data collection.

The specific research aims of this studentship are: (1) to investigate unity and diversity of executive functions in early adolescence cross-sectionally (age 11-12 years old) and their development longitudinally (age 13-14 years old), (2) to study cross-sectional associations between technology use and executive functions in early adolescence, (3) to investigate cross-sectional relationships and possibly longitudinal relationships between executive functions during adolescence and educational achievement, and (4) to acquire skills for the collection and analysis of large datasets through online testing.

This studentship will involve a tight collaboration with the non-academic partner, Delosis, a small London-based company which provides software solutions to the academic research sector. Delosis brings together extensive experience in both cognitive research and commercial internet technologies to produce Psytools, their main software product, which provides the tools to build cognitive tasks, convert existing experimental tasks and administer them over the internet, and is used in the SCAMP study. During residencies at Delosis the student will learn about online questionnaire and task production, programming task batteries with online software platforms, data transfer and management, data processing and analysis using R and SPSS, among other skills.

The project will provide an ambitious and talented student with the opportunity to make considerable ground-breaking findings in the newly developing field of educational neuroscience, by integrating online testing with analyses of cognitive, environmental and educational data.

This studentship offers a chance to conduct novel research in this field and to be trained in cutting edge developmental psychology and online testing, experimental design and statistical and analytic skills, within a leading research environment.

The student will be based at Birkbeck in the Department of Psychological Sciences, currently rated as the 5th leading Psychology department in the UK ( The student will integrate with Dr Iroise Dumontheil and Prof Michael Thomas’s research groups. Both researchers are members of the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development (, a leading research centre using behavioural, genetic and neuroimaging methods to study cognitive and brain development, as well as of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience (, which aims to foster a dialogue between researchers and educationalists and develop the new field of educational neuroscience.

Candidate requirements

Candidates must have a first class or upper second undergraduate degree in a relevant scientific discipline, including but not limited to psychology, biology, neuroscience, computer science, or mathematics. Candidates must also have a first class or upper second Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, as this is a +3 doctoral award. Students will be required to undertake training in advanced quantitative methods as part of their programme, so a strong grounding in quantitative data analysis is an essential requirement.

Candidates must in addition have some teaching experience and a clean Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) check (formerly known as Criminal Record Bureau (CRB)). Experience working in a research assistant post and experience of programming would be advantages.

There will be excellent opportunities for research and training within the Bloomsbury Doctoral Training Centre and through the collaboration with the non-academic partner. The successful applicant will be a member of the CBCD and CEN, which include research groups across Birkbeck, University College London and the UCL-Institute of Education. At Birkbeck the student will be trained within the Department of Psychological Sciences, and exposed to developmental psychology and developmental cognitive neuroscience research, with a focus on neuroimaging.

The placements at Delosis, under the supervision of John Rogers, will ensure the student is trained in online questionnaire and task production, programming experimental tasks in online software platforms, data transfer, management and analysis using R and SPSS. As such, the student will gain highly sought after interdisciplinary training merging into the field of educational neuroscience. As more and more of cognitive testing moves online to obtain larger datasets that can be linked to educational, genetic and environmental measures, the student will therefore develop skills that would be highly beneficial to his/her future career. The student will be encouraged to attend training courses and conferences both within the UK and overseas.

Key References

Lee, K., Bull, R., & Ho, R. M. H. (2013). Developmental changes in executive functioning. Child Development, 84, 1933–53.

Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Emerson, M. J., Witzki, A. H., Howerter, A., & Wager, T. D. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex “Frontal Lobe” tasks: a latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology, 41, 49–100

Raghubar, K. P., Barnes, M. A., & Hecht, S. A. (2010). Working memory and mathematics: A review of developmental, individual difference, and cognitive approaches. Learning and Individual Differences, 20, 110–122.

Strasburger, V. C., Jordan, A. B., & Donnerstein, E. (2010). Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 125, 756–67

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Dr Iroise Dumontheil,

Co- Supervisor: Professor Michael Thomas,

Further information about PhDs at Birkbeck is available from:

Information about the PhD studentship on the Bloomsbury DTC website:

Application forms and details about how to apply:

The online application form is found here:

Please state in your form that you are applying for a CASE Bloomsbury studentship.

An expression of interest should be sent in the first instance to either Dr Iroise Dumontheil or to Professor Michael Thomas, who is the Postgraduate Tutor for the Department of Psychological Sciences (addresses above).

Questions regarding the application process can be directed to the Departmental Administrator: Ida Akhtar, email:, telephone 0207 631 6535.

Application Requirements include a CV, cover letter, 2 academic references, an example piece of academic writing and the standard application form.

Closing date for applications is 26th February 2016.

Please note that interviews will be held in the week commencing 7th March 2016, most likely on 9th March.