UCL Institute of Mental Health


PhD Studentship with Prof Hassiotis, Prof Flouri and Prof Tyler

Project title: Aggressive behaviour in children with intellectual and developmental disorders: the role of the physical environment

Project Description

The new Institute of Mental Health at UCL is seeking a PhD student to work on an interdisciplinary project exploring the impact of the environment on aggression in children/young people with neurodevelopmental disorders.  This is an exciting opportunity to carry out research in epidemiology and developmental psychology. 
Neurodevelopmental disorders including intellectual disability, referred to collectively as Intellectual and Developmental Disorders (IDD), are associated with behaviours that are considered challenging such as aggression towards persons and the environment.  About 50% of children with intellectual disability with/without autism may present with such behaviours in England. Recent research suggests that the environment may be underpinning the onset and maintenance of such behaviours.   The project will focus on two complementary lines of enquiry to provide proof of principle using epidemiological data and experiments to test the hypothesis in an experimental manner.


  1. To carry out a systematic review with meta-analysis where possible, of the role of the physical environment on aggression  in children/young people with IDD
  2. To investigate the impact of the physical environment on aggression in children/young people with IDD using data from the Millennium Cohort Study
  3. To carry out a series of proof of principle experiments testing the impact of aspects  of the physical environment on proxy measures of aggression (e.g. arousal) in a convenient sample of children/young people with and without IDD in the Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory

This project will include opportunities to engage with researchers across a broad range of neuroscience and health disciplines, education and engineering. 
The student will be based mainly in UCL Division of Psychiatry, and will be supervised by Professor Hassiotis: https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/browse/profile?upi=AHASS94, Professor Flouri: https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/browse/profile?upi=EFLOU94 and Professor Tyler: https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/browse/profile?upi=NATYL84

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the proposed course of study, the student will be able to benefit from extensive engagement with all three contributing Institutes (Institute of Mental Health, Institute of Education and Centre for Transport Studies) to gain broader research skills and to receive career development support.  

The 3 year full-time PhD studentship is funded by the Institute of Mental Health, the Division of Psychiatry, the Institute of Education and the Centre for Transport Studies for three years from October 2019. See below for funding details. Applications via CV and cover letter should be sent to Maria Thomas, m.a.thomas@ucl.ac.uk  no later than 5pm on Friday 28th June 2019.  Interviews will take place on Monday 29th July 2019. 

Person Specification 

First degree (2:1 or higher) in a relevant science or health discipline (including psychology, neuroscience, epidemiology, statistics, geography); a Masters Degree and evidence of previous research or study experience related to the built environment would be desirable. 

Experience of: 

  • Conducting research, ideally both epidemiological and experimental, statistics and some programming 
  • Conducting neuroscience research or research with clinical populations Publications in peerreviewed academic journals (desirable)


  • Interest in the area/population of study and motivation in working within an interdisciplinary framework
  • Proven research aptitude 
  • Ability to work both independently and collaboratively 
  • Manage time and work to deadlines 
  • Demonstrate excellent interpersonal, oral and written communication skills 
  • Excellent interpersonal skills and aptitude for enabling people with mental illness and their carers to support and participate in research 
  • Ability to liaise with health and care professionals and academic staff 
  • Commitment to continuous professional development

Further Details

If you have any queries about this studentship, please contact Professor Angela Hassiotis, a.hassiotis@ucl.ac.uk.

Please submit applications by: 
• A CV, including full details of all University course grades to date and contact details (phone number and email). 
• Contact details for two academic or professional referees (at least one academic). References will be taken up for all short-listed candidates. 
• A personal statement (500 words maximum) outlining: (i) your suitability for the project with reference to the criteria in the person specification, (ii) what you hope to achieve from the PhD and (iii) your research experience to-date. 

Applications via CV and cover letter should be sent to Maria Thomas, m.a.thomas@ucl.ac.uk no later than 5pm on Friday 28th June 2019. Interviews will take place on Monday 29th July 2019. 
The successful candidate will require clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before the studentship can be confirmed.

Details about the UCL Institute of Mental Health can be found on the website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/mental-health/.

Details about the PAMELA facility can be found on the website: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/civil-environmental-geomatic-engineering/research/groups-and-centres/pedestrian-accessibility-movement-environment-laboratory-pamela.

Other relevant information about studying in the UK: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/  

Funding Notes

The studentship includes home fees, a student stipend and research costs for each of the three years of the award. The funding is for a full-time PhD. Funding of clinical salaries will not be possible. Students must be eligible to pay fees at the UK/EU rate. Please see UCL’s guidance for prospective students (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/students/fees-and-funding/pay-your-fees/fee-schedules/student-fee-status) or contact Access and Admissions in Student and Registry Services for further information. 

The 2019/20 funding is as follows with yearly increases subject to review by the UCL Finance Committee: 
Stipend: £17,280 
Home Fees: £5,161 
Research Costs: £1,200