PhD Studentship in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

University of Stirling - Psychology

Applications are invited for a funded full-time PhD Studentship based in the Psychology Division at the University of Stirling. The studentship holder will join a research team, led by Dr Eva Rafetseder, Professor Yee Lee Shing (external supervisor) and Dr Sobanawartiny Wijeakumar, funded by the University of Stirling and co-funded by the Jacobs Foundation.


This studentship will examine effects of early schooling on children’s cognitive control and its related changes in the brain. Our recent work showed that, due to increased demands on sustained attention, one year of being in the first-grade leads to specific changes in children, namely improved cognitive control, and an increase in the activation of right posterior parietal cortex, a brain region important for sustained attention. This studentship aims to tackle the following research questions:

1) To what extent do schooling-specific neurocognitive changes predict academic outcomes over time?

2) Are there predictors of schooling-specific neurocognitive changes, stemming from individual characteristics to socioeconomic background of the child?

3) Do late schoolers, due to being older when entering school, show larger schooling-specific neural changes compared to early schoolers?

The student will play a key role in designing and running the study. He/she will combine an experimental approach with longitudinal assessments of brain functions (using fNIRS), cognitive abilities, and academic performance in two groups of children similar in age but differing in year of school entrance (parents in Scotland can choose to defer school entry for children born in January and February). The successful candidate will compare these two groups of children, which requires intense periods of testing (May–August 2018, 2019, 2020) at the children’s homes using cognitive and neuro-imaging testing. He/she will regularly visit Professor Yee Lee Shing at Goethe University Frankfurt.

Financial Support:

The studentship is available for three-years, and includes a tax-free stipend of approximately £14,917 p.a. Tuition fees will be met by the University at the home rate. Subject to satisfactory progress review at the end of the first year, the studentship will be renewed for a second year and thereafter for a third year. The studentships will have an anticipated registration date of 1 February 2018.

Application Requirements:

  • Eligible applicants must hold a first–class Bachelor (hons.) degree in Psychology or related discipline. A relevant MSc qualification is desirable.
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal and organizational skills are essential, as responsibilities will include interaction with children, parents, and external organisations.
  • Relevant research experience (e.g. using fNIRS, working with children) is highly desirable.
  • A driving license (category B) is essential for making home visits to test the children.
  • Programming experience (e.g., MATLAB, Python, R, E-Prime) or a strong motivation to develop such expertise, is desirable.

To apply please include:

(i) One A4 page covering letter outlining your suitability for the position.

(ii) One A4 page outlining how longitudinal changes in brain functions contribute to our understanding of children’s academic attainment.

(iii) Academic CV with two academic references.

(iv) Copies of your academic transcripts

Please apply online via ‘Research Degree in Psychology’:

Once you have started the application process, email to ask to be exempted from the ‘find-a-supervisor’ process.

For informal enquiries contact Dr Eva Rafetseder ( or Linda Cullen ( Tel: +44 (0) 1786 466854).

Deadline: 13 December 2017. Interview Date: 9 January 2018

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