For Students

Sue & studentI am always interested to hear from promising, enthusiastic and bright researchers who are passionate about applying methods from psychology to questions with clinical or educational impact. I have a broad range of interests but I’m currently most interested in starting projects which address either

  1. interplay between technology and development in learning and play, and the uses of technology to support atypical populations such as children with autism. I have one specific funded PhD on this topic currently being advertised at this link (closing date, 20th June 2016)
  2. complex aspects of social development in typical children such as social motivation, shared cultural knowledge and links between social cognition and extraversion/introversion
  3. autistic-defined methodologies and knowledge production

I am also very interested in the possibility of hosting autistic researchers, where I am in the position of being a participant for their studies. For example in ethnographic work evaluating the creation of knowledge about autism by the scientific community.

As well as supervising PhD students I also take on occasional projects from the following courses at the University of Edinburgh:

If you’re interested in studying with me at Masters or PhD level, please first consider whether your proposed research overlaps with my research interests as listed here or featured elsewhere on this website. Specific project ideas I would be interested in supervising are listed below and there are also links to relevant funding streams for PhD and Masters students. Another useful resource for a potential new student is this blog post describing my preferred supervision style.

Specific PhD project ideas

  • Evaluating the role of technology based toys against traditional toys in play settings including their impact on parallel play and peer communication
  • Understanding the influence of specific features of autism on spontaneous technology preferences: is technology use influenced by degree of social connection, mental health problems, executive function, preference for visual detail or combinations of these?
  • In group / out group effects in autism research: what influence does the status of the experimenter (autistic / non-autistic, trained / naive) have on the performance of participants with and without autism?
  • Development of autistic-led outcome measures: defining meaningful outcomes with community representatives and developing robust and valid measures of these.
  • Autistic play: evaluating modes of play between autistic parents and their autistic children in comparison with other dyads (e.g. non-autistic parent with autistic child)
  • Understanding sub-components of social cognition: adopting methods normally applied to understanding executive functions to explore how social abilities break down, using structural equation modelling
  • Psychometric evaluation of the validity and utility of the classic “aloof, passive, odd” characterisation of autism by Lorna Wing

PhD funding opportunities

I can support potential students to seek funding from the ESRC via the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science. Funding is also available via various University of Edinburgh internal funding schemes and in partnership with colleagues in the Medical School I can also supervise clinical PhDs which may be funded by other programmes such as PsySTAR. I will work with promising potential students to help them develop their ideas and secure funding.  However I see the search for funding as part of a student’s academic training and expect students to take a lead on seeking out relevant funding sources and managing deadlines.