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Our research strength is identifying the causes of mental disorders and suicide to develop clinical trials of novel complex interventions.

PhD Research Projects

Self funded opportunities

Paradoxical stress responses in adults with ASD

Supervisor: Dr Craig Melville

Project outline

Studies suggest that there is a relationship between chronic stress experienced by individuals with ASD and the increased rates of anxiety disorders, and other co-morbidities. Experimental stress reactivity studies have found that individuals with ASD have high baseline levels of stress, and experience a paradoxical reduction in objective & subjective measures of stress in response to stressors. For example, non-ASD controls experienced increased heart rate & cortisol in response to the stress tasks, whilst heart rate & cortisol decreased in the individuals with ASD. The mechanism for this paradoxical stress response is unknown but may explain why standard psychosocial approaches to managing anxiety have been found to be less effective for adults with ASD.

Summary aim

To examine whether the paradoxical response to stress in ASD is related to the core social impairments in ASD. to examine this a protocol would examine the response of adults with ASD to a stress reactivity protocol that includes both social and non-social stressors.

Techniques to be used

  • experimental research design skills
  • subjective and objective measurement of the stress response
  • linear and non-linear statistical modelling


  1. Hollocks et al. (2014) Differences in HPA-axis and heart rate responsiveness to psychosocial stress in children with autism spectrum disorders with and without co-morbid anxiety Psychoneuroimmunology 46, 32-45
  2. Toichi, M., & Kamio, Y. (2003). Paradoxical autonomic response to mental tasks in autism. J Autism Dev Disord 33, 417–426 
  3. Jansen et al (2006). Autonomic & neuroendocrine responses to a psychosocial stressor in adults with autism. J Autism Dev Disord 36, 891–899.


Dr Craig Melville, University of Glasgow, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Gartnavel Royal Hospital Glasgow, G12 0X.  

Tel 0141 211 0690
Email craig.melville@glasgow.ac.uk

Identifying the mechanism of action of physical activity in treating depression

Supervisor: Dr Craig Melville

Project outline

Depression is a common and debilitating illness, affecting over 300 million people worldwide. There is a growing evidence base on the clinical effectiveness of physical activity for the management of depression. Researchers have proposed biological, social and psychological mechanisms of action by which physical activity helps manage depressive symptoms. In keeping with theories informing behavioural activation, preliminary experimental evidence suggests that the mechanism of action of physical activity may be due to direct effects on positive affect and physiological arousal. 

Summary aim

To examine the acute and prolonged impact of physical activity on affect, arousal and depressive symptoms.

Techniques to be used

  • experimental and field-based research skills
  • subjective and objective measurement of the response to physical activity
  • linear and non-linear statistical methods


  1. Harvey et al. (2010) Physical activity and common mental disorders. British Journal of Psychiatry; 197: 357-364.
  2. Kopp M, Steinlechner, Ruedl G et al. (2012). Acute effects of brisk walking on affect and psychological well-being in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice; 95:25-29. 
  3. Joseffson et al. (2014) Physical exercise intervention in depressive disorders: Meta-analysis and systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 24, 259-272.


Dr Craig Melville, University of Glasgow, Institute of Health and Wellbeing, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Gartnavel Royal Hospital Glasgow, G12 0X.  

Tel 0141 211 0690
Email craig.melville@glasgow.ac.uk

Health in kinship families

Supervisor: Helen Minnis and Rory O’Connor

Project outline

When children are separated from their families, usually because of abuse or neglect, some will move to live with extended family members. This is described as Kinship Care.  Many of these arrangements are informal (e.g. “gran” or a sibling takes over the care without any statutory involvement), so that we do not have accurate information about kinship families and, in particular, we know little about their health needs. These families are disproportionately likely to live in poverty and the rates of long-term illness and disability among kinship carers is thought to be much higher than in the general population.  

A recent study of 80 kinship families found that 43% of children had a physical health problem, and over a third had symptoms of a mental health problem. In order to help with future service design for this vulnerable population, this PhD aims to identify the number of children who are living in kinship care in Scotland, and examine how their and their carer’s physical and mental health compares to the rest of the population. 

Summary aim

To identify kinship families and assess their health needs .

Techniques to be used

This mixed methods study will use the Scottish Health Survey, a dataset including 37,000 individuals including 8,000 children under the age of 16, detailed information is available about family/household composition that will allow identification of the numbers of kinship families. These data will then be linked with routinely collected NHS data on physical and mental health.  In depth qualitative interviews will be carried out with 20 kinship families to identify key challenges.


  1. Selwyn et al, 2013. The Poor Relations. http://www.buttleuk.org/pages/kinship-care-report-april-2013.html
  2. Nandy et al, 2011. Spotlight on Kinship Care. http://www.buttleuk.org/data/files/Research_Documents/FULL_REPORT_finalkinship.pdf
  3. Aldgate, J., & McIntosh, M. (2006). Looking after the family: a study of children looked after in kinship care in Scotland. Social Work Inspection Agency.


Email Helen.Minnis@glasgow.ac.uk or Rory.OConnor@glasgow.ac.uk


Mental disorders are the leading global cause of disability and the World Health Organisation estimates that over 0.8 million deaths are due to suicide associated with mental disorders. Therefore, research on mental disorders and suicide is vital to reducing the global burden of disease.

Our more fundamental research examines the contribution of psychological, biological and social factors to the causation of mental disorders and suicidal behaviours. Postgraduate research students working in this area can develop cutting edge, skills relevant to experimental, epidemiological, qualitative and neuroimaging research methods.

A translational approach makes use of the evidence from fundamental research to develop innovative therapeutic approaches for the prevention and treatment of mental disorders and suicidal behaviours. We have expertise in clinical trial methodologies to evaluate complex interventions and implementation science.
Interdisciplinary research groups provide postgraduate research opportunities in these themes:

  • suicidal behaviour research
  • psychological therapies
  • bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression
  • big data and mental disorder
  • neuropsychology of neurological disorders
  • autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities
  • attachment, childhood maltreatment and mental disorders


Study options

PhD programmes in Mental Health last 3-4 years, with individual research projects tailored around the expertise of principal investigators within the Institute of Health and Wellbeing. Our supervisors are from clinical and scientific backgrounds and use a variety of approaches including experimental psychology and psychophysiology, functional neuroimaging, multilevel modelling of complex datasets, health services research, qualitative, and clinical trial methodologies. We have excellent engagement with the NHS and with service user and carer organisations.

Specific areas of interest include:

  • Experimental approaches to understanding suicidal behaviours and self-harm
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy for severe mental disorders
  • Interpersonal and attachment based models of affect regulation
  • Developing interventions for detecting, responding to and preventing relapse in psychosis
  • Mother-infant attachment in depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis
  • Psychological therapies for negative symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Neuroinflammatory models of mental disorders
  • Low intensity psychological therapies for mental disorders
  • Understanding the outcomes of traumatic brain injury
  • Autism spectrum disorders and comorbid mental disorders
  • Longitudinal studies of the health of people with intellectual disabilities
  • Multimorbidity and mental disorders
  • Physical activity and weight management programs for people with intellectual disabilities
  • Assistive technologies for adults with specific neuropsychological impairments
  • Identifying shared genetic risk factors for mental disorders and cardiovascular disease
  • Attachment, Childhood maltreatment and mental disorders
  • Socio-ecological models of stigma and discrimination in vulnerable populations


All our postgraduate research students are allocated a supervisor who acts as the main source of academic support and research mentoring.

You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply.

Entry requirements

Awarded or expected 1st class or high upper 2nd class BSc degree.

English Language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English.

Fees and funding



  • £4,260 UK/EU
  • £20,150 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Submission by a research student £480
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,200
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £300
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £680
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period) £270
  • General Council fee £50

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

2017/18 fees

  • £4,195 UK/EU
  • £19,500 outside EU

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Additional fees for all students:

  • Fee for re-submission by a research student: £460
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work: £1,050
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed: £250
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship: £730
  • Research students registered as non-supervised Thesis Pending students (50% refund will be granted if the student completes thesis within the first six months of the period): £300
  • Registration/exam only fee: £150
  • General Council fee: £50



The College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graduate School provides a vibrant, supportive and stimulating environment for all our postgraduate students. We aim to provide excellent support for our postgraduates through dedicated postgraduate convenors, highly trained supervisors and pastoral support for each student.
Our over-arching aim is to provide a research training environment that includes:

  • provision of excellent facilities and cutting edge techniques
  • training in essential research and generic skills
  • excellence in supervision and mentoring
  • interactive discussion groups and seminars
  • an atmosphere that fosters critical cultural policy and research analysis
  • synergy between research groups and areas
  • extensive multidisciplinary and collaborative research
  • extensive external collaborations both within and beyond the UK 
  • a robust generic skills programme including opportunities in social and commercial training

Research environment

If you study with us, you will join a community of 26 postgraduate taught and 150 postgraduate research students. Our institute brings together world-leading basic, applied, clinical and translational researchers to study infection with a focus on the viral, parasitic and bacterial pathogens of both humans and animals, and immunology and inflammation with a focus on chronic inflammatory diseases.

Despite the continual development of new therapies, antibiotics and vaccines, chronic inflammatory and infectious diseases still pose persistent health threats. We aim to:

  • understand the basic science of the immune systems and how the immune system can inturn affect disease outcome understand the biology of parasites, viruse and bacteria and the interactions with their hosts, that in turn leads to high levels of infectious diseases worldwide
  • develop therapies (drugs and vaccines) targeted on these processes
  • explore new treatments and strategies in clinical and translational medicine.

Research centres

How to apply
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