Doctoral Studentships

Doctoral Studentships: people we've funded

This list includes current and past grantholders.


Lianne Bakkum

University of Cambridge

Attachment and the transgenerational effects of loss, abuse and trauma: exploring and testing classic ideas through historical analysis and developmental science

Since it was introduced by John Bowlby, attachment research has been among the most influential paradigms for understanding the social underpinnings of infant mental health and transgenerational mental health. However, a consequence of the way the model of attachment research was constructed in the 1980s by Mary Main has meant that it has largely treated loss, abuse and trauma as essentially equivalent, despite their very different clinical implications.

I will use a multidisciplinary approach to investigate these concepts and examine potential differences. I will make a critical re-examination of the concepts of loss, abuse and trauma in the published and unpublished works by John Bowlby and Mary Main, exploring their reflections on how these experiences might affect parenting. This hypothesis will be tested using individual participant data pooled from 59 attachment studies, representing 4,542 families. I will also test explanations for differential effects of unresolved loss, abuse and trauma on parenting and child development using longitudinal data from 400 mothers and children.

This study will shed new light on transgenerational mental health processes, and insights will be disseminated to professionals and families.

Marieke Bigg

University of Cambridge

‘Pre-embryos’ revisited: a historical sociology of translational biology 

This project will revisit the debates on human fertilisation and embryology that took place after the release of the Warnock report in 1984 and ended with the enactment of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in 1990. I will ask how developmental biologist Dame Anne McLaren used the scientific concept of the ‘pre-embryo’ as a rhetorical device in debates to make the case for the continuation of research. Dame Anne’s role as the only research scientist on the Warnock Committee, but also in public debate and in the scientific community, offers insight into the translational dimensions of human embryo research.

My research will explore the legacy of the term ‘pre-embryo’ by asking practising developmental biologists conducting research that needs an extended limit on in vitro research on human embryos, to reflect on the term and suggest which lessons about biological translation can be taken from the debates in the 1980s, and assess the usefulness of new scientific terms and concepts when engaging lay audiences in scientific debates.

Ross Brooks

Oxford Brookes University

Evolution’s closet: the new biology and homosexuality in Britain, 1900-1976

I will explore the diverse approaches adopted towards homosexuality by biologists in Britain from the discovery of sex chromosomes at the turn of the 20th century to the publication of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene in 1976.

My research project will make the case that new theories of homosexuality, originating from zoology, ethology, evolutionary biology, genetics, endocrinology and eugenics, steadily formed an alternative body of knowledge which challenged models of normative and non-normative sexuality derived from psychoanalysis and psychiatry. The project will demonstrate the importance of this body of knowledge to developments in British post-war history, including the anti-psychiatry movement and homosexual law reform.

I will undertake a comprehensive investigation of the different approaches adopted towards non-human and human homosexuality by biologists in Britain between 1900 and 1976, and trace the dissemination and influence of knowledge and practices concerning the new biology of sexuality in British medicine, law, politics and the media. I will also provide a body of research which contextualises and informs today's biopolitical debates pertaining to ‘gay genes’ and the prospect of choosing an unborn child’s sexual orientation in adulthood.

Lu Chen

University of York

China in the worldwide eradication of smallpox, 1949-1980: recovering and democratising histories of international health

China exited the World Health Organization and the United Nations in 1949/50 in protest against the USA’s promotion of China Taipei in the international arena. China remained an ally of the USSR and other Warsaw Pact signatories between 1950-1970, responding to the Soviet commitment to eradicate smallpox in the early 1950s by creating new epidemiological and vaccination networks. While both countries made significant progress in limiting the disease, they struggled to achieve eradication because of re-importations from neighbouring countries. China worked with the USSR on global eradication efforts outside WHO-sponsored structures, assisted by aid – in the form of advisers, public health personnel, vaccine, vaccinating kits, money and technology – from the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Sweden. Comprehensive vaccination programmes led to China announcing smallpox eradication in the mid-1960s, which was certified by WHO delegations and an independent international team in the mid-1970s. Unused aid from Sweden was returned to a cash-strapped WHO through ostentatious, public ceremonies in Beijing and this money helped eradication programmes in India, Bangladesh and East Africa.

I will study how all these interlinked developments combined to achieve the global eradication of smallpox by 1980. 

Emilie Glazer

University College London

Water resistance: a study of environmental justice, resilience and citizen science activism in Mexico City            

The concept of resilience is central to public health and climate change discourse, but is rarely critiqued. Addressing this omission is crucial: resilience frameworks can conceal social inequalities, uphold political status quo, and overlook local experience. Equally, few anthropological studies have examined resilience and urban water insecurity.

This research will explore resilience and environmental justice, with a focus on water insecurity in Mexico City. It is the third most water-stressed city in the world and low-income neighbourhoods have limited access to water. Communities often protest in response. Drawing together an ethnographic study with the digital participatory methods of citizen science, the goals of this research are to understand the meaning and practices of resilience among people who experience water insecurity. We will also investigate the role of digital technology and citizen science and inform future uses of resilience in environmental justice research, design and policy.

Our findings will contribute to anthropological theory and knowledge, opening the potential for transdisciplinary collaborations, and bring a more sensitive and ethical perspective to the overlap of climate change and health.

Muriel Levy

University of Oxford

The evaluation of effective healthcare delivery in China using electronic medical records for 10 years in 0.5 million participants in the China Kadoorie Biobank

This project will assess social determinants and equality in hospital care delivery and use in 0.5 million participants who have been followed up for 10 years at the China Kadoorie Biobank. The first goal is to evaluate differences in the annual rates of hospitalisation and hospital admissions per person, and the average length of stay overall and for ten of the most frequent causes of hospitalisation and by region, hospital tier, type of health insurance (HI) package and socioeconomic characteristics. Another goal is to study the variation in hospital care costs in China. The inequalities behind the variation in use and costs of hospital care will be investigated across regions, HI package and socioeconomic characteristics.

These findings will provide reliable quantitative evidence to evaluate operational defects and plan initiatives to improve healthcare delivery in China.

Bryan Lim

Goldsmiths, University of London

Exploring health and HIV for men who have sex with men in London: how can perceptions of health be used to achieve improved HIV prevention outcomes?

This study will draw on post-humanist thought and process theory to examine how the sexual practices of men who have sex with men (MSM) and their perceptions of health and illness in relation to HIV are entangled. By situating MSM's sexual practices in a larger context, I will build an appreciation of how the boundaries, properties, meanings and identities of humans, technology and viruses are constantly enacted.

Ethnographic research will be carried out in a men’s sauna in London and in-depth, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with MSM to help understand how PrEP (HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis) affects the way MSM live their lives and their attitudes to HIV and other microbes. Where observation is not possible, the ‘interview to the double’ method will be used to represent and analyse MSM’s practices. Interviewees will be asked to imagine they have a double who will replace them, before being asked to provide detailed instructions to ensure that the double is not exposed to HIV.

My work can be used to examine how changing sexual practices and attitudes may improve HIV prevention. A workshop with relevant stakeholders will be arranged to explore how the research can be translated into practical policy and health service delivery regarding HIV prevention.

Nicole Luongo

King’s College London

The relationship between disordered eating and substance use among street-involved youth

The interaction between eating disorders (EDs) and substance abuse disorders (SUDs) is well documented. Most existing studies draw from clinical rather than community-based samples but this excludes a large group of people whose symptoms are not severe enough to warrant treatment or those for whom treatment is inaccessible due to cost or other factors. 

I intend to build upon existing research by expanding the dominant narrative around the prevalence of comorbid EDs and SUDs outside the clinical setting. I will conduct an ethnographic exploration of street-involved youths’ lived experience of disordered eating, substance abuse, and the inter-relationship between the two. My primary goals, based on preliminary research conducted for my MA thesis, are: to identify the extent to which body image concerns motivate substance abuse; to determine whether the cessation of alcohol and illicit drug use prompts renewed interest in other health-promoting behaviours such as healthy eating and exercise; and to explore whether unintentional self-starvation due to food insecurity facilitates neurological changes that correlate with an increase in substance abuse.

Ultimately, I hope to work in a community setting to develop accessible, affordable and culturally competent treatment options for socioeconomically marginalised youth. 

Beth Parkinson

University of Manchester

Exploring the relationship between the quality and availability of primary care services and demand for emergency care

Despite the implementation of a number of programmes, crowded A&E departments and unplanned hospital admissions are now two of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. There is currently a focus on policies to reduce A&E attendances through changes in primary care, despite limited evidence of a relationship between the availability and quality of primary care services and the demands placed on secondary care. 

We will use a newly available administrative dataset of all A&E attendances in England to examine the relationship between the volume and composition of A&E attendances and the accessibility and quality of primary care services. We will develop methodology to identify A&E attendances which could be avoided with better quality primary care and attendances which would be more appropriately treated in primary care. This will establish the extent of the problem and potential scope for interventions. Once we have identified the potential scope for interventions, we will assess where best to target interventions. We will also assess the potential cost-effectiveness of current interventions. 

Elizabeth Romanis

University of Manchester

Regulating the ‘Brave New World’: ethico-legal implications of the quest for partial ectogenesis    

Partial ectogenesis (PE), the transfer of a foetus from the maternal womb to an artificial womb mid-gestation so that it can develop to term, is already a partial reality. Advances in neonatal intensive care have made it possible for the fetus to survive outside the womb from an earlier stage and scientists have begun developing artificial wombs built using human stem cells. This will have huge implications, including a better survival rates for premature babies.

More radical research is proposed and there are pregnant women willing to consent to experimental PE. I will explore key ethico-legal questions surrounding PE trials using human subjects, with the primary objective of evaluating the extent to which the law protects vulnerable parties and how this research should be regulated. I will examine PE’s legality, the extent to which the law sufficiently protects pregnant women and foetuses involved in research trials, and explore whether radical research on the foetus is justifiable. I will also look at how pregnant women might be protected from coercion and what would be the ideal regulatory system for research trials involving reproductive technologies.

Gabriella Maria Romano

Birkbeck, University of London

Fascism, the corruption of psychiatry and the coercion and confinement of LGBT people in Italy, 1922-1943

My doctoral thesis will draw together archive records to analyse the complex behind-the-scenes dialogue between psychiatric hospital directors, public security forces, local authorities, mental health patients and their families during the fascist regime in Italy (1922-1943). Analysing and comparing the correspondence between these institutions and individuals, together with doctors’ and nurses’ notes from four different locations, will shed light on how repression of so-called ‘sexual inversion’ was implemented.

This research will reveal broader social attitudes towards homosexuality and will challenge the stereotype of cohesive Italian families that was so central in fascist propaganda. It will unravel mechanisms of power and authority during the regime and will show to what extent its rhetoric entered everyday life. It will also demonstrate how the law and its representatives accommodated the regime’s need to isolate and punish people who did not conform, and how psychiatry offered its knowledge to this project and became an effective tool of repression.

Cora Salkovskis

Birkbeck, University of London

Feeling flesh: pain, emotion and the self in the understanding of insanity’s tortured bodies and fractured minds, c1880-1930

This study draws attention to the ambiguities and conflicts surrounding embodiment and pain in the late-19th and early-20th century understanding of the experience of ‘insanity’. Engaging with concepts of embodied cognition, the history of emotion and phenomenology, I will consider the relationship between the body, culture and language in the experience and construction of disorder. Deconstructing boundaries drawn around the ‘shell-shocked body’ in historical discourse draws attention to the ambiguous but shifting position occupied by the hypersensitive, uncontrollable or pained body to reveal the experience of mental illness as shaped by a complex interaction of body, language and culture.

Resistant reading of patients’ case notes and published treatises on insanity will be used in conjunction with a consideration of representations of the ‘insane body’ in the visual arts (including photography and film).

Arguing for a biopsychosocial approach to mental health, I will emphasise the importance of historicising the ways in which the experience of ‘disorder’ is filtered through textual and visual discourse, asking how patients have communicated sensation and considering  the ways in which doctors have sought to record or understand it.

Sarah Spence

University of Glasgow

Representations of stigmatised health issues in Scottish fiction 1979-present

The Glasgow Effect is the phenomenon of poor health and high mortality in Scotland, even after accounting for socioeconomic factors. Many associated health issues, such as obesity, drug abuse and mental ill health, are stigmatised. This is especially significant in neoliberal contexts where health is viewed as the individual’s responsibility – neglect of which can be deemed a failure. These health issues are also associated with Scottishness in news and popular culture, a cultural imagery generated by – yet also independent of – sociological fact.

This project will examine representations of these stigmatised health issues in Scottish fiction (1979-present). I follow critics in disability, madness and fat studies, such as G Thomas Couser, Brenda LeFrançois and Esther Rothblum, who all recognise the counterdiscursive possibility in illness narratives and the role of sociopolitical factors in representations of health.

Through close reading and comparative analysis of key literary texts, I will explore illness narrative structures, identity politics, and how Scottish authors engage with or challenge dominant health discourses. I will use: Mitchell and Snyder’s concept of narrative prosthesis, which argues ‘deviant’ bodies illuminate bodily norms; theories on illness writing and reader response by Jurecic and Hunsaker Hawkins; and Arthur Frank’s illness narrative categorisations. To understand the fiction’s context, the research will also examine representations in newspapers in Scotland from 1979 to the present.

Upul Wickramasinghe

Durham University

Water, health and kidney disease in Sri Lanka: perspectives from anthropology and chemistry  

We will look at policy research on health and environmental crises produced by water pollution in the developing world. As a case study, we will explore the epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology (CKDu) in Sri Lanka. It will focus on how scientific, medical and policy narratives of the disease have come to centre on water, accompanied with a study of ethno-chemical understanding versus chemical quality of water. 

We will combine theories and methods from the anthropology of science, environment, and health and water chemistry to explore the cultural and historical conditions of water in relation to a CKDu epidemic. We will map the emergence of a lexicon around water and compare criteria used by scientists and ordinary villagers to judge water quality. We will also develop maps of water quality as identified through scientific and ethno-chemical knowledge.

The research will improve understanding of people’s lives in a CKDu-affected village. This will contribute towards science, advocacy and policy debates regarding CKDu and water pollution.


Stuart Bradwel

University of Strathclyde

‘Doctor’s orders’ – type 1 diabetes and the consultative relationship 1970-present    

I will investigate the transition from physician-led to patient-led therapy in the care of type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) since the 1970s. By taking a ‘bottom-up’ approach incorporating oral history testimony, I will unpack the technological, socio-cultural and political mechanisms that enabled this to occur while the treatment of other long-term conditions remained unchanged. 

I will describe the social history of T1DM, question the dynamics of the consultative relationship in chronic diseases and consider the ways modern medicine could adapt to meet the challenges of 21st century healthcare. I will also address the role of medical technology as a democratising force for people with chronic diseases. 

My thesis will be published as a monograph and I intend to disseminate my findings widely, especially to health policy makers.

Claire Burridge

University of Cambridge

An interdisciplinary investigation into Carolingian medical knowledge and practice

I am proposing an interdisciplinary project that will present a more comprehensive picture of Carolingian health and medicine. I will investigate early medieval medical knowledge in the late 8th and 9th centuries and explore the question of its possible application through an in-depth analysis of textual sources and skeletal remains. 

Medical manuscripts shed light on the medical knowledge circulating among the literate elite, illustrating the perceptions of medicine in ecclesiastical communities, and the adaptation and incorporation of classical learning in a Christian, medieval world. A review of the skeletal remains from this period will provide insights into the health and lived experiences of people from all walks of life. 

I will compare the medical knowledge contained in the manuscripts with the palaeopathological and osteological record captured by the bones asking if there is evidence that this knowledge was applied. I hope to assess whether different types of communities and texts yield different answers. 

Jennifer Carr

University of Glasgow

The medical history of the refugee camp

Refugee camps have been the dominant model of managing refugee crises for a century, despite attempts to seek alternatives. My research will offer a historiographical analysis of the medicalisation of refugee camps. It will analyse how camps have developed as sites of medical risk for their inhabitants. It will investigate if refugee camps have become sites of disease control, for the benefit of host communities and the global community. 

The research will draw from archival documents to investigate the strategy and role of international bodies (non-governmental organisations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in the medicalisation of refugee camps. 

My goals are to complete a challenging contribution to the body of knowledge, strengthen a multidisciplinary field of study in medicine and the humanities, and open up avenues for new research which will be of value to policy makers.

Victoria Charlton

King's College London

The influence of social and ethical values on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) technology appraisal: an empirical ethics study

The primary national body for setting health priorities in the UK is the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which takes into account social and ethical values alongside cost- and clinical-effectiveness when deciding which treatments to recommend for uptake by the NHS. 

The goal of this project is to investigate the role that social and ethical values play in NICE’s decision-making, specifically in its health technology appraisal (HTA) process. I will investigate what social and ethical values – other than cost-effectiveness – NICE explicitly and implicitly invokes and excludes in its technology appraisal process and how it balances these values against one another and against cost-effectiveness when developing its recommendations. I will look at the extent actual practice aligns with stated practice and consider the ethical and policy implications of these findings, and how they might inform future approaches to priority-setting in the NHS. 

Research methods will include literature review, document research, qualitative interviews, direct observation of NICE’s decision-making processes and ethical and policy analysis.

Fabiola Creed

University of Warwick

Aesthetics, addictions and health advice: understanding ‘tanorexia’ in contemporary Britain, 1978-2016    

This PhD will explore how the acquisition of a tan – a symbol of health and beauty in the West – has become a compulsive disorder, despite the increasing incidence and awareness of its association with melanoma. My study will build on geographical, cultural, psychological, policy-related and economic factors explored in my Liverpool-based MA research by extending to Newcastle and Blackpool. Regions in these cities occupy the top nine positions out of 324 for the highest quantity of sunbed outlets. This will provide a wider and deeper analysis to explain the developing and persistent high usage of sunbeds and increasing use of tanning enhancements pills and injections in these areas.

Claire Cunnington

University of Sheffield

From victim to survivor: what actions do survivors take to redefine their identity when recovering from child sexual abuse?

The research takes a holistic approach to recovery from child sexual abuse (CSA) and places survivors at the centre of the research. It will involve qualitative interviews with adult survivors to identify useful actions they have taken to improve their health and wellbeing. 

I will employ an overarching theme of moving from ‘passive’ victim to ‘active’ survivor to create resources for professionals and survivors. The holistic approach will include anything participants identify as significant in their recovery, from NHS and third sector support, to religion, education and personal relationships. 

Without pre-judging the results, the aim will be to disseminate the resources as widely as possible through third sector umbrella groups and key supporters.

Laura del Carpio

University of Strathclyde

Examining the impact of suicide on adolescent survivors

Research suggests that people who have lost a loved one to suicide are at high risk of future problems including mental and physical health issues, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. This is particularly concerning in adolescent survivors, a group that has been highlighted as particularly vulnerable in the Scottish Government’s suicide prevention strategy. 

This theory-based investigation will look at the types of bereavements adolescents encounter in Scotland and whether an existing psychological model of self-harm and suicide helps conceptualise why experiences of losing a family member to suicide leads to a greater risk of suicidal behaviour. I will investigate whether this model can predict engagement in self-harm and suicidal thoughts. I will also look for any qualitative differences in experiences of young people who are grieving. 

I will use a series of four interlinked studies using various research methodologies with adolescents across Scotland. This work has major implications for postvention and intervention development, clinical practice, and policy planning.

Barbara Dunn

University of Exeter

Astrology is higher and nobler than medicine and every physician must be an astrologer: astrologer-physicians and their working practices, 1580-1680    

My thesis will explore the work of early modern astrologer-physicians, as they were shaped and informed by the Astrological Figure (known today as a ‘horoscope’). I aim to reconstruct the organisation, routines, rituals, encounters and processes of an early modern astrological-medical practice and interrogate their understanding and application of the evidence contained in the figure. I will ask how the figure shaped astrological-medical practice and construction and imaging of disease and illness, how it informed diagnosis, prognosis and treatment and how closely astrological theory was adhered to. I will analyse printed vernacular astrological guides/manuscripts, astrological-medical casebooks, personal correspondence, autobiographies, almanacs and astrologer-physicians’ source material. 

The structure of this thesis will follow the procedural steps of the early modern astrological-medical consultation (the encounter, process, and response), simultaneously working within the classifications of astrology as presented in texts of the time.

Rebecca Irons

University College London

Planning Quechua families: indigenous subjectivities, inequalities and kinship under the Peruvian family planning programme

This research will investigate how the Peruvian family planning (FP) programme is being implemented in an indigenous community, and look at the wider affects that this intervention may have on community networks as well as individuals. Anthropological literature describes how biomedical interventions can affect how people view their bodies, which can alter personal and community relationships. I will examine the results of enforced medical FP to ascertain what affects the programme has on traditional kinship and community networks which the Quechua-indigenous rely upon in the Andes. 

In 1990-2000 the Peruvian government used coercion to sterilise more than 200,000 rural-indigenous people without consent, which was seen as a way of controlling the fertility of this ‘less-desirable’ sub-population. This group is again being targeted for intervention. The project will investigate if there are any contemporary issues with lack of information, misinformation or discriminatory practice by exploring how the programme is being delivered to indigenous communities. 

Rebecka Klette

Birkbeck, University of London

The reception and application of degeneration theory and the concept of atavism in Scandinavian racial sciences, literature, cultural debate, and satire, 1880-1922

I will examine how degeneration theory, as both a scientific and cultural concept, was received and disseminated in Scandinavia through racial biology and anthropology, literature, cultural debate, and satire. I will contend that it may be viewed as a prism reflecting the relationship between 19th and early 20th century science and culture which is popularising science through periodicals, satire, and literature. I will examine the unique character of Scandinavian degeneration theory which strongly emphasises heredity over environment as the main cause of degeneration. I will also juxtapose the notion of late 19th century British, French, German, and Italian degenerationist thought as closed systems of knowledge. 

I will focus on the time period 1880-1922, as the spectre of degeneration began to emerge in Scandinavian debate in the 1880s. The study will conclude with the founding of the Swedish National Institute for Eugenics in 1922, which positioned Scandinavia at the forefront of European research into the mechanisms of racial heredity.

Bobby Macaulay

Glasgow Caledonian University

An investigation of the effects of community land ownership on the health of people in rural communities

This PhD aims to discover how the health of community members is affected when they take on collective ownership of the land they live on. I will use comparative, mixed methods with both desk-based and field research to gather and analyse the potential health implications of community land-ownership.

Developing a detailed understanding of how land ownership will affect rural communities, especially in regard to their health, is particularly pertinent in light of the Scottish Government’s aim of doubling the quantity of land in community hands. It is hoped that the results of this research will help inform future policy and practice regarding land reform and the future of rural health strategy.

Arianna Manzini

University of Oxford

An empirical study of children and adolescents’ perspectives on testing minors for their genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorder

Predictive genetic testing for psychiatric disorders could help prevent or delay the development of debilitating conditions. However, it is a relatively poor predictive instrument because of the complex and variable expression in the genes underlying mental disorders. There have been empirical studies concerning the socio-ethical impact of such testing from the perspectives of adult patients, family, psychiatrists and geneticists. These studies highlighted the risks of promoting a deterministic stance on psychiatric conditions, the potential for discrimination against people tested, and the possible negative effects on family relationships. However, no systematic study has investigated younger people’s perspectives of the tests. 

The aim of my research is to investigate children and adolescents’ perspectives on testing minors for their genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorders. My research will assess whether their concerns confirm those expressed in the academic literature and it will provide a more inclusive account of the public’s opinions. 

Penelope Milsom

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Assessing health impacts of the investor-state dispute settlement provision in contemporary trade and investment agreements: case studies of tobacco control, access to essential medicines and environmental health

The detrimental effects on health of global trade and investment agreements (TIAs) are being increasingly recognised. The recent negotiations of bilateral and regional TIAs have raised particular concern because of the health implications of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision that allows investors to sue foreign governments for compensation of losses attributable to government measures. However, little research has been undertaken of these health implications, or the strategic options available to the countries involved. 

This research will examine the context and strategies used by countries in ISDS proceedings. A framework will be developed of the pathways from the ISDS mechanism. I will analyse in-depth case studies of ISDS proceedings in relation to tobacco control, access to essential medicines and environmental health. This study will be the first empirical research into health implications of ISDS use in TIAs and it will provide recommendations that countries can use to help achieve health and trade objectives.

Pia Noel

University of Edinburgh

The interplay between need and response: an ethnographic multi-stakeholder response analysis to mental distress in post-disaster urban Nepal

Humanitarian efforts and resources regarding mental health needs post-disasters are largely spent on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) despite the lack of agreement on this diagnosis and the usefulness of these efforts. There has been little work looking at the relationship between mental health care needs and responses. I will explore the different responses to the mental health needs of the population in post-disaster urban Nepal and the interplay between needs and responses. 

The humanitarian and family/community contexts will be studied ethnographically during 12 months of fieldwork in Lalitpur, Nepal. I will use semi-structured interviews, focus groups, case studies and free-listing to elucidate points of convergence and divergence in the conceptualisation of mental distress among different people. 

I hope to inform policy and provide suggestions for service delivery that could lead to more meaningful outcomes and help avoid inappropriate, wasteful and/or harmful ways of addressing mental distress.

Natalie Riley

Durham University

The matter of the mind: transdisciplinary consciousness in contemporary fiction

My doctoral project focuses on changes in the way the mind was defined in fiction from 1995 to 2014. My study will explore how portrayals of the mind in recent fiction are profoundly engaged with developments in neurosciences. Emerging alongside the increasingly complex scientific research into cognitive function, contemporary fiction demonstrates how our cultural understandings of consciousness are shaped by the interdisciplinary conversation between literature and the neurosciences. 

The aim of my research is to challenge how contemporary literature’s contribution to the medical humanities and sciences is categorised. While acknowledging that narrative literature helps us gain insight into the phenomenological experience of consciousness, my research also shows how literature provides a vital site in which the discourses surrounding ‘mind’ are examined, refuted, and developed and where we can explore and advance the manner in which the mind is framed in contemporary society.

David Saunders

Queen Mary University of London

‘Restless tides of electrical being’: epilepsy research, neuroscience and subjectivity in post-war Britain

My project will critically examine experimental epilepsy research in Britain in the two decades after the end of the Second World War. I will investigate how interactions between neuroscientific concepts of the brain and psychological concepts of the mind shaped the practices, technologies and procedures used to understand and treat epilepsy. As well as examining the role of researchers, I will explore how participants influenced the research programmes. I will focus on three programmes: the neurosurgical programme of Murray Falconer at the Maudsley Hospital, London, in which temporal lobectomies were used to treat ‘intractable’ cases of epilepsy; the electroencephalographic research of William Grey Walter at Burden Neurological Institute, Bristol, where EEG technologies were used to reveal the mechanisms behind seizures; and the Epilepsy Society which trialled anti-seizure medications. 

By comparing these programmes, I will assess recent claims regarding the ‘colonisation’ of ideas of consciousness, the emotions, and subjectivity by the neurosciences in the late 20th century.

Halina Suwalowska

University of Oxford

Ethical and socio-cultural aspects of autopsy in biomedical settings in low and middle- income countries

Complete diagnostic autopsies (CDA) remain the gold standard for determining cause of death, but performing them in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is challenging. Facilities are inadequate, skilled staff scarce and public acceptance low. A minimally invasive autopsy (MIA) procedure involving organ-directed sampling has been proposed as an alternative. Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) is evaluating the use of MIA in Vietnam, but the method’s ultimate effectiveness will depend on its public reception. The public view on post mortem examinations and consent for them are complex and under-researched. 

I will use interviews, focus groups and participant observations to assess the practice and perceptions of autopsy in Vietnam and Nepal. I will investigate socio-cultural factors surrounding these perceptions and explore ethical barriers preventing autopsy uptake. I will try to determine whether MIA may be more acceptable than traditional forms of post mortem. 

I will then work alongside clinicians to develop more culturally sensitive and appropriate methods of obtaining consent to autopsy.

Stuart Wright

University of Manchester

Accounting for capacity constraints in economic evaluations of stratified medicines: an application in lung cancer                 

National decision makers analyse the cost-effectiveness of healthcare interventions to inform whether they should be introduced. I will combine methods from mathematical programming with decision-analytic modelling to identify the effect of capacity constraints on the relative cost-effectiveness of stratified medicines for the treatment of lung cancer in the NHS. I will identify the impact of different constraints in terms of the benefits to patients achieved and the cost of stratified medicine, and find areas for improvement.

Failing to account for capacity constraints in cost-effectiveness analysis of stratified medicine interventions may give a false impression about relative costs and benefits. Omitting capacity constraints may lead to interventions being adopted when they do not provide the promised health benefits. Failing to account for capacity constraints may give the impression that apparently cost-effective interventions can be quickly adopted into clinical practice when investment must be made to support these treatments. This may lead to heterogeneity in provision of stratifying interventions leading to inequality in treatment options.


Pepita Barlow

University of Oxford

Trade liberalisation and diet-related non-communicable diseases    

This research will examine the effect of trade liberalisation on diet and alcohol-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs). I will assess whether liberalisation increases or decreases the consumption of unhealthy food and alcohol by changing social environments, particularly in relation to their availability, accessibility and desirability. Since unhealthy food and alcohol consumption is a key contributor to NCDs, the proposed research will indicate whether and how macro-economic policy decisions contribute to NCDs by changing consumption patterns. I will evaluate how trade liberalisation affects social disparities in NCD prevalence by analysing the socio-economic groups in which these effects are most salient. 

By conducting a series of comparative, cross-national studies in different economic and social-policy contexts, the research will assess whether government policies and income levels moderate or exacerbate the consequences of trade liberalisation on NCDs. This will provide insights for policy makers who attempt to reduce the chronic disease burden and inequalities and highlight whether the health consequences of liberalisation might be reduced by government interventions.

Hannah Bower

University of Oxford

The problem with practicality: rethinking the function of late-medieval medical recipes 1400-1550

I intend to examine late-medieval manuscripts containing English medical recipe collections to establish a clearer and more nuanced understanding of their cultural functions.

I aim to analyse the navigational aids, reader annotation and context of these collections to complicate the current critical conception that they predominantly served practical functions. I also hope to destabilise modern ideas of medieval boundaries between remedies and other text types, between the utilitarian and the non-utilitarian. In doing so, I shall build upon the work of scholars such as Carrie Griffin who has suggested that these texts are suitable for closer, more in-depth literary and codicological analysis than they have previously been subjected to.

Andrew Burchell

University of Warwick        

Violence, mental health and the British school child: from theory to practice in an era of war, peace and social change, 1944-1980

The project will examine thought and practice on the relationship between violence and children in primary and secondary state education in England from 1944 until 1980. I will explore the connections between theory and practice and the ways in which psychological ideas were mediated by those involved in the debate about violence in schools. 

I will also consider whether the Second World War affected thinking about children as well as examining the effect of the new tripartite education system and its post-war extension of secondary education for all children. I will consider the differences in what a range of professionals thought about this subject, particularly psychologists and teachers, but also social workers, parents, and popular commentators. The project will trace differences in practice according to age, gender, class and ethnicity, and explore the effect of ideas about moral decline associated with the permissive society that was illustrated by the alarm during the 1950s about the existence of a ‘blackboard jungle’.

Jessica Butler    

University of Liverpool

Paternal child-murder and insanity in Victorian London, Manchester and Liverpool            

My goals are to ascertain the reasons why fathers killed their children in Victorian England. I will look at the factors which contributed to a successful insanity plea and the extent to which the insanity plea in cases of infanticide was determined by gender. I will also examine the extent to which the crime of infanticide itself was gendered. I will look at the role of the medical establishment in court when an insanity plea was successful, as well as the role of the media and public opinion. 

I intend to carry out my research in London, Liverpool and Manchester. I will begin by looking at local assize court records for cases of child murder and infanticide committed by men, then look up these cases in local and national newspapers. I will explore medical treatises on both infanticide and insanity in Victorian England to track the change in medical opinion concerning these issues to see if they are reflected in the outcome of insanity pleas from fathers who killed their children. 

Giulia Cavaliere    

King's College London    

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis and eugenics: a social moral epistemology approach        

I will critically assess the claim that preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) amounts to a resurgence of eugenics using a historically informed analysis of the current discourse. I will investigate the idea held by some liberal philosophers that we ought to welcome the new/liberal eugenics as it represents a positive means to improve humankind. 

Virtue ethics prompts wider reflections on human flourishment, on what it means to be good parents, and on the relations between virtues and social practices. I want to contribute to a normative framework grounded in virtue ethics informed by social practices and institutions, as a lens to critically assess the technologies and to reopen the debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s ban on sex selection for family balancing reasons.

Arnab Chakraborty    

University of York    

Medical transformation in Madras Presidency: military and civilian perspectives, 1890-1940 

This will be an investigation into the growth of complex military medicine and the ways in which it shaped colonial medical policy. I will examine military medicine as a combination of clinical, technological and public health innovations, including trials which were later expanded across colonial Madras. I will look at the transfer of techniques and technology to civilian medicine through Indian Medical Service (IMS) officials. I will also assess variations in urban and rural contexts. 

Using discussions and debates between IMS and Subordinate Medical Service officials, as well as an analysis of official reports, journals and newspapers, I will investigate the counter-narrative of success; the arguments about the dangers, limits and expense of new technologies. I will look at how these influenced military, civilian, indigenous and European perceptions in the Madras Presidency, to what was being classed by colonial authorities as cutting edge medical technologies and care protocols.

Dan Degerman

Lancaster University

The politics of misery: a philosophical investigation of the political relevance of mental suffering

This project is an interdisciplinary work involving political philosophy, political thought and psychiatry, and the philosophy of medicine. It will employ philosophical analysis and historical research methods to investigate how the relationship between misery and political agency has changed in the UK over the past century, and evaluate the implications of any changes. 

I have identified three aspects of misery – sadness, anxiety and anger – that have all been medicalised. I will analyse the historical relationship between political agency and these emotions during the second industrial revolution in the nascence of democracy, and their role in the late 20th century. I will contrast these findings against the historical analysis to theorise the effects of medicalised misery upon agency. 

The goals of this research are to increase understanding of the relationship between negative emotions and political agency, and propose how we can enhance political agency of citizens.

Iain Ferguson    

University of Strathclyde        

A face to die for: acne, Accutane and the quest for perfect skin, 1950s-present        

Acne is a blight on the social and emotional lives of many adolescents, often leaving physical and psychological scars. This project will recount the history of acne and its most controversial treatment: the prescription drug Accutane. Although Accutane dominated the treatment of acne by the 1980s, it also caused dangerous side-effects, ranging from neurological symptoms to birth defects. It has also been linked to more than 100 suicides and 5,000 lawsuits worldwide. Accutane has been withdrawn for sale in the US but is still available in the UK under the name Roaccutane. 

I intend to chart how acne became the subject of medical concern and how its causes and treatments were understood. I will examine how physicians and pharmaceutical companies turned to the perceived health needs of adolescent patients and analyse how the risks and benefits of Accutane and other acne treatments were perceived by patients and physicians.

Jane Freebody    

Oxford Brookes University    

What did they do all day? Patient work, psychiatry and society in England and France 1900-1940

The main aim of my research is to explore the day-to-day culture of work-related activities and therapy in mental hospitals in England and France in 1900-1940. I will investigate the rationale of work therapy and examine its development, refinement and application in six key institutions. I will then analyse how the organisation and perception of work, non-work and unemployment in England and France affected ideas and practices of therapeutic work and pastimes in mental institutions. I will examine the impact of war on the role of work and activities as rehabilitative treatments and highlight the tension between medical rationales and contemporary socio-economic conditions (such as high rates of unemployment) and contemporary medical ideologies (such as eugenics and mental hygiene). I will demonstrate how knowledge, ideas and practices about work and activities as treatment flowed between France and Britain. I will also investigate whether patients and their families experienced work and activities as empowering, entertaining, educational, punitive, coercive or rehabilitative.

David Kilgannon    

National University of Ireland, Galway        

‘From a source of shame to the pride of the Island’: disability, advocacy and the media in Ireland, 1959-2003

This project will examine the treatment and perception of people with disabilities in Ireland from 1959 to 2003 – particularly uncovering the catalysts for change to the country’s care systems.

I aim to provide the first detailed history of disability and disability provision in Ireland in this period. I will examine how perceptions changed from viewing disability as an indicator of divine will necessitating seclusion, to the view that state policy must facilitate autonomy for people with disabilities. I will unravel the effect of those changes on the Irish state’s system of disability provision, as the duty of care shifted and new systems of care were introduced, including disability benefit and carer’s allowance. 

I will also provide an insight into integration and how it became the standard mode of disability care, and how the current system of state provision for the disabled came into being.

Rachel Meach

University of Strathclyde

A spoonful of sugar: dietary advice and diabetes in Britain and the US, 1945-2015    

The primary aim of this project is to generate new perspectives on the history of diabetes. By moving away from a focus on technological and scientific advances to look instead at patients’ experiences of the disease, this study will analyse the cultural, political and economic factors that have shaped these experiences and determined the forms of treatment patients have received. 

I will trace the social history of type 2 diabetes and compare patients’ experiences with the received medical understanding of the condition and its causes. I will also explore how the relationship between diet and type 2 diabetes has been understood by patients, physicians and policy makers. I will analyse the effectiveness of public health campaigns that target type 2 diabetes, and articulate the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on understandings and treatments of diabetes. 

I will disseminate my findings to health policy makers in an effort to inform policy.

Alexandra Pepper    

University of Manchester        

Liberal equality, gender equality and the dilemma of abortion

My thesis will explore whether liberal egalitarianism entails a type of gender equality that requires us to permit abortion in a gender unequal world but prohibit abortion in a gender equal world. This will be achieved by exploring the nature and necessary tenets of a liberal egalitarian theory, positing that a liberal egalitarian theory must necessarily be concerned with gender equality and arguing, using the dilemma of abortion as a focal point, that conceiving of the world in gender neutral and gender-sensitive ways will produce different normative verdicts. 

The key goal of this project is to argue for gender equality where abortion should be found permissible. I will provide a theoretical argument that applies to this perennial medical ethics dilemma.

Clemence Pinel

King's College London 

The construction of the environment in epigenetics research: a social science exploration

This project aims to investigate epigenetics research to understand how, where and why new epigenetic knowledge is produced, and identify the elements influencing the production of this emerging body of knowledge. 

I will analyse the epigenetic notion of environment by unpacking what it means in specific cases. I will carry out both a systematic review of published epigenetics research to examine how the notion of environment is understood and defined, and a systematic review of the social science literature to understand to what extent the notion of environment is critically reflected on. I will also explore how the notion of environment is conceptualised and enacted in breast cancer epigenetics and the EpiTwin diabetes project, using ethnographic methods. 

I will carry out a narrative analysis of the data to explore how researchers in epigenetics make sense of their world and understand the notion of environment in their professional lives.

Grace Redhead    

University College London    

Histories of sickle cell anaemia, race and health in postcolonial Britain, 1950-1995

Following an extensive historiographical survey and archival research, my thesis will set out the historiographical and historical context of sickle cell anaemia (SCA), race and health in postcolonial Britain.

I will deal with the genetic research undertaken on sickle cell anaemia by British scientists such as JBS Haldane and Antony Allison, examining their papers and others from the UCL Special Collections. I will explore the experience of SCA patients and activists as they lobbied the state and health service using archives from the Runnymede Trust and Black Cultural Archive, as well as oral histories. I will also explore the activities and training healthcare professionals undertook to understand the disease, examining journal articles, training films and awareness programmes held in archives such as the Wellcome Collection and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I will examine government provision and policy for the treatment of SCA, investigating Commons debates in Hansard, financial reports and policy development. I will place the disease in its context of the politicised issue of immigration.

Emma Seaber    

King's College London        

Anorexia nervosa as a reading disorder: autobiography, reading and narrative practices in anorexia patients’ life-writing (1970-present)

This project will initiate a literary examination of the relationship between anorexia nervosa and narrative engagement undertaken via the close reading and critical analysis of anorexia patients’ life-writing. 

I want to understand how narrative engagement and anorexia interact and how anorexia nervosa is narratively constituted, transmitted, shaped and performed. I will show how shifts and differences in anorexia illness experienced within and between anorexia life-writings provide important means to understanding treatment and recovery. I plan to focus on: textual transmission; individual narrative practices and their relation to pathology; the interplay between medical writing; clinical vignettes and archetypes and the anorexia illness experience; the narrative performance of anorexia and the treatment and recovery narratives.

Ann-Sophie Thwaite

University of Cambridge

Magic and the material culture of healing in early modern England    

I will compile an objects archive of charms and amulets from early modern England. My research will involve a comprehensive material study of the objects, together with a close analysis of primary literature describing the objects and their use. This will enable me to identify the objects’ key ingredients and properties to see which of these elements they share with other medically and scientifically grounded contemporaneous remedies. 

As well as providing evidence of how cures were used, my research will demonstrate the positioning of objects, materials, beliefs and practices in elite intellectual contexts. This investigation requires an examination of the social and spatial contexts surrounding both the objects and texts, which I aim to provide by exploring archival records on the geographical and social situation of the objects and associated literature. This will be crucial in understanding the part these objects played in early modern English medical practice.

Benjamin Walker    

University of York

Religion, medical aid and international health: colonial and post-colonial development, and smallpox control and eradication in Ghana, 1950-1980 

There is a need to develop a more complex understanding of state structures and state-sponsored medicine in the historiography of health and medicine in Africa, especially in relation to medical missionaries. There have been general overviews of missionaries after decolonisation yet very little on medical missionaries in newly independent African states such as Ghana. 

I will explore non-state actors and their links with international organisations and post-war UN agencies. I will look at the role of faith-based organisations in developmental activity, an area often misconstrued as secular. This will be combined with assessment of how newly decolonised states extended their power through healthcare. Using a detailed study of small pox control and eradication, I will examine the links and overlapping interests of religious missions, medical provision, and international health in Ghana. I will build on recent work on the place of small pox eradication in the growth and articulation of global community in US, Soviet and European foreign policy, 1950-1980.

Claire Warrington    

University of Brighton        

Frequent detainees under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act: an exploration of the phenomenon of repeated detention and practitioner-developed innovations using realistic evaluation    

I will investigate the psychosocial characteristics of people who have been repeatedly detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. First, I will conduct a systematic review, drawing on relevant bodies of literature relating to Section 136, values-based practice, frequent attendance at other frontline services, complex psychological and social needs and relevant policy and guidance documents. I will then investigate a range of interventions that have been developed to reduce repeated detentions by interviewing those involved in the development or delivery of the interventions, as well as service users and their carers. The focus of these interviews will be on the change achieved by these interventions and the context in which they operate.

The data will be reviewed in an interpretive workshop involving interviewees and other public engagement panel members and will lead to an overarching programme theory about the mechanisms and context in which reductions in repeat detentions are being achieved.


Jennifer Adlem

Queen Mary University of London

Separation anxiety and the making of animal psychiatry

Steffan Blayney

Birkbeck University of London

Fatigue in Britain: work, medicine and society, 1914-1945

Mark Galt

Oxford Brookes University

The plurality of prevention: medical superintendents and the practices of compulsory sterilisation in Californian state institutions, 1909-1960

Sophie Greenway

University of Warwick

Growing well: dirt, health and domestic horticulture in Britain, 1900-1970

Sahil Gujral

University of Oxford

The politics of psychiatry? A critical examination of seven influential sources in the history of autism

Rachel Hewitt

Glasgow Caledonian University

Trauma, gender and the treatment of epilepsy, 1870-1948

Lucy Irvine

University College London

Civil society participation and sexual health policy in Brazil: a critical ethnography of policy making processes in Pernambuco

Sadaf Islam

Lancaster University

Biomedicalization of death: the social impact of life-support technology in Bangladesh

Aine Kelly

University of Oxford

Improving health outcomes for looked-after children and young people: a multi-method exploration

Kathryn MacKay

University of Birmingham

An ethical analysis of public health obesity campaigns: are such campaigns the proper responsibility of public health bodies, and if so, can they be ethical?

Hane Maung

Lancaster University

Are diagnoses in psychiatry explanations of their symptoms?

Katrina Maydom

University of Cambridge

Materia medica from the Americas in British medical culture, 1680-1730

Angela Muir

University of Exeter

Birth, marriage and sex in 18th century Wales

Emma Purce

University of Kent

Freaks at the beach: freak shows, seaside resorts and 20th century British culture

Keri Rowsell

University of York

Post-medieval poverty: an integrated investigation

Jenifer Siegel

University of Oxford

Do no harm: a neural and ethical analysis of actions and omissions in moral decision making

Priya Umachandran

King's College London

Neuroscience and public policy: examining the background and impact of nudge


Sian Aggett

University of Sussex

A multi-site study of socially engaged art in public health research within low-income settings

Gulzaar Barn

University of Oxford

Is commercial surrogacy exploitative? A philosophical analysis of the concept of exploitation within commercial surrogacy arrangements, using the industry in India as a case study

Maziyar Ghiabi

University of Oxford

Drugs and revolution: policy making, ideology and the margins of civil society in Iran

Richard Firth-Godbehere

Queen Mary University of London

Representations and uses of aversion and disgust in British medical cultures, 1628-1764

Kieran Fitzpatrick

University of Oxford

Irish medical graduates and the British empire, 1870-1920

Delia Hollowell

University College London

Corporate health interventions and constructions of health in mining communities in Guerrero, Mexico

Simon Jarrett

Birkbeck University of London

The road to Dr Down's idiot asylum: the creation of the idea of intellectual disability, 1700-1867

Ben Kasstan

University of Durham

Religion and resistance: evaluating access and responses to child health messages for boys aged 0-10 in Gateshead's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community

Alessandro Laverda

University of Leicester

Miracles, magic and incorruptible bodies: defining the boundaries of the natural in post-tridentine legal-medicine

Ryan Ross

Queen Mary University of London

Masculinity, health and home in post-war Britain: the emotional role of the home in the health of men

Tillmann Taape

University of Cambridge

Hieronymus Brunschwig and the making of vernacular medical knowledge in early modern Europe


Jennifer Crane

University of Warwick

Professional interests and the emergence of 'child abuse' in Britain, 1962-1987

Sarah Crook

Queen Mary University of London

Medical and cultural constructions of female mental illness in Britain and the United States, 1948-1965

Thora Hands

University of Strathclyde

Reframing drink and the Victorians: the consumption of alcohol in Britain, 1869-1914

Claas Kirchhelle

University of Oxford

Pyrrhic progress: consumer attitudes towards agricultural antibiotics

Linda Magana

University of Oxford

Health on distant shores: the impact of American imperial politics on Puerto Rican public health and medicine, 1898-1952

Martina Zimmermann

King's College London

Narratives of diseased brains and failing minds: dementia in science, medicine and literature in the 20th century

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