Funded PhD opportunities

The impact of stress on facial expression and social networks in older adults

  • Application end date: 22nd January 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (UK students only)
  • Department: Department of Psychology
  • PhD Supervisor: Professor Bridget Waller, Dr Jerome Micheletta, Dr Darren Van Laar


ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (SCDTP) funded. Project code: PSYC3681018

Project in brief 

Older adults with larger and more supportive social networks are healthier and happier. The composition of an individual’s social network changes throughout life, however, and so new friendships must be formed to maintain a supportive network. Yet an individual’s ability to form new friendships is not well understood. This project will investigate both the societal factors and biological mechanisms associated with friendship formation in older adults, and determine whether physical and social stress that can be associated with ageing impacts on an individual’s ability to interact with others and form new friendships. This project is interdisciplinary between Social and Biological Sciences’.

Specific Research Questions

  • How is physical and social stress related to the size of social networks in older adults?
  • How do older adults use facial expression as a mechanism to form friendships?
  • Does physical and social stress impact on older adults’ facial expression, and thus their ability to form friendships?

Supervisor profiles

Professor Bridget Waller, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology - Bridget Waller Profile

Dr Jerome Micheletta, Senior Lecturer - Dr Jerome Micheletta Profile

Dr Darren Van Laar, Reader in Applied Psychology - Dr Darren Van Laar Profile

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0. 

For all funding, students must have qualifications of the standard of a good honours degree at first or upper second-class level, from a UK academic higher education institution. Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree, may be accepted.

Before you apply, please make sure you meet the candidate specification.

Candidates do not need to submit a project proposal, however are required to submit a 500 word personal statement to include: 

  • Details of how your skills and interests match the project
  • Background and previous experience
  • Research interests

If you need to discuss this project and your application further then please contact a member of the supervision team as listed below, in advance of the deadline dates:

Professor Bridget Waller -

Dr Jerome Micheletta -

Dr Darren Van Laar -

Specific candidate requirements 

Foundation in quantitative methods, especially regression modelling and an interest in place effects on health. Ability to embrace the complex modelling of large datasets.

There are two stages to the application process 

(1) The first application form you need to complete is for your chosen programme of study at the University of Portsmouth. 

Apply to the University of Portsmouth through our standard online application form and follow the instructions given under the ’Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages before you submit your SCDTP application: 

When applying to the University of Portsmouth, you will need to enter project code - PSYC3681018

The closing date for University of Portsmouth applications is 22 January 2018, 11.59 pm. 

(2) The second application form which requires completion is the South Coast DTP Funding Application Form. There are two versions of this form which can be downloaded. In accordance with the SCDTP guidance, please ensure you use the correct form (in this case the ’South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form’). 

The ’South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form’, and more information on the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership can be found at: 

You will then need to submit your funding application to the SCDTP by 31 January 2018, 11.59 pm. 

For more detailed information about the project, please see the university webpage: 


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Professor Bridget Waller at (02392 846639) or Dr Jerome Micheletta at (02392 846330) or Dr Darren Van Laar or (02392 846306).

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

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