Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



Department of Psychology

Start dates

October 2021

Application deadline


This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only. View our current projects here.

The studentship is funded by the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (SCDTP), a collaboration between the universities of Portsmouth, Southampton and Brighton.

The studentship is available to UK students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £15,009 (2019/20 rate).

The supervisors are Professor Claire Nee (Forensic Psychologist, UoP), Dr Sofia Strommer (MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, Southampton) and Prof. Jean-Louis Van Gelder (Criminologist, Director, Max Planck Institute).

This PhD presents a unique opportunity to the successful candidate to be part of the SCDTP cohort as well as the University’s Department of Psychology and the International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology.

Using the Virtual Enactment Method (VEM) the student will explore:

  • What processes support prosocial and antisocial behaviours in marginalised young people and do these differ by gender/culture/personality?
  • What processes support the development away from harmful behaviours in marginalised young people with a specific focus on risky behaviours that may lead to offending?
  • Does awareness of habitual risky behaviour need to be raised in order to change it?

1This is a mixed-methods approach in which participants are encouraged to think aloud while re-enacting a behaviour in VR.


Young people from marginalised backgrounds experience many risk factors from conception onwards including poor nutrition, sleep, security and exposure to aggression and substance misuse. This leaves them more likely to frequently indulge in risky, damaging behaviour.

Most have poorer outcomes in education, employment, mental health, quality of life and criminal convictions. Virtual reality is an engaging research method that allows participants to demonstrate behaviours that are hard to articulate.

This interdisciplinary project will use findings from research on eating and exercise in young people and expertise in offenders to explore the processes underpinning problematic behaviour and new ways to address it, using Virtual Reality. 

Entry requirements

All candidates must be a UK resident and hold a good honours degree (2:1 and above) from a recognised higher education institution. Please note, students applying without a Master's qualification containing a substantial Social Sciences methods component may be required to complete such a Master's beforehand. The Master's will be fully funded by the SCDTP and will be run from the University of Southampton.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


Undergraduate degree in Psychology and competency in both multivariate and qualitative data analysis. Depending on experience, may be required to complete the MRes Science (1+3). A keen interest in digital technology and good interpersonal skills for engaging and recruiting participants from marginalised groups will be needed. 

How to apply

The first thing you will need is a University supervisor to support your SCDTP application -- so you’ll need to contact the project supervisors before you submit an application. 

The project will require you to discuss possible methods and research design as well as detailing how your skills, background and research interests match the project.  It is therefore very important that you discuss the project with the supervisor.  

Full instructions are given on the SCDTP application form and there are different word limits depending on whether you are applying for a 1+3 (ie Masters in Social Research Methods plus PhD) or +3 (PhD only).  

Please note: you will need to submit an online application to the University of Portsmouth plus an application for funding to the SCDTP. For more details, visit the SCDTP website

When applying to the University, please quote project code: PSYC5030120

Apply now