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Funded PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience

Funded PhD Studentship in Cognitive Neuroscience

A fully-funded PhD studentship is available (€22,000 annual stipend) to investigate neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive resilience in ageing under the UCD Ad Astra Fellowship scheme.

This PhD will be jointly supervised by Meadhbh Brosnan at the (opens in a new window)Cognitive & Translational Neuroscience Science UCD lab in the School of Psychology and Simon Kelly at the (opens in a new window)Cognitive Neural Systems lab in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Project Summary: Project Summary: The project will explore the mechanisms by which environmental factors alter brain function to support resilience to cognitive decline in ageing. Enriched environments (EE) including cognitive, social, and leisure activities increase resilience to cognitive decline in both healthy ageing and dementia. While increasing evidence suggests that EE alter the structure of the brain, the mechanisms by which brain function is altered through EE is unclear. This project will identify neurophysiological markers (using EEG/MEG) that change with exposure to enrichment. The overarching goal of this work is to understand the impact of environmental factors on brain plasticity. This in turn will inform novel approaches to manipulate brain function and increase resilience to dementia.

Prospective Candidate: The PhD candidate is expected to be self-motivated and will lead the design, implementation, analysis and write up of new cognitive neuroscience experiments at UCD using a range of complementary techniques including electroencephalography (EEG), pupillometry, and neurocognitive testing. In addition, the candidate will investigate neurophysiological signatures of plasticity and cognitive resilience in existing EEG/magnetoencephalography (MEG) datasets. The candidate will attend regular lab meetings, collaborate with colleagues locally and internationally, learn about a diverse range of cognitive neuroscience methodologies, and can attend yearly international conference meetings.


  • Undergraduate degree (e.g., BA/BSc/BEng) in psychology, electrical engineering, neuroscience, or a related field (essential)
  • A master’s degree (MSc, or equivalent) which included a research internship or thesis (desirable)


  • Demonstrated interest in cognitive and/or clinical neuroscience (essential)
  • Hands-on experience conducting research as a research assistant or intern (desriable)
  • Exposure to neurocognitive testing with older adults, vulnerable, or clinical cohorts (desirable)

Skills & Competencies

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills for disseminating research (essential)
  • Intermediate skills in data analysis & coding with Python, R, MATLAB, or equivalent (desirable)

Personal Attributes

  • Passionate about neuroscience, curious, detail-oriented, committed to rigorous science (desirable)
  • Collaborative work ethic both towards sharing knowledge and learning from others (desirable)

How to apply- necessary documents and important dates

The awarding of the funding is dependent on the successful applicant being accepted for a PhD by UCD School of Psychology. To apply, please send a completed (opens in a new window)application form by 5pm 31st May 2024 to meadhbh.brosnan@ucd.ie with subject ‘Ad Astra Application 2024, PhD Cognitive Neuroscience. Interviews to be in June with a September 2024 start date. Academic transcripts will be required to support your application should you proceed to the final stages, but are not required for the initial application. Shortlisted candidates will be asked to submit a research proposal (1200 words), details of which will be provided at a later stage. Informal enquiries welcome (meadhbh.brosnan@ucd.ie)

Terms and Conditions 2020-2021 for the UCD Ad Astra Fellows PhD Studentship

  1. The overall aim of the Ad Astra Fellows PhD Studentship is to attract applicants of the highest academic standards to participate in the UCD School of Psychology PhD programme which will provide them with the training, experience and mentorship necessary to their professional development.
  2. There are two Ad Astra Scholarships currently on offer. Each Scholarship will comprise a fee remission at up to the scheduled non-EU rate of the programme to which they are registered plus a tax- free annual stipend of €22,000 payable in 12 equal monthly instalments. In addition, the scholarship comes with a yearly research budget of a set amount which can be used for conducting research, attending conferences and visiting collaborators.
  3. All students are liable for the yearly Student Centre Levy. Fee varies, for indicative purposes in 2023/24 the levy was €254.
  4. EU and non-EU students are equally eligible for studentships under this award.
  5. Scholarships will be awarded for either three or four years, with annual reviews of progress. Continuation of the scholarship is contingent on satisfactory progress, to be determined by the Research Studies Panel (RSP) and the Graduate Programme assessment process. The scholarship will terminate on any student’s withdrawal from their programme.
  6. Once scholarship awards are issued, students must indicate acceptance in writing within two weeks of the notification being distributed by the committee. Details can be found here: https://www.ucd.ie/psychology/research/researchdegreesandresearchers/phdresearchprogramme/. It is the student’s responsibility to formally accept the scholarship offer – a non-response will be considered as declining the offer. Offers will be conditional on verification of original transcripts.
  7. The successful students must meet the UCD School of Psychology and University’s Graduate Research Programme entry requirements. Following a successful selection process, students’ applications will be reviewed by the UCD School of Psychology Graduate Research programme. They will be evaluated by a Selection Board according to the following criteria:
    • o Academic grades and other evidence of academic skills (publications, research assistance, etc);
    • o Quality (clarity, feasibility, academic relevance, innovation) of the research proposal;
    • o Personal motivation;
    • o Fit with the research strengths of the school and prospective supervisor.
  8. Applications will be accepted from suitably qualified applicants regardless of nationality or residence. The successful students, however, must make their own visa/consular arrangements to ensure that they are eligible to reside in Ireland for the duration of their studies. Students are STRONGLY advised to make any visa application as early as possible as this process may be time consuming and failure to obtain a visa in time for the commencement of the academic year will likely necessitate cancellation of the scholarship award.
  9. Scholarships will be awarded only to those who are accepted as full-time students. The award is made on the basis of full-time engagement by the PhD student. Students should not take on other duties or work that will negatively impact their ability to commit to their research programme, other than activities which form part of their professional development as directed by their research supervisor.
  10. All PhD Scholarship students are welcomed as part of the UCD School of Psychology research community and, as such, are expected to participate fully in the scholarly life of the School, inclusive of research seminars, conferences and other scholarly events. In line with academic regulations, students must be based in Ireland.
  11. The PhD student should adhere to requirements and regulations of the UCD PhD programme, including the acquisition of module credits and the Research and Professional Development Plan (RPDP) process. By the end of the first year of the award, the PhD student must have completed research integrity training.
  12. Continuation is conditional on annual progress reports to be reviewed by the Selection Board Research Studies Panel and on passing the Transfer Assessment as part of the structured PhD Graduate Research programme.
  13. It is not permissible to hold this studentship alongside an external award for the same student. However, if a student applies for and secures an equivalent individual award, this studentship can be replaced by a top-up stipend and a top-up (if necessary) to the appropriate level of consumables costs.
  14. It is the responsibility of the Scholarship holder to inform the University of any change to the circumstances on which the award of the Scholarship was based. The Scholar must also take responsibility for updating their contact details on the UCD Student Web system within two weeks of such a change.
  15. Successful applicants must be present at UCD by the start of the semester in which they start their programme, which will be September 2024.
  16. Should a scholar be unable for any reason (including medical reasons) to pursue his/her studies in accordance with the Terms and Conditions of the Scholarship, he/she must inform the School (via his/her supervisor and the PhD Director) within two weeks of such a situation coming to his/her attention. However, given the basis on which scholarships are awarded, UCD reserves the right to withdraw, suspend, reallocate or seek reimbursement of all or part of the scholarship.
  17. These Scholarships are held subject to these Terms and Conditions. If any of the above are breached by a Scholarship holder, UCD School of Psychology reserves the right to suspend or terminate the Scholarship and/or will require the Scholar to reimburse UCD School of Psychology for such payments as have already been made.
  18. Successful applicants may be required to sign a form of consent under the Data Protection Act 1998 in relation to data records concerning their registration status and academic record as well as the handling of student and other data.
  19. Scholarship holders must be available to assist in the promotion of graduate studies at UCD recruitment events and within associated activities at School, College and University levels.
  20. All publicity, including public lectures, publications, print materials and press releases, television and radio advertisements, websites, film, video and audio recordings associated with or arising from the research undertaken by a Scholar while in receipt of a Scholarship must contain acknowledgment of funding received from the UCD Ad Astra fellows PhD Studentship.

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