University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


PhD Studentship: Social and communicative development in young children (Fixed Term)

We invite outstanding applications for a fully-funded three-year PhD studentship, supported by the LEGO Foundation and the University of Cambridge, commencing in October 2017. The PhD project will be carried out under the supervision of Dr Jenny Gibson. The successful student will join our team at the research centre for Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDaL). Jenny's team is currently working on a number of projects including;

The CHIRPP study (Children's Relationships with Peers through Play): a 3 year longitudinal study investigating the links between early peer interactions in playful contexts, theory of mind, emotional competence and language/communication development.

The Hopscotch study (Hi-tech Observation of Playground Social Communication Trajectories in Children): A cross-sectional study using GPS methods and Social Network Analysis to understanding peer relationships in naturalistic play contexts.

Secondary data analysis from MCS and ALSPAC cohorts investigating social and educational outcomes for children with early language delays (in collaboration with Dr. Michelle St. Clair and Dr. Umar Toseeb).

Peer Object interaction with Tangibles (in collaboration with Dr. Will Farr): This is an exploratory study comparing the play behaviour of children with Autism and typically developing children with digitised and non-digitised construction toys.

Funds will cover fees and an annual living stipend.

The Psychology and Education group sits within the Faculty of Education, where we host a state-of-the-art Observation Lab and a database of research participants, as well as testing equipment to support the applicant's research, including video observation hardware and software.

Applying: Applicants should have the equivalent of a very good undergraduate degree as well as a Masters degree in Psychology, Neuroscience, Education, Speech and Language Therapy, or a closely related subject. A distinction at MSc level is desirable but not required. The successful applicant will have some experience or understanding of conducting research on cognition and language in typically-developing children. A keen interest in working with children/young people, and excellent communication and organisational skills are essential. Due to the nature of the research in our group, strong competence in quantitative methods is also essential. Students should meet University requirements for English. Informal enquiries can be addressed to Dr Jenny Gibson (

Potential students are asked to submit a brief (maximum 2,000 words inc. references) research proposal outlining their key research ideas in the area of childhood social and communication development, with reference to the academic literature and also outlining to how these ideas may fit with the current research in the group. Applicants should also give an indication of the research design considerations that may be relevant. Applicants wishing to focus on the social development of children with developmental language impairments are particularly encouraged to apply.

In order to apply, please send your CV, academic transcripts, and a cover letter outlining your research interests to Emma Rixon ( Please also arrange for two academic letters of reference to be emailed directly to Emma before the closing date. We will only be able to consider complete applications. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the closing date of 30th April 2017 at midnight.

We expect to hold interviews in the second week of May (9th or 10th).

Please quote reference JR11776 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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