Postgraduate Research Opportunity

Examining the (a)typical development of multisensory processing


Title: Examining the (a)typical development of multisensory processing

Funding: The studentship consists of an annual stipend of approximately £17,668 and covers home tuition fees (i.e. UK home applicants only are eligible to apply), for 3 years.

Application deadline: : Friday 7 July 2023 at midnight BST (interviews to take place shortly after the deadline).

Start date: October 2023.

Duration: 3 years (full time)

Location: Colchester Campus

Based in: Essex Babylab, Centre for Brain Science, Department of Psychology

Collaboration with: The Synapse Centre for Neurodevelopment, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT)


This funded PhD studentship aims to understand how the infant brain processes sensations in different sensory modalities (e.g. simultaneously seeing and touching a toy) and how early differences in this processing may represent an early marker of neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism.

This PhD studentship is funded by the University of Essex and the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Trust (ESNEFT). The role of the PhD student will be to prepare, conduct and publish the proposed research. 

The student will join a vibrant department with an active cohort of doctoral students, and supportive team of academics, administrators, and technicians. Additionally, the student will work at the intersection of research and clinical practice, by joining the Synapse Centre for Neurodevelopment team led by Dr Benjamin Marlow.

We welcome applications from candidates with a background in psychology or related disciplines.

The project

The multisensory experience infants obtain through acting and interacting with the world is thought to play an important role in how they represent their own body and the surrounding environment. From very early in life, infants become increasingly familiar with the relationships between these sensory inputs, for example when observing their own hand while reaching for a toy or when touching their face while looking at their reflection.

Research suggest that the atypical development of sensory responsiveness may represent an early marker of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input is a core diagnostic feature of ASD and has been predictively associated with developmental outcomes, including communication, social and adaptive functioning. While early differences in the processing of sensory stimuli have been noted in 6-month-old infants who later received a diagnosis of ASD, standard approaches to measure sensory functioning still rely on subjective reports, posing a barrier to early identification. We propose a three-year PhD programme to study the neuro-cognitive developmental trajectories of sensory processing in toddlers with and without ASD. 

Benefits of ESNEFT Collaboration

The PhD student will benefit from closely working with the Synapse Centre for Neurodevelopment by 1) designing relevant and practical research by seeking public and patient feedback; 2) receiving extensive training in clinical practice whilst being at the forefront of research in neurodevelopmental disorders; 3) collaborating with experts, clinicians, and parents to identify targets for diagnosis and intervention, and 4) opportunities for future employment in a clinical setting.

Funding and provision

The studentship consists of an annual stipend of £17,668, for a maximum of 3 years. The PhD studentship also includes a waiver of home tuition fees, for a maximum of 3 years. UK home applicants only are eligible to apply.

PhD students will also receive a £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding for the duration of the PhD (36 months)– which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel – as well as £500 per academic year for research purposes.

The successful applicant will enrol as a PGR student at the University of Essex. They will be based at the Essex Babylab as part of the Centre for Brain Science within the Department of Psychology. 



  • BSc (2:1 or above) in Psychology or related disciplines
  • Knowledge and experience in experimental research and quantitative analysis in psychology or related discipline


  • MSc/MRes in Psychology or related disciplines
  • Previous experience in working with infants and/or children as research participants 
  • Research interest in areas of developmental psychology and neuroscience
  • Programming skills required for coding experiments and analysing data, or clear capacity and willingness to learn (e.g., in R, Matlab)
  • Ability to work both independently and cooperatively as part of a team
  • High levels of resourcefulness and attention to detail

How to apply

You can apply for this postgraduate research opportunity by emailing your application to the lead supervisor, Dr Maria Laura Filippetti at Please include the subject “University of Essex PhD ESNEFT studentship 2023”.

Applications must include the following documents to be uploaded:

  • Academic CV, including research experience, research skills, publications (if any) and contact details of two academic referees.
  • Covering Letter (maximum 500 words) in support of your application.
  • Transcripts of any undergraduate or master's programmes.

If you have any informal queries about this opportunity, please email the lead supervisor, Dr Maria Laura Filippetti at

The application deadline for this studentship is Friday 7 July 2023 at midnight BST. We anticipate that interviews will take place shortly after. The PhD position will start in October 2023.