Biology, data science and social justice linked in new PhDs

Woman drinking a bottle of water

The links between biology and social justice and wellbeing are being explored in a series of PhDs offered by the University of Strathclyde.

Four PhDs are being made available through the University’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Social Transformation for Wellbeing. They will examine ways in which biology can have an impact on of people in disadvantaged circumstances – and how data science can be used help to improve their lives.

The three-year PhDs, fully funded by Strathclyde, will begin in January 2018 and are now open for applications.

The PhD subjects are:

•           Improvement science and families in chaotic circumstances in Scotland

•           Data science and health outcomes

•           The biological bases of disadvantage

•           Social justice, Biology and Behaviour

The PhDs are being led by Professor Sir Harry Burns, former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland and now Director of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde’s International Public Policy Institute (IPPI).

He said: “Scottish researchers have been at the forefront of efforts to understand the causes of inequality in health in society. Despite many years’ study, inequality in life expectancy across the socioeconomic spectrum continues to be unacceptably wide.

“This research programme will help identify new approaches to improve these inequalities, not just in health but also in other areas such as education and employment. It has the potential to provide insights which could transform the lives of the most disadvantaged in society.”

Professor Ian Greener, of Strathclyde’s School of Social Work and Social Policy, who will also supervise the PhDs, said: “We know of inequalities in society but one of the challenges we face is to look for what the consequences of these inequalities are. Data science is important in this; there are unprecedented amounts of data out there and we need to find new ways to understand it. 

“We’ll be looking into families living in chaotic situations and the ways that relationships and routines which many people might take for granted can completely break down. This might happen because of people not being in work or because of alcohol or drug dependency.

Biological markers 

“Biological markers play a part in this but we don’t yet understand fully what these are. If people are under chronic stress, in a violent or disadvantaged environment, it can have an impact on the decisions and choices they make.”

Applications for the PhDs close on Wednesday 1 November. See details of the courses

The PhDs are being taught by staff from IPPI, the School of Social Work and Social Policy and Strathclyde’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences, in partnership with the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and the Hunter Foundation.