Our PhD and ECR programme

We welcome PhD students, ECRs and PGRs who are interested in advancing the Healthy Lifespan Institute's mission to help people live free of the life limiting effects of multimorbidity and frailty for longer.


 Meet our October 2020 PhD cohort

Six head shot images of PhD students who started studying at The Healthy Lifespan Institute in October 2020.
Top (left to right): Saira Farage-O'Reilly, Alisha Suhag, Saffron Foster. Bottom (left to right): Benediktas Valys, Muhammad Ali Shiwani, Charlotte Moss

We asked our 2020 PhD students to tell us a bit about themselves and why they chose to study with the Healthy Lifespan Institute.


Where are you from?

Charlotte: New Romney, a small seaside town in Kent

Saffron: Wales

Alisha: India

Ali: Wakefield

Benediktas: Lithuania

Saira: Surrey, UK

What have you been doing up to now? What qualifications or work/life experience do you have?

Charlotte: I just finished a Masters in Immunology and Allergy

Saffron: I graduated with an integrated masters in January, then worked in industry as a quality control laboratory technician and then in covid testing.

Alisha: I recently completed a Master's in Behaviour Change (2020) at University College London. I  did my undergraduate studies  in Economics (2015) from the University of Delhi and in Psychology (2019) from the University of Bristol. While studying psychology, I worked as a research assistant on the BBSRC Drinc Nudge150 Project. As a psychology undergraduate, I also briefly worked as a research scholar at the University of Auckland to understand how parental perceptions affect childhood obesity and its treatment. , 

Ali: I graduated with a BEng in Electronic Engineering in 2019 from the University of Southampton. I recently just finished my MSc in Engineering, Technology and Business Management from the University of Leeds. I completed an internship with Siemens PLM Software in Cambridge last year and have previously had a part-time job working on an iOS app for a local taxi company in Southampton.

Benediktas: I have completed a Masters degree in Physics at Lancaster University.

Saira: Before deciding to go to university I was a teaching assistant at a primary SEN school and later at a secondary school. After this, I studied for my undergraduate degree in Pure Mathematics at QMUL. I then moved up to north, to study for my masters in Computational Medicine at the UoS. I fell in love with the subject area and the city, and I am thrilled to be able to spend the next few years here whilst completing my PhD

What are you looking forward to most in starting your project?

Charlotte: Getting into the lab and helping to effect real change through my research.

Saffron: Getting back into a research environment and making a contribution to the field.

Alisha: I am keen to explore insights for future interventions that emerge out of tracking the trajectory of health-related behaviours across time. The interdisciplinary nature of the project is pretty exciting. But more importantly, I look forward to working with the tremendously intelligent, hard-working and interesting people that I will get to, through this project.

Ali: Currently I'm really looking forward to coming on campus, hopefully that will happen soon when things slowly go back to normal. I'm excited to work with patients, it's important for me to understand the potential impact I can have on their lives through my project. It's also something that I've heard about a lot but never actually experienced as a lot of my family members are doctors.

Benediktas: I am looking forward to working and collaborating with my specialist supervisors from healthcare and computer science.

Saira: I am most looking forward to exploring the potential of the model that I will be developing during my PhD, specifically seeing how it can be used to predict the effect of pharmacological and biomechanical interventions for musculoskeletal diseases.

What made you come to Sheffield and choose a project related to the Healthy Lifespan Institute and Ageing?

Charlotte: The multidisciplinary approach of the Healthy Lifespan Institute means I will get to combine research in the lab with computational modelling and I am very excited to potentially contribute to people living longer and healthier lives.

Saffron: My career goal is to succeed in academia and eventually have my own group which aims to improve quality of life for the elderly.

Alisha:  The multidisciplinary nature of the Healthy Lifespan Institute and its ongoing efforts at shifting the focus from old age to the ageing process across the life course, was what first drew me in. With my own mixed academic background, I welcomed the opportunity to work as part of a team that draws across disciplines. I believe that training at such an institute will allow me to more ably reflect on the complex challenges of addressing multimorbidity as well the behaviours that influence it.

Ali: I first became interested in using technology within healthcare applications during the final year of my Bachelor's degree. After completing some projects relating to artificial intelligence within healthcare and biology, I came to a decision to pursue a PhD in this area. When searching for projects, I came across this one and it really stood out to me as it aligned perfectly with my interests that I developed over the course of my undergraduate and master’s degrees. I have a family history of cardiac issues which has given me extra motivation for my project. I had applied to Sheffield for my undergraduate degree so I was already familiar with the university, when I saw the project was at Sheffield I didn't have to give it a second thought before applying.

Benediktas: I was interested in working in an area that uses modern techniques to help improve healthcare and the Healthy Lifespan Institute was the perfect fit for this.

Saira: It was my interest in the potential of the combination of mathematical models (that describe biological phenomenon) and engineering tools that brought me to apply for a PhD at the University of Sheffield. My project aim aligns with the Healthy Lifespan Institute's mission: I hope to develop tools to predict bone changes over time, which could be used to optimise treatments for osteoporosis. This will hopefully be used in the future to model other diseases and to study the combined effects of multiple diseases. Additionally, being part of the Healthy Lifespan Institute network allows for collaboration with others who are also working towards the same goal, which is a very exciting prospect!

Any plans for post-PhD?

Charlotte: Hopefully continuing to do research in a laboratory abroad!

Saffron: Continue in academia as a postdoc.

Alisha: Beyond graduate school, I would like  to pursue a career as a public health researcher to understand  the ways in which health inequalities can be minimised  through changes in broader systemic as well as more individual-level behavioural factors influencing health outcomes.

Ali: At the moment everything is very uncertain, but I hope to stay within this field of using artificial intelligence for healthcare. I am also open to opportunities that arise throughout my PhD for further research and academia.

Benediktas: I do not have any plans yet.

Saira: Once I finish my PhD I hope to continue to conduct research and collaborate with others from all around the world!

Saffron Foster is a Chernajovsky Foundation scholar, and Saira Farage-O'Reilly is EPSRC funded.

The Early Career Network

Healthy Lifespan Institute PhD students, early career researchers (ECRs) and post-graduate researchers (PGRs) are automatically part of our Early Career Network. 

This newly formed network brings together Early Career and Postgraduate Researchers whose work is affiliated with all aspects of Ageing and Health, Multimorbidity, Age-related Disease, Frailty, Longevity or Gerontology.

The Healthy Lifespan Early Career network offers you the opportunity to: 

  • Meet other PhD students, ECRs and PGRs from across the University and benefit from peer support 

  • Present your research, form multidisciplinary collaborations and gain vital multidisciplinary feedback (more important than ever with multidisciplinary peer review of papers and grant application becoming standard). 

Planning your own activity

You can also get involved in co-developing a programme of activity, supported by the Institute, that delivers added value and real benefits to your career development.

The types of activity you could think about proposing include:

  • Training (for example; in media, networking, leadership)

  • Mentoring

  • Taking on roles in the Institute to gain vital experience in areas of interest (i.e. becoming a public engagement champion, organising a seminar series, leading an event)

  • Gaining experience of applying for funding and running a budget for a cross-faculty activity

  • Social and networking activity, such as forums to present work, journal clubs

  • Gaining support to apply for fellowships

  • Gaining an introduction to a wide range of partners outside academia for collaborations or job opportunities