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 2023 PhD Cohort 

Yuchi Tang
Photograph of Yuchi Tang in countryside

Department: Automatic Control and Systems Engineering

Project: Identifying Avoidable Hospital Attendances in Older People Via Explainable Machine Learning

Funded by: EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) – Healthy Lifespan Flagship Institute Scholarship

Where are you from: China

What have you been doing up to now?

I obtained my bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering & Automation at Zhejiang University, and my master's degree in Computer Control & Automation at Nanyang Technological University. Before joining UoS and HELSI, I was a power grid engineer, and an investment analyst in a private equity in another earlier job. What I am most proud of is that I am a certified semi-pro tennis player. 

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

The most exciting part would be making the AI models more explainable to patients and healthcare practitioners without obtaining the specific structures and parameters of the model. At the starting stage of my project, the validation and critique of existing methods can also be challenging and intoxicating. 

Any plans for post-PhD?

Unable to decide at the moment. Maybe I should first get to know some postdocs and play tennis with them. 

Ajo Thomas
portrait photograph of Ajo Thomas

Department: Clinical Medicine

Project: Development of Low-Cost Perfusion MRI for Microvascular Screening

Funded by: EPSRC

Where are you from? Redhill, Surrey

What have you been doing up to now?

I completed my MSc in Biomedical Engineering at Queen Mary University of London. Afterwards, I moved to New York to work as a Research Associate at Cardiovascular Research Foundation where I collaborated with several surgical clinicians and fellows on percutaneous coronary intervention projects.  

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

I'm looking forward to overcoming challenges and the intricacies in the clinical applications of MRI on several organs.

Any plans for post-PhD?

Continue learning and acquiring medical knowledge to deliver the best clinical research.  

Jun Wang
Headshot photograph of Jun Wang

Department: Information School

Project title: Understanding information needs in person-centred care for age
related disease, multimorbidity and disability

Funded by: The Healthy Lifespan Institute

Where are you from: 

I was born in China, raised in Vienna, Austria (not Australia!).

What have you been doing up to now? 

I have a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and one in Business Management, both obtained in Vienna, followed by a MSc in International Business from Warwick Business School and a MSc in Pharmaceutical Enterprise from
University of Birmingham. After completing my studies, I began my career in the pharmaceutical industry (Keywords: Business development for in vitro/in vivo testing, toxicity, immunotoxicity and drug marketing) and subsequently
spent a few years working in Germany before embarking on my PhD journey.

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

I look forward to pinpointing the information needs crucial for enhancing both patient and healthcare professional decision-making processes, ultimately improving the quality of patients’ lives.

Any plans for post-PhD?

Plan A: Pursuing an academic career path
Plan B: Re-entering the industry equipped with enhanced insights and skills.

Mohammed Khan
Headshot photograph of Mohammed Khan

Department: School of Clinical Dentistry

Project title: Understanding oral self-care practices as an activity of daily living: A mixed methods ergonomic and ethnographic study with older independent living adults (ACTION: orAl self-Care acTivIty Of daily living) 

Funded by: The Healthy Lifespan Institute

Where are you from: 


What have you been doing up to now? 

What qualifications or work/life experience do you have?  Before the PhD project, I worked as a dentist in private practice. I have been practicing as a dentist for 11 years now and have had experience working in hospital dental services. I have also undertaken volunteer work providing dental services in rural communities with limited dental services. In addition to my qualification in Dentistry, I have received an MSc in Public Health from Bangor University as part of a Chevening Scholarship. 

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

What I'm most excited about with my PhD project is interacting with research participants and hearing about their experiences managing their oral hygiene. Their stories are at the heart of this research, and I believe they hold valuable insights for improving oral health outcomes for older adults.

Any plans for post-PhD?

Looking ahead, I'm truly enjoying the world of academia and see a potential future for myself as a researcher. However, my passion for clinical dentistry remains strong. Maybe in the future I might be able to find a balance to combine both.

Meet our 2022 PhD cohort
Image of 5 PhD students
(from top left) Ziqian Sun, Josephine Cadman, (from bottom left) Isaac Hance, Josh Kimble, Michael Neokleous

Josh Kimble

Department: IICD

Project: Impaired immune function in ageing and frailty linked to dysregulated induction of inflammatory macrophage polarisation

Funded by: Dunhill Medical Trust Healthy Lifespan Institute DTP

Where are you from?

Philippines (and Luton)

What have you been doing up to now?

What qualifications or work/life experience do you have? I completed a biochemistry BSc and Masters by Research in biomedical science (innate immunology) at Lancaster University.

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

I am excited to conduct novel research into to counteracting impaired immune function with age.

Any plans for post-PhD?

I would like to continue immunological research in a laboratory, maybe abroad.

Michael Neokleous

Department: The Department of Music

Project: Personalising dementia care through AI-enabled musical instrument training

Funded by: The University of Sheffield EPSRC DTP for the Healthy Lifespan Institute

Where are you from


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

I completed a BSc in Audio Design in 2012 at the University of Kent, a PGCE at UEL in 2017, and an MA in the Psychology of Music at the University of Sheffield in 2021. Before moving to Sheffield in 2021, I spent a decade in London, composing music and designing sound for theatre and film, producing music, and teaching in primary education. My work with Hoax Theatre, 'The Lonely Room', has been performed around the UK, France and India, and some of my production work with ethno-samplers collective Addictive TV has received airplay on the BBC's Radio 6 Music. 

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

Although every aspect of my project fills me with excitement, I am especially looking forward to the co-production stage, where I will be working closely with people living with dementia and their caregivers in order to further understand how AI and machine learning may increase engagement with music. 

Any plans for post-PhD?

I hope to be able to continue working in music-related research that aims to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia and other impairments, and their families.

Josephine Cadman 

Department: Oncology and Metabolism

Project: The role of adrenomedullin and its receptors in age-related organ dysfunction

Funded by: The Dunhill Medical Trust Healthy Lifespan Institute DTP

Where are you from?


What have you been doing up to now?

What qualifications or work/life experience do you have?
I completed an integrated masters in Biochemistry at the University of Leeds. Following this, I spent a year in COVID-19 testing and sequencing before starting my PhD.

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

During my masters project, I found much enjoyment in research, specifically relating to cell signalling and human disease, which further motivated me to pursue a PhD and career in research. I am excited about contributing to the field, understanding aging and age-related disease as well as continuing my development and personal growth as a scientist and learning new skills.

Any plans for post-PhD?

I plan to continue in academic research as a postdoc.

Ziqian Sun

Department: School of Mathematics and Statistics

Project title: Probabilistic forecasting for improving clinical trials in frailty.

Funded by: The Dunhill Medical Trust, HELSI, School of Mathematics and Statistics

Where are you from: 

My hometown is Qingdao, a beautiful coastal city in China.

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

I was awarded the bachelor degree in Software Engineering at Harbin Engineering University in China (2020), and completed my master degree in Computer Science at the University of Sheffield (2022). I developed my interest in the field of Healthcare when I was doing my master’s dissertation, whose objective was to develop an iOS application for asthma patients to help them follow their self-management plan.

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

I’m looking forward to having a general comprehension of frailty and Bayesian statistics as they are closely related to my project and I’m not currently familiar with them. I’m also looking forward to making friends with researchers with multiple backgrounds.

Any plans for post-PhD?

I haven’t planned a lot for my post-PhD life yet. Either continuing to do research in university or going to industry would be good for me.

Isaac Hance

Department: Department of Sociological Studies

Project: The Socio-Biological Gradient of Healthy Ageing in the Aftermath of Covid-19

Funded by: Dunhill Medical Trust Healthy Lifespan Institute

Where are you from?

I grew up in London but call Manchester home now

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

I have a BA in Philosophy and Quantitative Methods and an MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics, both from the University of Manchester. In addition, I spent three years working at the University of Manchester, using data to solve problems for different departments.  

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

I look forward to developing my skills whilst answering questions that are genuinely interesting and relevant to everyone's lives.

Any plans for post-PhD?

Not yet, probably returning to the industry but with far more skills and insights

Meet our 2021 PhD cohort
Healthy Lifespan ECR cohort picture
(from top left) Benjamin Raven, Nikita Soni, Dylan Phelps (from bottom left) Eslam Alshami, Anne Cathrine Hyde, Kieran Bowden, Maxine Kuczawski

Where are you from?

Eslam: Manchester

Anne Cathrine: Norway (and Norwich)

Dylan: Barrow in Furness, a town in south Cumbria

Benjamin: I'm from a small village outside of London.

Kieran: Hartlepool

Maxine: Sheffield

Nikita: Sheffield

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

Eslam: I have a Bachelors in Mechatronic Engineering and a Masters in Psychology (Conversion). Before this PhD, I was a research intern investigating supportive technologies for autistic and parkinsons users at Manchester University. I was also a part-time support worker for mental health service users.

Anne Cathrine: I recently completed a Master by Research in biomolecular science identifying cis-regulatory elements controlling the expression of neural crest genes during Xenopus development.

Dylan: I graduated with a BA in Computer Science at the University of Cambridge in 2020. While completing my degree I worked as a undergraduate research assistant in the Cambridge Cybercrime Centre, and as a software engineering intern at Capital One in Nottingham. Then in August 2020, I moved to Oslo to work as a Software Engineer at a start-up focusing on data management for heavy asset industries, where I worked until this September.

Benjamin: Last year I graduated from The University of Sheffield with a MEng in Bioengineering, specialising in Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials. My masters year was spent evaluating a Tri-Layer Tissue Engineered model of skin for use in in vitro testing. I am also a qualified kayaking coach, something I have done over summer for the last 5 years.

Kieran: I studied biomedical sciences at the University of Hull as an undergraduate. After this I studied a masters in Molecular medicine at the University of Sheffield where I performed a research project focusing on targeting RNA stability to treat chronic inflammatory disorders, leading to my interest in inflammation and neutrophil biology.

Maxine: My professional background involves working with large health databases and managing projects, which I have done since completing my undergraduate degree in 2001. Some of this time was spent in London where I obtained an MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and for the last 10 years I have been working in Health Services Research (ScHARR) as a Research Associate, managing projects within emergency medicine research. I completed the MA in Social Research Methods last year as a precursor to the PhD.

Nikita: I completed my BSc in Biomedical Science at Sheffield Hallam University and as part of this I completed a placement year at SITraN. I then went on to study MSc Translational Neuroscience at Imperial College London and I am now back in Sheffield working towards my PhD!

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

Eslam: Being able to make a difference for service users , interact with people from different backgrounds and add to a growing field of science

Anne Cathrine: I look forward to developing my skills such as bioinformatic analysis and research techniques and learning how to apply these to aging, which is new to me

Dylan: I'm looking forward to working within multidisciplinary teams that will allow me to expand my knowledge, and help find important insights.

Benjamin: I'm looking forward to getting to know a new team, getting into a lab and producing some results! I'm also especially excited by the self led nature of a PhD.

Kieran: I'm most looking forward to having a chance to conduct more independent research and develop my own personal skills as a scientist and to hopefully conduct some research which may be able to help people living with chronic inflammatory disorders as a result.

Maxine: Having the dedicated time to undertake my own research.

Nikita: Working with new cell models, networking, developing as a scientist and making a contribution to modern day neuroscience. 

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

Eslam: The project had a mix of the things I was interested in. It also matched my skill sets and the supervisors all seemed very involved and supportive.

Anne Cathrine: Sheffield is an excellent university with a great learning environment, and the Healthy lifespan institute uses a multidisciplinary approach which allows me to learn not only new techniques in the lab, but also some programming and computer analysis. I have spent my undergraduate and master's studying embryo development, and I decided I wanted to study something new. The “something new” for me is ageing as how we all age differently, and why some people die when they are 70 whilst others can live healthy until they are 105 is something that has interested me for a while.

Dylan: Sheffield is well known for its world class Natural Language Processing research group, and so a chance to work in this group, while also being part of a project potentially contributing to people living longer and happier lives was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.

Benjamin: I did my undergraduate degree here in Sheffield and fell in love with the city. While looking for PhD's, I stumbled upon the Healthy Lifespan Institute and really liked their message and mission. I think improving the quality of life for the elderly is an absolute necessity, and something I hope I can contribute towards.

Kieran: I came to Sheffield to study a masters in molecular medicine, during my dissertation research project for this degree I became interested in neutrophil and inflammation biology. The healthy lifespan institute appealed to me because of its aim to help people live longer and more fulfilling lives, and to help those living with chronic disorders to do so.

Maxine: I was excited by the opportunity of being able to understand more about health inequalities in society with the aim of being able to identify ways to rebalance some of these and ultimately improve health. This feels like the 'other-side' to the health services research I am more familiar with, and where I can contribute more.

Nikita: As neurodegenerative and other age-related diseases are becoming increasingly prevalent in an ageing population, it remains a priority to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the ageing process. As I completed my undergraduate research project on characterising a novel function of PGC1A, Dr Hautbergue thought I would be a good fit to characterise this function in models of ageing and senescence, which formed the basis of my PhD. 

Any plans for post-PhD?

Eslam: Nothing specific yet, but my experience during the PhD might change that.

Anne Cathrine: I want to continue in academia as a postdoc. Find my topic of interest and continue to ask questions and do my best to answer them.

Dylan: I have no plans yet, but I'm looking forward to exploring my options as I complete my PhD.

Benjamin: I hope that I can continue my research, with the aim to convert my project into a product that can be taken to market, but that's very far away at the moment!

Kieran: I would really like to continue research post-PhD and hopefully continue researching inflammation biology and the immune response.

Maxine: Not yet. 

Nikita: I would like to undertake post-doctoral research but I am also keen to explore careers in industry. I am grateful that my PhD is in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company (Nanna Therapeutics) giving me an opportunity to gain experience in both areas before I decide! 

Meet our 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

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

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.