My Research: PhD in Music Psychology

PhD Researcher Caroline
Caroline Curwen
PhD researcher
Music-colour synaesthesia
PhD researcher Caroline Curwen on why she chose Sheffield.

Caroline is from Stockport and is a mature part-time PhD student in the Department of Music researching music-colour synaesthesia. She holds a GMus RNCM from the Royal Northern College of Music and an MA in Psychology of Music from Sheffield University. Caroline is also a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Sheffield?

I chose the University of Sheffield for my Masters course because I had been following Dr Victoria Williamson’s Music Psychology blog. I had been out of education for quite some time and the Psychology of Music MA course was exactly what I needed as an entrance point before considering a PhD.

What made the University of Sheffield stand out for you?

When I started my masters course I was still running my own accountancy practice and my three children were all still at school.


The fact that the department at Sheffield was home to the psychology of music academics I had followed was an important factor for me.

Caroline Curwen

PhD researcher


It was important to me to be able to have the flexibility of a part time course that would work around family and work commitments.

Sheffield was able to meet all my requirements without compromising my degree or my family.

What are you currently researching as part of your PhD?

I am researching how music-colour synaesthesia supports the hypothesis that synaesthetes may not be predisposed to synaesthesia, per se, but may have developed a method of processing abstract concepts, such as music unfolding over time afforded to them by their synaesthetic experience.

From this I hope to contribute towards a better understanding of the processes of general cognition and consciousness from person to person.

I particularly enjoy the cross disciplinary element of my research area including philosophy of mind, as well as psychology of music.

PhD Researcher Caroline

How did the Department of Music help support you through the whole process from application to settling in?

My research interest for my masters dissertation was music-colour synaesthesia and musical memory. It was at this stage that I approached my supervisor, Dr Renee Timmers, about applying for the PhD course.

Renee gave me a lot of support and feedback whilst I was preparing my research proposal all of which helped greatly in securing a place.

Tell us about being a postgraduate in the department.

I have regular supervision sessions and Graduate Study Days are held on a regular basis which gives you an opportunity to present your research, and to listen to other people’s presentations from masters students upwards.

Seminars and reading groups are also organised regularly, and researchers from other universities are often asked to present.


I feel that I have a good network of friends and colleagues at Sheffield.

Caroline Curwen

PhD researcher


Apart from the academic side, these times are a great opportunity to get to know other students and staff in the department and further afield.

This is particularly important for me as a part time student living outside Sheffield. With this sort of setup there is always the risk of becoming isolated. However, this has not been my experience at all.

What is your highlight of studying in Sheffield so far?

Having my first academic paper published has to be the highlight of my studying in Sheffield so far. I have also enjoyed my role as a graduate teaching assistant this year.

What are your plans after your PhD?

I would like to continue with my research at post-doctoral level and I would certainly be interested in continuing to teach. We’ll have to see.

Postgraduate open days

Find out what its like to study as a postgraduate student in Sheffield - visit the Department of Music on one of our upcoming open days.

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