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Student Vacation Research Assistant: Bipolar Disorder, psychosocial functioning and the role of autistic and schizotypal traits: a critical review of the literature - Open to current University of Worcester students only*

Research Assistantships provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV.

Health and psychosocial costs of Bipolar Disorder (BD) are substantial (Hirschfeld & Vornik, 2005) with many related to psychosocial or functional losses. However, the pattern of psychosocial costs is complex (Fountoulakis, 2014; Friedman et al, 2005; Lee et al, 2010; Torrent et al, 2006); and even when euthymic, individuals with BD have cognitive deficits likely to compromise their decision making (Chandler, Wakeley, Goodwin & Rogers, 2009; Torres, Mackala, Zozick & Yatham, 2016). This includes faulty risk appraisal and heightened impulsivity. Such deficits are common across those with BD and these could shape the functional deficits they experience (Christodoulou, Lewis, Ploubidis & Frangou, 2006; Devlin, Johnson & Gruber, 2015; Leahy, 1999; Powers et al, 2013; Torrent et al, 2006). Therefore, identifying cognitive characteristics that protect the functioning of individuals with BD could have clinical value.

Recent research by Abu-Akel et al (2017 examined specific cognitive characteristics amongst individuals with a primary diagnosis of BD. Using Crespi and Badcock’s diametric model (2008) they tested the protective effect of autistic and positive schizotypal traits for global psychosocial. Those with high levels of these traits reported better global functioning during their lifetime worst depressive and manic episodes. However, although this study raises a number of questions about the cognitive deficits that could explain better or worse psychosocial functioning amongst those with BD it has methodological limitations. Notably, the use of a global measure of functioning during lifetime worst manic and depressive episodes (Gold, 2014), the use of total positive schizotypal trait scores only, and the regression and between groups designs used in the study. Therefore, the project supervisory team are conducting a series of studies that build on this work. The larger research project is in collaboration with the Mood Disorders Research Group.The VRA will work with the supervisory team to produce a critical review of the literature on the links between cognitive and social cognitive characteristics and psychosocial functioning in euthymic and non-euthymic individuals with BD, and produce a final report of around 5000 words. This will inform the rationales of two planned publications. The VRA project is therefore part of a larger programme of research being run by Psychology staff and the Mood Disorders Research Group.The supervisory team and those within the larger research group, have expertise in conducting research in the field of schizotypy and cognition, BD and a range of psychosocial and health related topics.

* Please note that this post is open only to students completing the penultimate or final year of an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) at the University of Worcester or partner institutions;
Students completing, or who have completed, an undergraduate degree at another university (with 1st or 2:1 predicted/achieved) who are about to commence postgraduate studies at the University of Worcester.ORStudents completing the BPS accredited MSc Psychology at Worcester

Closing date: Friday 09 Jun 2017

Reference number: STUVRA1719 - 2018

Job details

Job details

£8.44 per hour, plus £1.18 per hour holiday pay
Up to 37 hours per week
4 weeks full time (1.0 FTE) or part time equivalent (e.g. 8 weeks at 0.5 FTE
Responsible to
Dr Bere Mahoney
Responsible for
Interview date

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The University of Worcester is funding 20 Vacation Research Assistantships for the summer of 2017. These Research Assistantships will provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV. These are prestigious awards, marking out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. In addition, this scheme provides UW staff leading on a research project with invaluable support in taking the project forward and experience of supporting and developing a young researcher.

On completion of the project, the supervisor and student must complete a report providing the following information: 

  • Objectives set
  • Objectives met
  • Methods employed
  • Results
  • Conclusions
  • Outputs
  • Benefits to the student including training undertaken, skills developed, etc.
Main duties

Main duties

1) Develop literature search protocol

2) Conduct full search of the available literature

3) Produce and write a critical literature review

*Maintain personal and professional development to meet the changing demands of the job; participate in appropriate training activities and encourage and support staff in their development and training.

*Take steps to ensure and enhance personal health, safety and well being and that of other staff and students.

*Carry out these duties in a manner that promotes equality of opportunity and supports diversity and inclusion, and takes into account the University's commitment to environmentally sustainable ways of working.

Person specification

Person specification


1. Literature searching knowledge and skills using academic databases (e.g. PsychInfo and Medline)

2. Proven experience of conducting and reporting critical literature reviews to a good standard (e.g. through successful completion of a Level 5 or Level 6 Psychology module assessed summatively through a literature review)

3. Ability to work both in a team and independently

4. APA writing and referencing knowledge and skills

5. Ability to work to tight deadlines6. Reliability


1. Experience of conducting systematic reviews using protocols (e.g. PRISMA)

2. Knowledge of the main classifications systems used to diagnoses mental health conditions (e.g. DSM, ICD)

3. Some knowledge of Bipolar Disorder


Applications from Non EEA Workers:

Prospective applicants are advised to ensure that they are eligible to work in the UK without restriction.Prospective applicants in points-based system immigration routes should assess their circumstances against the published criteria, which are set out on the GOV.UK website at

Visit for more information on how you can use a qualification from outside the UK to meet the requirements of the immigration rules.

Unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs

The University is strongly committed to the fair treatment of its staff and potential staff, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, responsibility for dependants, age, physical/mental disability or offending background.

In line with the University's policy on the Recruitment of People with a Criminal Record, shortlisted candidates are required to provide information of any unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs. Applicants are advised to seek independent advice if there is any doubt about the status of a previous conviction, caution or bind-over. Disclosures will only be considered at the point when an offer of employment is made. The existence of a criminal record will not in itself prevent you from gaining employment.This is a description of the job as it is presently constituted.

This job description is intended to enable a flexible approach to be offered working across the University as required. It is subject to review and amendment in the light of changing needs of the University and to provide appropriate development opportunities. Members of staff are expected to participate fully in discussions about changing requirements and it is the University's aim to reach agreement to reasonable change. If agreement is not possible, it reserves the right to require changes to the job description after consultation with the individual concerned.

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