Funded PhD Opportunity The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) Study: How is the 21st Century impacting on children’s eye growth?

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Research from around the world has identified that modern children’s lifestyles are promoting an unprecedented rise in short-sight (myopia) across the world. Ulster University’s Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study has demonstrated that prevalence amongst UK teenagers has more than doubled in the last 50 years and is appearing in children at a younger age than in previous decades. This finding is alarming because myopia is strongly linked with sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and maculopathy and the younger myopia occurs in a child the larger the magnitude of myopia they are likely to develop and the greater the risk of these vision-impairing conditions.

Rising levels of myopia will impose increasing burdens on both the individual and health/social care services in the UK.  Accurate and up-to-date information on prevalence and age of onset of myopia is required by service commissioners and workforce planners as they have a bearing on the scale, scope and targeting of future optometric services. Comparison between contemporary UK data and that reported 50 years ago cannot tell us what the trajectory of change in prevalence was over intervening decades or whether the rate of change is moderately stable or accelerating. Neither is it clear whether myopia onset continues to shift to younger ages or which aspects of modern childhood lifestyles are impacting on eye growth and myopic outcomes in the UK. The proposed study aims to answer these questions, further enhancing the scientific, professional and public impact the NICER study has already demonstrated.

Applicants should be optometrists registered with the General Optical Council or able to register with the General Optical Council within six months of commencing the project.  Some post-registration experience of both clinical, practice and research data collection would be beneficial.  Applicants should have a full driving licence and access to a car.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
6, 7 and 8 March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Professor Kathryn Saunders

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #238198 when applying for this PhD opportunity