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The Doctoral College was delighted to host the fifth annual Festival of PhD Research from 9 - 10 May on the Belfast campus.

The Festival celebrated PhD research success under the five key strategic research themes of: Challenging Equality and Inclusion, Building the Sustainable World, Inspiring Creativity and Innovation, Transforming Health, and Accelerating Data Futures.

This was achieved through presentations, posters, and the renowned Bake Your PhD competition. New to this year’s programme was the Capture the Joy of your PhD Competition, which encouraged entrants to submit photographs that captured the theme of ‘PhD: Finding the Joy in the Journey’.

The keynote speaker at the Festival was David Meade, who is a leading voice in business, a broadcaster, and a researcher, and is known for his engaging and motivational sessions. David shared his insights on the impactful way we can work together across disciplines from his background in business and research.

Congratulations to all of our PhD Researchers who took part in the Festival and to the prize-winners. Thanks to their supervisors and mentors who also supported the Festival.

Bake Your PhD competition:

The Bake Your PhD competition returned with inventive and wonderful bakes depicting each entrant's PhD.

Congratulations to the winner Chloe McClenaghan from Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences for her entry entitled: ‘From bench to pan-creas: a targeted drug delivery’.

Well done also to the runner up Megan Blinn from Nursing for her creation entitled ‘Seeking Pregnancy Experiences of Women in Northern Myanmar’.

Thanks to the judges, Rachel Withers who is a Lecturer in Ulster University Business School and is the Founder of Bake Your PhD competition at Ulster, Sean Owens from the Academy Restaurant and Gwen McCracken from the Doctoral College, who formed the expert judging panel.

PhD Photography competition:

The inaugural photography competition entries featured some wonder images capturing the happiness, excitement, and fulfilment they experienced during their PhD journey.

The winner of the Judges’ Choice AND the People’s Choice Award went to Leila Darvishand with her photo entitled ‘Hope for a greener future’.

Well done to runner up Brendan Whelan on his photo on Wild Atlantic Way Research Highs.

A special thank-you to all our judges who volunteered their valuable time and expertise: Dr Paul Joseph-RichardDr Brian Dixon and our own photographer Nigel McDowell.

Lisa Thompson, who leads the Festival of PhD Research, said:

“We were delighted to bring all PhD Researchers together to the new Belfast campus and take over the Atrium space for two days to showcase the PhD research at Ulster University around our five strategic research themes – through posters, presentations, art exhibitions and not to mention cakes and photos. This formed a wonderful celebration of the research culture and community that we continue to nurture for our PhD Researchers.

“The event was the result of a huge team effort – the Doctoral College staff worked with a team of PhD volunteers from all campuses to deliver the Festival this year. Their leadership and commitment made a huge contribution to the success of the Festival and to the vibrant research community at Ulster. Well done to all involved!”

Best Poster prize winners:

Best Poster and Best Presentations prizes were awarded for each Faculty, selected by judging panels across all Faculties.

The winners were selected under each of the five research themes.

Accelerating Data Futures

Zoe Bradley

Combating prozone effect and predicting dynamic range of naked eye nanoplasmonic biosensors through capture bioentity optimisation.

Building the Sustainable World

Leila Darvishvand

Development of machine learning models for predicting building energy performance to decarbonise residential building stock in Northern Ireland

Challenging Inequality and Division

Chloe Leydon

Inclusion in primary physical education from the perspectives of educational staff and pupils with disabilities: a qualitative systematic review

Inspiring Creativity and Innovation

Sharon Neill

Application of design-thinking to the prevention and management of lower limb pressure ulcers

Transforming Health

Victoria Gilpin

Enhancing Ostomy Patient Care: Innovations in Wellbeing Monitoring


Rachel Devenney

Generating co-occurring mutation models with mutant NRAS in acute myeloid leukemia.

Warmest congratulations to all of our Finalists who are a credit to Ulster University and to the PhD community.

Find out more:

For more information on the Doctoral College’s PhD Festival, visit Festival of PhD Research or email Lisa Thompson to