PhD Studentship Opportunity: Embodiment and Disability in Speculative and Science Fiction

PhD studentship in English in collaboration with the Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures research project  

The Wellcome Trust has awarded funding to the University of Leeds for a PhD Studentship in connection with the interdisciplinary ‘Imagining Technologies for Disability Futures’ research project (itDf).  

The successful applicant will be a part of a cohort of researchers due to join the project team in Spring 2021 and will be based at the University of Leeds in the School of English, supervised by Professor Stuart Murray and Dr Amelia DeFalco. The anticipated start date for the research is April 1 2021.  

itDf is a 5 year interdisciplinary research project involving scholars from literary studies, cultural studies, engineering, robotics, product design and philosophy. It spans the Universities of Leeds, Exeter, Sheffield and Dundee. itDf explores how we imagine future encounters between disability and technology, and the shapes these technologies might take. The main aims of the project are to investigate the ideas of body and personhood that arise through contemporary developments in literature and film, philosophy, assistive technology design and production and robotics; for example, the imagining and making of, prosthetic limbs, care and telepresence robots, and assistive communication devices. 

The Wellcome funding covers: 

  • course fees for UK/non-UK EU nationals for three years (£4,600 for 2020/21), 
  • a studentship stipend (Year 1: £19,919, Year 2: £21,542, Year 3: £23,298), 
  • plus travel and subsistence for research meetings and conferences connected to the itDf project.  

If you’re a national of a high-income country outside the EU/EEA, please be aware that the funding will not extend to cover international fees and you would be required to cover the additional cost of an international fee yourself. For more information on postgraduate fees please visit  

About the School of English 

With over 40 full-time members of staff, whose interests range across the whole spectrum of English studies, the School is one of the largest and most dynamic English departments in the UK and has an international reputation for research excellence. The School plays a vital interdisciplinary role in several of the University’s leading research centres, including the Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities, Institute for Medieval Studies, and the Institute of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. The School currently has around 80 postgraduate research (PGR) students, including a large and vibrant Medical Humanities research cluster. 

The Doctoral Project 

Science and speculative fiction have always considered relations between bodies and technology. Issues of agency, race, gender, embodiment, humanism and relations across societies and cultures have been explored through the imagined interactions between individuals, communities and future technologies. Contemporary fictions have added new dimensions – AI and data, biotechnologies, virtual spaces and innovative versions of the non-human – to a rich history of writing that focuses on embodiment and technological change. 

We are looking for a PhD student who wishes to work on science and speculative fiction that considers these and other concerns. While the project can be based on contemporary fiction it does not have to be, and we are interested in applications that speak to any aspect of fictional future imagining of bodies and their relationship to technology. A desire to focus on questions of disability that arise from these interactions would be especially welcome. 

Other potential areas of interest include: haptics, touch, vulnerability and care, global fictions and the geocultural range of science of speculative writing. A knowledge of disability theory and any other kinds of literature that consider disabled embodiment is an asset, but not required. 

Because idDf is an interdisciplinary project that incorporates philosophy, design, engineering, robotics and literary studies, the successful applicant will demonstrate commitment to and enthusiasm for interdisciplinary collaboration. 

Applying for the Studentship 

You should submit your application to the University Postgraduate Research Operations using the online portal, clearly indicating that you are applying for this specific project. 

We require the following documentation, which can be attached to your online application: 

  • A research proposal 
  • A sample of your own recently written work on a relevant topic (around 2000 to 4000 words, such as an essay or dissertation excerpt from your most recent degree). 
  • A sample of your own recently written work on a relevant topic (around 2000 to 4000 words, such as an essay or dissertation excerpt from your most recent degree).  
  • Copies of academic qualifications and undergraduate and MA transcripts.  
  • Two academic references (these can be posted directly via email to
  • For applicants whose first language is not English, IELTS or TOEFL scores.
  • You should also include a supporting statement of up to 1,000 words. The statement should indicate (1) how your skills and experience have prepared you for undertaking this specific project and (2) how you feel that your planned research will fit into the itDf project as a whole. 

 More information on how to apply, including a link to the online admissions portal can be found at:  

Informal enquiries may be made to Professor Stuart Murray ( or Dr Amelia DeFalco (   

The closing date for receipt of applications for the studentship is November 30 2020. The award is conditional on successful application for admission to study for a PhD in the School of English. Interviews for the position will take place in January 2021. 

Entry requirements: bachelor degree with a First Class or 2:1 (hons) or equivalent and an appropriate taught or research Masters degree.