Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

You are here Postgraduate > PhD Programme > Finding a Supervisor

Finding a Supervisor

Research Interests and Topics Relevant to Postgraduate Research Students

The paragraphs below provide a brief overview of the current research interests of the academic staff of the Department of Sociology plus some suggested questions and areas that the Department would encourage potential PhD students to consider before applying to undertake a PhD. The Department of Sociology also encourages students to submit their own proposals for a PhD project. Please contact the staff member directly who matches your research interests.

Supervisor: Prof Pablo Gracia 


Pablo Gracia is interested in supervising students in the broad areas of family research, social stratification, population studies and cross-national research. Dr. Gracia welcomes the supervision of students and junior researchers with interests aligned with his substantive fields of interest (i.e., social stratification, family dynamics, child well-being, gender relations, life course, work-family balance) and methodological expertise (i.e., quantitative methods, experimental designs, mixed-methods approaches). Dr. Gracia has published research in top-tier journals and publishers and being involved in various international projects on: (1) social inequalities in parenting involvement, children's daily lives and development, (2) ethnic penalties in education and labour market outcomes; (3) gender division of labour and childcare in micro-level and macro-level contexts; (4) work-family balance in cross-national perspective; (5) parental and child well-being; (6) time use patterns and intergenerational relations.
Dr Gracia will particularly welcome supervising PhD students interested in:

  • advanced and original research designs (observational or experimental) using high-quality data in social science research;
  • how social inequalities are transmitted from parents to children and across the life course;
  • how gender relations and roles influence larger gender inequalities at different stages of the life course;
  • how children´s daily activities (i.e. digital engagement, educational activities, family time) impact their subsequent development;
  • how macro-level institutional contexts influence family outcomes and broad inequalities in society;
  • how work-family balance in the 24/7 global economy affects family life and child well-being across different post-industrial societies;
  • how ethnic inequalities operate in education and the labour market and intersect with broader structural inequalities


Supervisor: Prof Jan Skopek


Jan Skopek is interested in a broad spectrum of research on family sociology, social demography, and social stratification with a focus on social and ethnic inequalities in schooling and early childhood development. He is particularly interested in quantitative research methodology. Much of his research features longitudinal and comparative research designs applying advanced techniques of quantitative methodology. He published his work in high-ranked peer-review journals, co-edited several books, and maintains a large international academic network through collaborative, international, and cross-disciplinary research teams. Recent works relate to assortative mating in the digital age, the changing social demography of grandparenthood and intergenerational relations, the social change in the gendered division of household labour, the study of the evolution of inequality in cognitive and academic achievement in the early life course, and the role of institutions of early childhood education and care as well as educational systems in creating educational inequality.

He would be especially interested in PhD students who

  • are interested in applying longitudinal and comparative quantitative research methodology to study the how societies are changing as well as the micro and macro mechanisms by which those changes are driven,
  • like to integrate analytically demographic and sociological perspectives into a life course research approach,
  • are interested in studying the demographic, institutional and familial processes by which advantages and disadvantages by socio-economic status and social class are transmitted through generations,
  • are interested in studying gender relations in work and at home,
  • are interested in studying, from a dynamic perspective, how demographic and social change influence people’s life courses (such as leaving home, marriage, fertility, divorce, education, labour market careers, retirement),
  • are interested in studying the role of preschool education, schooling, and school systems for social and ethnic disparities in children’s cognitive and non-cognitive development.          

Supervisor: Prof Camilla Devitt


Camilla Devitt has carried out comparative research on migration, labour markets and welfare states. She is interested in supervising qualitative or mixed method research on welfare state development, migration and migration policy and labour markets and labour market policy in Ireland, Western Europe and other world regions.

She is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • Political and public attitudes to taxation and public services, Ireland in comparative perspective
  • The Irish welfare state in comparative perspective
  • Investment and efficiency in the Irish health system: focus on health services as a whole or a particular hospital
  • Bureaucratic organisation: policy-making in an Irish government Department (e.g. Health, Enterprise, Social Protection)
  • The determinants of migration
  • Comparative research on migrant experiences (in Western Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa)
  • Comparative research on migration policy
  • Qualitative research on labour markets, for example, low-skilled services work and precarious work.

Supervisor: Prof Daniel Faas


Daniel Faas is interested in a wide range of topics across the areas of migration and education. Recent work has focused on youth identities in relation to immigrant integration, national identity, multiculturalism and social cohesion in Europe, diversity management in educational sites and work places, curriculum design and development, as well as comparative case study methodologies. Recently supervised and completed PhD projects include: a case study on the economic, family and identity experiences of Hong Kong Chinese in Ireland; a case study on family, religion and identity among Pakistani Muslim men in Dublin and Boston; as well as return migration experiences of Italian returnees from Argentina and Europe.

He is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • How does the provision of religious education differ by school type in Ireland? What are the experiences of teachers and pupils in Community National Schools?
  • What are the experiences of Brazilian migrants in Ireland in terms of social, cultural, economic and political integration and identity formation?
  • What are the experiences of Filipino migrants in Ireland in terms of social, cultural, economic and political integration and identity formation?
  • How do ethos, practices and outcomes of diversity management in schools and/or companies vary across European societies?
  • How do attitudes and opinions to diversity among majority and minority ethnic communities change over time? What are the impacts on policy development?

Supervisor: Prof Anne Holohan


Anne Holohan has conducted research on networks, organizations and institutions in Peace Building and Conflict Prevention in Haiti and Kosovo, and on the social implications of developments in networks and digital technologies, with specific focus on two areas: understanding altruistic behaviour in citizen science, and understanding the emergence of social norms in the use of digital devices and social media. She is interested in gamification, i.e. the use of online games for non-leisure purposes, including training in gender and cultural awareness.   She is also interested in the intersection of globalization, development and new forms of organizing, with a particular focus on the BRIC countries.

She is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • Digital Lives: the impact of social media on identity, families, community, relationships, interaction, gender, sexuality.
  • Digital Technologies and Social Change: the use of digital technologies and new forms of organization for challenging existing institutions, including private property, secrecy, state surveillance. 
  • Digital Technologies and Globalization, Qui Bono? The role of digital technologies and new forms of organization, in the perpetuation, creation and challenging of global economic, political and social inequalities, with specific focus on the financial industry, labour activism, women’s rights, and the environment.
  • Digital Technologies and Social Norms: the reformation and emergence of social norms across cultural, gender, class, demographic and national boundaries.
  • Gamification: the use of online games for non-leisure purposes, in training and education, with particular focus on ‘soft skills’ of empathy, gender and cultural awareness.

Supervisor: Prof David Landy


David Landy has carried out research on solidarity movements, especially in relation to Israel/Palestine. He has researched global Jewish solidarity with Palestinians, as well as the problems that transnational solidarity movements face. He has also researched the field of migrant relations in Ireland and how social movements seek to affect it. He is currently researching the anti-austerity movement in Ireland. In addition he has carried out research on Zionist tourist practices in East Jerusalem. His research examines the processes through which social movements develop and maintain social solidarity, particularly with regard to Israel/Palestine as well as the ways in which groups and movements deal with racialized regimes of power.

He is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • What is the relationship of solidarity activists with the subjects of solidarity, with particular reference to Palestine?
  • What accounts for the international campaigns across Europe for refugee solidarity and what relationships are established by this campaigning?
  • What are the domestic effects of international solidarity practices? That is, what is the effect on practitioners, their socio-political milieu and wider society?
  • What role has social media played in the Irish Water protests?

Supervisor: Prof Richard Layte


Richard Layte has a broad range of interests in the areas of social stratification, inequality and the political economy of health. Recent work has examined the relationship between country income inequality and individual health and he is currently researching the life course processes that lead to differentials in health and life expectancy. He has a particular interest in improving understanding of how family background influences child health and development and the impact this has on the child's educational outcomes, occupational attainment and adult health. For example, recent work has examined the mechanisms through which the recent Irish recession impacted on child well-being and the implications of this for broader processes of educational and occupational reproduction.

He is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • Is the association between early social environment and later health due to the direct impact of social position and environment on later health (social causation), or does poor health and development impact on education and occupational attainment (health selection)? What mechanisms mediate these two broad processes and which is more important for determining outcomes?
  • Is the association between income inequality and status anxiety related to variation in social institutions across societies such as social protection systems and trade union density?
  • Is the association between income inequality and status anxiety direct or is it moderated by societal patterns of citizenship, nationalism and group identity?
  • Why are income inequality and generalised trust in others related at the country level? Does this pattern shape day to day social interaction and if so, does it contribute to variation in outcomes?
  • Has residential segregation by different measures of individual/household social position changed in Ireland and elsewhere since the 1970s and what implications does this have for social disorder and collective efficacy?
  • Does residential segregation have an impact on dimensions of social inequality such as the pattern of educational attainment and social mobility?
  • On average, women are now likely to have reached a higher educational and occupational position than their partner. What impact has this had on the division of domestic labour and childcare? Does this influence workplace relationships and dynamics and are there consequences in terms of electoral politics?  

Supervisor: Prof Elaine Moriarty


Elaine Moriarty’s research interests include mobility and migration, race and ethnicity, employment and labour markets and qualitative longitudinal research methods. In researching the mobility of Europeans in the past decade, conceptualisations of national and essentialised identities have been challenged and problematized by new transnational practices, virtual connections and greater complexities in how people live, work and transfer their social rights. She is interested in the dynamics between increasingly mobile European nationals, EU directives guaranteeing equal rights among European nationals, an increased emphasis on global labour markets with expectations of a mobile, flexible workforce and national assumptions of belonging. A rise in various forms of mobility has implications for individuals’ identity experiences and performances, both formally through regulatory controls and experientially through expressions of cosmopolitan or ethnicised identities.

She is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • Migration and the employment relationship in particular employment sectors in Ireland (fisheries, hospitality, IT, financial services)
  • Intra European mobility and the portability of social protections (unemployment, illness, carers, child benefit).
  • New forms of mobility and transnational care giving
  • European migration management and the regulation of movement
  • Young Irish Graduates experiences in global labour markets
  • Comparative research of youth mobility in Europe (employment or education focused)
  • Comparative study of diaspora nations engagement strategies

Supervisor: Prof Peter Muhlau


Peter Muhlau has a wide range of interests including immigration, work and employment, gender, family and relationships, stratification and inequality, as well as values and attitudes. He examines these topics using observational (cross-sectional or longitudinal) or experimental data.

He is particularly interested in supervising PhD students on the following issues:

  • Do couples pool their resources or maintain separate finances?
  • What explains variation in household financing arrangements and what are the consequences for relationship stability and well-being?
  • Is the formation of immigrant networks opportunity driven or shaped by strategies to maintain status and identity?
  • Why do women and men choose to work for the public service?
  • When do people attribute adverse events to discrimination?

Supervisor: Prof David Ralph


David Ralph’s research interests lie broadly in the fields of migration studies and family studies. He has carried out research on return migration to Ireland, international commuting as an alternative to emigration, on changes to the Irish family over the 20th century, and, most recently, on discrimination of migrants in the labour market. He is interested in supervising qualitative or mixed methods research on topics related to migration and mobilities, changing family forms, migrant families, and migrants’ experiences of discrimination.

He is particularly interested in supervising dissertations in the following areas:

  • Return migration and re-integration experiences of returnees
  • The experience of “left-behind” family members post-emigration
  • New and emerging family formations
  • New European mobilities and novel urban formations
  • Migration, mobility, and transnational care-giving
  • International commuting and its effects on family life
  • Migration and discrimination

Supervisor: Prof Yekaterina Chzhen


Dr Kat Chzhen supervises students who are passionate about rigorous quantitative research in the areas of social stratification, social demography, and child development. Her current work focuses on socio-economic inequalities in education and health outcomes across the life course using data from large-scale birth cohort studies. See her full research profile here.

She is particularly interested in supervising students on the following issues:

    • What are the social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis for children and young people?
    • How do social policies influence gender inequalities in paid and unpaid work?
    • What is the role of family structure in children’s cognitive and non-cognitive development?
    • How do socio-economic inequalities in children’s education and health outcomes evolve as children grow older?  
    • Why does Ireland have one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world?