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Looking for a suitable PhD research program (body image)


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Hi there, first post here! I'm very keen on doing a PhD, but I'm a little unsure if there is a research program in the United States that will suit my research interests. The purpose for this post is to ask if anyone could advise or suggest a research program that might fit my research interests - assuming such a program does exist!

My research interests

Specifically, the center of my research interest is body image; the way people perceive the aesthetics of their own body. I am interested in understanding body image using the lens of the field of communications, psychology, sociology and neuroscience. Some research questions that come to mind are: 

  • How do specific images and forms of mass media (social media, advertising, TV, movies) affect the way young men and women perceive their bodies? 

  • What exactly is happening in the brain when a young woman feels empowered, confident and/or comfortable about how she looks, and how/why are these neural or psychological mechanisms mediated by environmental factors? 

  • How has fashion evolved alongside shifting ideals of body shape/weight in both Western and non-Western cultures?

Potential programs

Some programs that I have considered:

  • Tracy Tylka at Ohio State University (Psychology) 
  • Suzanna Danuta Walters at Northeastern (Women, Gender, Sexuality) 
  • Emily Falk at UPenn (Communications Neuroscience) 
  • Deborah J. Borisoff at NYU (Communications) 
  • Minh-Ha Pham at Pratt Institute (Media Studies) 

Many of these advisors have research agenda that intersect between sociology/communications and gender/sexuality studies. Unfortunately, It has been difficult to find advisors that actually work on body image as a research agenda. Those that do often are often in Psychology/Psychiatry, but no one seems to study this topic from a communications/sociology perspective.

Some background about myself

Just to share my background: I'm about to start my undergraduate at Michigan State University, and will likely major in both communications and sociology. The reason for enquiring about a PhD research program at this stage is to provide myself with a direction to work towards for the next four years. I feel strongly about this topic (body image) enough to know that it is unlikely my research interests will change, unless practical circumstances (lack of suitable program, funding) make it difficult to pursue this topic. 

Conclusion

I would be grateful to hear from anyone who is aware of any suitable research programs that you think would suit my research interest in studying body image from a communications and sociological perspective. Thank you!

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