University of Nottingham Ningbo China
School of
  • Intranet

Current PhD students



Gulnissa Zhunussova (Email)




Title of project:  Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of good English teachers in Kazakhstan

Supervisors: Prof. Lixian Jin, Dr. Joanna Martin (UK)

Project Outline: The study aims to explore students’ and teachers’ perceptions of good English teachers in Kazakhstan and investigate how socio-cultural roots of participants’ values influence their expectations of good English teachers. This research is an attempt to broaden a common methodological base. Adopting a mixed methods approach the study employs multiplicity of counter-instruments: participant-drawn images, metaphor questionnaire and semi-structured interviews to elicit narratives.

Brief Bio: Gulnissa completed her BA in English language teaching in Kazakhstan. Following a few years of teaching at a Kazakhstani university, she moved to the UK to obtain MA with distinction from the University of Warwick. Since then she has been involved in academic research as part of international project teams as well as teaching in various contexts. 



Yijin (Joanna) LIN (Email)


Title of project: Neuro-cognitive effects of second language learning in older learners.

Supervisors: Margaret Gillon Dowens, School of English, UNNC; Ed Wilding, School of Psychology, UNUK

Project Outline: My research interests are: second language learning in later life stages and the possible impacts of learning a new language on health, wellbeing and cognitive function...

According to OECD (2013), the percentage of people who are over 65 years old will rise to around 27% in 2050. The problems of ageing populations are a global issue, exacerbated in China by several factors, including the huge size of the population. While the increasingly multilingual nature of our global society has stimulated much research activity into second language learning in the cognitive neuroscience domain in recent decades, research into bilingualism in the elderly is still scarce compared to that of younger learners.

Therefore, the aims of my PhD thesis are: 1) To explore the degree of brain plasticity for language learning in older learners by teaching them to understand and speak a second language (English) and measuring their electro-physiological brains patterns before and after this learning experience, using the Even-related Potential (ERP) technique. 2) To shed light on other possible impacts of the experience of learning a language later in life in terms of psychological well-being and other cognitive and affective factors.

My research questions are:

RQ1. Is there evidence of brain plasticity due to language learning in people over 60, reflected in the electro-physiological responses to syntactic and semantic anomalies in the second language?

RQ2. Are there any other psycho/socio/emotive benefits to learning a second language later in life?

Brief bio: I finished my first degree in English with International Business at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, and obtained my Master degree in Education from the University of Edinburgh. I then spent some months at UNNC as a Research Assistant, firstly in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory and then as an administrative assistant in the School of English. I am now a full-time PhD student in School of English. I have very much enjoyed this experience as an undergraduate student, a member of staff and now a researcher, which has allowed me to see how our school has grown and developed over these years.


 PhD student Michael Stevens photo

Michael Paul Stevens (Email)


Title of project: Multimodal construal in L2 Learning Environments: A corpus-based approach

Supervisors: Yu-Hua Chen, Simon Harrison, Svenja Adolphs

Project Outline: My research focuses on developing multi-modal corpus approaches to gesture, explanation in collaborative discourse, and conceptualization. Drawing on a background that includes philosophy and education, I’m attempting to understand patterns in the depictive gestures that students perform when explaining complex and abstract content. The form and function of depictive gestures can be understood as physical conceptualizations that together with spoken descriptions construct concepts “in the flesh”. Along with my PhD studies, I’m currently working in collaboration to develop the multi-modal component of the University of Nottingham Corpus of Academic Written and Spoken English (CAWSE).

Brief bio: Graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Florida Atlantic University. After a few years teaching Philosophy in Colombia, South America, came to UNNC for the MA in Applied Linguistics. I subsequently moved on into the PhD program at UNNC in the School of English.


wang li fang

Wang Lifang (Email)


Title of project: A Corpus-based Approach to the Production of Formulaic Language in Academic Spoken English

Supervisors: Dr Margaret Gillon Dowens, Prof. Peter Stockwell (UNUK)

Project Outline: I adopt a mixed-methods approach to identify formulaic sequences in a representatively large corpus of learner data acquired in naturalistic academic settings, and a control corpus of native speakers’ academic spoken English, and to investigate their production patterns. The primary focus of my study is to validate the hypothesis that formulaic language is holistically stored in and retrieved from the mental lexicon, and thus it should present phonological coherence, that is, the production of formulaic sequences should be free from internal pauses.

Brief bio: My research interests are in the areas of learner corpus research, corpus linguistics, applied linguistics, English for academic purposes, and children's language development.



Billy Nathan

Billy Nathan SETIAWAN


Project title: The Challenge of Appropriate TESOL Methodology in a Multicultural Context: Post-TEFL Methodology in Indonesian Higher Education

Supervisors: Prof. Lixian Jin, Dr Ping Du

Project Outline: My research aims to accommodate the need of appropriate TESOL methodology in a multicultural environment of Indonesian higher education. It will examine whether the current paradigm is still relevant to such environment or there should be a switch to a more appropriate methodology. This study also aims to propose an English Language Teaching (ELT) model that appropriately responds to the increasing use of English as a medium of intercultural communication.

Brief bio:

  • BA in English Literature in Indonesia;
  • MA in Intercultural Communication at The University of Manchester, UK;
  • English and Indonesian language teaching in higher education since 2011.  


Yanchuan GENGYanchuan GENG

Project title: Researching the Motivation and Learning Experience of Chinese Older Adults in English Language Learning


Supervisors: Prof. Lixian Jin, Dr. Candace Veecock, Dr. Christina Lee (UK)

Project Outline: My thesis explores the motivational dynamics of older adults in their language learning journeys in a University of Third Age (U3A). This longitudinal research project will delineate some inside pictures of learning from the perspective of Chinese older adults, demonstrate how methodological choices are made at each stage to capture the dynamic and emergent nature of motivation and conclude with some potential pedagogical interventions to empower learning behaviours for better outcomes.

Brief Bio: 

  • BAs from Ningbo University, International Trade and Economy and Japanese Studies.
  • MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching with distinction, University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC).
  • Full scholarship 2018. 



Project title: Comparative study of dominant media frames in major global news broadcasters (CCTV, CNN and Al Jazeera) - a case study on North Korea 

Supervisors: Dr Nancy Liu, Dr Shixin Ivy Zhang, Dr Kevin Harvey

Project Outline: The main objective of the research is to study how CNN, CCTV and Al Jazeera frame their news content and what image of the world is being projected in their reporting. This project aims to reveal whether the framing tendencies are similar in all three stations or whether there exist factors influencing the news frames. The case study is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its portrayal by the three news broadcasters.   

Brief bio:

  • MA in Translation and Interpreting, University of Warsaw; MA in International Communication, Communication University of China
  • English teacher in a number of schools, from public secondary schools to language centres and colleges  
  • Extensive experiences of working in the media industry, MIPCOM, MIPTV in Cannes, ATF in Singapore, Busan Market in South Korea, NATPE in Hungary and others, Discovery Channel, TVP Polish Public Television, Fokus TV
  • Full scholarship 2017



Justin BERG


Project title: A Corpus-based Analysis of Academic Music Discourse: Comparing Expert and Novice Writing

Supervisor: Yu-hua CHEN, Derek IRWIN, Philip WELLER (UK)

Project Outline: This project explores the discourse of academic music writing by investigating which lexical bundles are constituent of this discourse and how they link propositional content to create cohesion. A corpus-based methodology is employed to extract lexical bundles from two newly built specialized corpora of expert and novice writings, the latter drawn from L2 students. Expert and novice writings will be compared to identify unmarked and marked usage, and deviations of the latter from the former.

Brief Bio: Before turning to Applied Linguistics, I earned degrees in Music Performance (BA, Oberlin; MM, U. of Notre Dame) and Musicology (MA, Duke U.), and worked as both performer and teacher. After earning the MA in Applied Linguistics, I decided to return to Nottingham to pursue the Ph.D. with this project intended to help music students with their discipline-specific writing.