Parvati Perman-Howe

  • Parvati Perman-HoweParvati Perman-Howe is originally from Wallingford in Oxfordshire. She joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in September 2016 and her thesis title is ‘The effect of alcohol strength on alcohol consumption’.

    How did you hear about Oxford Brookes University?

    I completed my Master’s in Public Health at Oxford Brookes in 2015.

    What attracted you to Oxford Brookes University to conduct your research?

    Whilst undertaking my master’s at Brookes I was inspired to continue my studies at doctoral level by members of the public health teaching team (who are also heavily involved in research). That, combined with the advertised studentships, persuaded me to pursue a doctoral degree at Brookes. 

    What were you doing before?

    Between completing my master’s and commencing my doctoral degree, I took a year away from studies to work for Public Health England’s National Screening Programmes Team. I designed, wrote and published information resources for the public, patients and practitioners. I had previously worked as a research assistant on a randomised controlled trial, lead by the University of Oxford, which assessed the efficacy of GP referral to commercial weight management services. I have also worked for NHS smoking cessation services and the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme. 

    How easy did you find it to settle into the research environment?

    Really easy; academics are a friendly bunch! From the start I was aware of the support and resources available, but the frequent email reminders have been a useful prompt.

    Tell us about your research.

    My research project is a randomised controlled cross-over pilot trial, assessing the effect of alcohol strength on alcohol consumption. There are three elements to my project:

    • A taste experiment to match regular strength lager to reduced strength lager.
    • A randomised controlled cross-over pilot trial to assess the efficacy of reducing the strength of lager to reduce lager consumption within licensed premises.
    • Semi-structured qualitative telephone interviews to ascertain the acceptability of the intervention. 

    My project is informed by theories of unconscious behaviour and it draws on elements of “nudge”, which is a concept that suggests one can alter behaviour in a favourable direction by making subtle changes to the environment. 

    You can follow my project, as it unfolds, on the Open Science Framework at

    What do you enjoy about being a research student?

    I enjoy the multifaceted nature of the role. Not only am I undertaking a research project but I’m undertaking a teaching course; I contribute to teaching master’s students and marking their assignments; I sit on two committees; I attend and present at conferences, workshops and seminars; and I get to write and contribute to external publications. I find the greatest challenge is being able to switch off and give myself enough time to relax and unwind from my commitments as a research student. I make sure that I fill my ‘down time’ with the things that I love to do the most (aside from studying!) 

    What do you think about the research training offered at Oxford Brookes?

    The research training that’s offered at Brookes is very comprehensive. I attended many workshops and seminars in my first year, perhaps too many for me to assimilate the wealth of information! My supervisor and I have recently designed a workshop to teach researchers how to perform sample size calculations for quantitative studies. This is now part of the doctoral students’ training programme and the inaugural session is to be held in January 2018. 

    What are your future plans?

    Depending on the results of my PhD study, I may seek funding to convert the pilot study to a definitive randomised controlled trial and undertake this as a research project at post-doctorate level. Regardless, I am aiming to forge a career in academia.