School of Music PhD student Michelle Ulor. Michelle stands against a white background and is looking at the camera and smiling.

Michelle Ulor

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your current career?

I am a music psychologist, DJ, radio host, and writer. I have over a decade worth of research and DJ experience, and I’m deeply committed to advancing the understanding of the transformative power music has for mental wellbeing. My doctoral research involved developing and testing the first intervention exploring whether playing music in the mind can help people feel less anxious. My work has been presented in journal articles and international conferences, providing a unique contribution to the field of Music Psychology.

I’ve continued to engage with my music-related activities post-PhD. Throughout my career, I've played several shows across the UK and internationally in places such as Bali and Paris, worked with brands like Adidas, Lee Jeans and Mary Katrantzou, and shared lineups with a range of artists including Giggs, Neneh Cherry, Siobhan Bell, Auntie Flo and Anz. I recently completed a five-year residency on NTS Radio where my monthly show was widely praised for its innovative approach to showcasing eclectic music.

I am also a freelance music journalist, having written for Resident Advisor, Crack Magazine, Electronic Beats, Truants and Insert. I like to use my academic expertise in music interventions and mental health to advise wellbeing start-ups and host public engagement sessions, including virtual and in-person music listening sessions, music and mood conference workshops and more.

Since completing my PhD, I’ve also been exploring what life outside of academia looks like. This involves engaging in non-academic activities that revolve around music and wellbeing, working in research in industry settings, and most recently taking up a role as a program manager to make use of my transferable skills.

Please tell us about any other roles you’ve had since graduating from Leeds.

I held a year-long Postdoctoral Fellow position at the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute. Then I found myself working as a Research & Development Fellow at Zinc, a mission-based VC, where I provided research support for entrepreneurs on a mental health venture builder programme. I was also the deputy lead of Zinc’s Catalyst programme - a partnership between Zinc and UKRI that funds entrepreneurial academics who want to translate their research into impactful and scalable products. Now I am the Program Manager at Newton Venture Program, a joint venture between LocalGlobe and London Business School. I support in designing and delivering our Fundamentals program for individuals either looking to break into VC or already working in this field and wanting to progress further.

How do you think the skills and knowledge you developed at Leeds helped with your career success?

My general research skills helped with my job at the venture builder programme, where I provided entrepreneurs with research support when developing their products. My domain expertise, being music and well-being, helps me when I’m working on projects centred around that and the general skills I gained like project management, stakeholder management and organisation helps with my current role as a program manager. Lastly, all my activities I’ve been involved with since completing my PhD has involved creating or working on something that directly impacts a user. My doctoral research was about developing and testing the effectiveness of an intervention, so my familiarity with putting users first has been helpful.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

I was keen to work with Dr Freya Bailes, who is one of the household names in the field of musical imagery, which is what my research focused on.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I enjoyed being able to do a deep dive into a topic I’m extremely passionate about with a great supervisory team. It’s not often you get to spend four years where your focus is to research an area you love, so having that opportunity was amazing. I also appreciated the opportunity to share my research at national and international conferences, in addition to conferences held by the University of Leeds.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Your supervisors can really make or break your doctoral experience. I felt incredibly lucky to have worked closely with Dr Freya Bailes and Professor Daryl O’Connor over four years. They provided endless support and enthusiasm throughout the duration of my time at the University of Leeds.