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Postgraduate research is a fundamental part of the Department for Sport’s research culture, helping to enrich and diversify the breadth and depth of our work.  

The PGR community is highly valued in this Unit and there has been significant growth since REF2014, with 50 completions compared to 9 at REF2014. Our PGRs, not only produce high quality research, but also secure excellent employment (in academia, elite sport and industry). According to the latest Postgraduate Research Student Experience Survey, Northumbria was rated at 84% for overall satisfaction, comparing favourably to the Global mean and Russell Group Universities (82% and 71%, respectively)

Take a look at some of our current students and what they're working on below. 


Callum Morgan  

Thesis title: Taking sports work seriously: Impression management, emotional labour, and employee well-being in sports organisation 

Supervisor: Professor Paul Potrac  

Callum’s doctoral research explores the dramaturgical, relational, and emotional features of the everyday working life for coach educators. Combining multiple qualitative methods with the theorising of Goffman (1959) and Hochschild (1983), his thesis seeks to generate new knowledge concerning how coach educators prepare for, enact, and reflect upon the various individual and collective performances that comprise their work with various interconnected stakeholders. Alongside generating rich insights into when, how, and why coach educators seek to manage their workplace personas, this study will also examine the emotional dimensions of their practices. Specifically, this thesis will examine what emotions coach educators experience in their work, which emotions they show and hide to others, as well as the biographically informed meaning making that underpins their respective outlooks on this topic.   

Twitter: @scholarlycoach8 



Kimberley Hardcastle  

Thesis title: Co-creating brand meaning in the postmodern era: understanding consumer constructions of branding in the English Higher Education market. 

Supervisor: Dr Paul Cook 

Her research interests include sport marketing and consumer culture, marketing communications and social media, specifically, segmenting sports consumers in the digital era. Kimberley is currently undertaking a PhD that focuses on the co-production of interpretive communities within the English Higher Education sector, with a specific focus on sport consumers. 



David Hooper  

Thesis title: An examination of the philosophies, behaviours and practices present within grassroots soccer, considering the perspectives of coaches and coach educators.  
Supervisor: Dr Spencer Boyle  

David’s research is aiming to develop the quality of coaching within grassroots sport and in turn, develop life-long sport participation, along with the development of health and well-being of those involved with sport. The aim of David’s first study was to evaluate, appraise and synthesise all existing Coaching Practice research in Participatory Sport by conducting a Systematic Review of the literature. The aim of David’s second study was to identify what grassroots soccer coaches perceive as their coaching intentions, values and beliefs underpinning their coaching philosophy and practice in grassroots soccer. Finally, the aim of David’s third study is to determine whether the coach behaviours in action are supportive of the coaching beliefs and values expressed by coaches in study two. 



Natalie Dyas  

Thesis title: Physiological determinants and demands of trampoline gymnastics 

Supervisor: Professor Glyn Howatson, Dr Kevin Thomas.  External supervisors: Dr Dave Green, Ezme Matthew, Louise Fawcett (English Institute of Sport) 

The Sports Science & Medicine team working within British Gymnastics and The English Institute of Sport are constantly aiming to better understand and measure gymnastics performance. Gymnastics, as a sport, consists of a plethora of different disciplines and has hugely varying styles within each of the disciplines; each conforming to its own specific code of points. The Olympic disciplines include trampolining, and both women’s and men’s artistic. Rigorous training is seen in all gymnastic disciplines many years before gymnasts reach competition age, with gymnasts being exposed to a high volume of technical and physical sports-specific training. A wide range of proposed physiological attributes necessary for the training and performance of gymnastics skills have been suggested, including strength, power, flexibility, coordination, balance and energy system demands. However, there is a paucity of research assessing and understanding the proposed physiological demands that underpin each of the gymnastics disciplines, and in turn how they can inform training and enhance performance. This body of research will aim to identify and understand the key physiological demands and key determinants of performance, and to devise and apply interventions to improve the physiological potential of elite level gymnasts. 



Arran Parmar  

Thesis title: Aetiology of the demands of intermittent exercise methods 

Supervisor: Dr Phil Hayes 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular and effective method to improve cardiorespiratory and metabolic function, and in turn physical performance. Whilst its popularity has increased in recreational and elite populations, the efficacy of HIIT in well trained middle- to long-distance runners is unclear. Specifically, the implementation of HIIT into the training programme design and how this is quantified remains unknown. Additionally, the effects of different types of HIIT sessions, in terms of the length and intensity of intervals used, on the physiological and fatigue responses elicited are not known.  

The aims of this research will be to improve current knowledge surrounding the efficacy of HIIT in well trained middle- to long-distance runners. Using current HIIT methods employed in well trained middle- to long-distance runners, the cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses to different HIIT sessions matched for load, using novel methods, will be compared. Additionally, the time course of fatigue responses to these sessions will be compared, helping to identify the recovery required from different HIIT sessions. These findings will aid middle- to long-distance athletes and coaches in understanding the implications of HIIT sessions prescribed along with the optimal prescription necessary to elicit desired adaptations to improve performance. 



Kelly Mcnulty  

Thesis title: ‘The effect of the menstrual cycle on athletic performance, adaptation and recovery’. 

Supervisor: Dr Kirsty Hicks 

Over the last three decades there has been a rise in female participation in sport, as such, the need for understanding the physiology of the female athlete has become increasingly essential. Specifically, the menstrual cycle (MC) is recognised as an important biological rhythm, whereby, large changes in endogenous sex hormones (such as, oestrogen and progesterone) are observed. Despite the reported anabolic effects of oestrogen, and the anti-oestrogenic effects of progesterone, the effects of these fluctuating endogenous sex hormones during the MC on athletic performance, as well as, adaptation and recovery have yet to be elucidated.  

Whilst research has highlighted variations in many physiological parameters, as a result of changes in circulating oestrogen and progesterone concentration levels across the MC, which might have subsequent implications for aerobic (power and capacity), anaerobic (power and capacity) and strength performance within certain cycle phases, there remains a multitude of unanswered questions regarding the effects of female reproductive hormones on the various determinants of athletic performance. The focus of my PhD work is to, therefore, advance the understanding of changes in athletic performance across the MC, as well as, help to elucidate the mechanistic, functional and recovery (adaptation) responses from exercise across the MC, with the aim of educating and assisting both athletes and practitioners in optimising training and recovery in female athletes. Ultimately the MC has always appeared as a bit of a taboo topic, but hopefully by talking about it and making original contributions to the research area, it will help in advocating a more sensible attitude to publicising menstruation and sport. 



Alexander Anastasiou  

Thesis title: The physiological demands of Olympic class windsurfing 

Supervisor: Professor Glyn Howatson, Dr Tom Jones 

Sail-pumping in Olympic windsurfing is an action in which a windsurfer pulls and pushes the sail rhythmically so that it acts as a wing, thus providing the board with additional propulsion. This action is particularly effective in wind speeds that are considered light. This action is an important determinant of performance outcome and results in Olympic windsurfing being classified as a highly physiologically demanding class.  

Therefore, the aim of this project would be to assist in the examining the physiological capacities of windsurfers and conduct land-based training that provides a suitable stimulus to adequate replicate the demands being placed on-water. Our research is to initially determine a battery of tests that best replicate components of windsurfing pumping performance. Furthermore, we aim to understand the measurement properties (i.e. reliability and validity) of such tests. Finally, we will look to investigate the physical characteristics of British Sailing Team windsurfers which can provide further information regarding underlying attributes that support performance success. 



Ruth Boldon  

Thesis title: Nutritional interventions for metabolic health in adolescent academy footballers 

Supervisor: Dr Penny Rumbold 

Ruth’s PhD focuses on investigating the metabolic health and thyroid function in adolescent male footballers. Whilst the importance of thyroid function and metabolic rate is well-established there is limited knowledge into the metabolic health of adolescent athletes. 

Metabolic rate is governed by the thyroid hormones and the liver and is vital for systemic health as well as sporting performance. Therefore, liver and thyroid function are key to maintaining metabolic health. However, due to a multitude of stress factors associated with maturation and training loads, adolescent athletes could be at risk of thyroid dysfunction and in turn disruptions to metabolic rate. This in turn could have a negative impact on growth, development and performance.  

Therefore, over the course of her project Ruth aims to profile the players thyroid function and metabolic rate in relation to their training loads and energy intake. This will enable Ruth to identify any points in the season where metabolic health is most at risk and implement appropriate nutritional interventions to alleviate these issues. 



Emily Hume  

Thesis title: Efficacy of physical activity tele-coaching to optimise daily physical activity levels in lung transplant recipients 

Supervisor: Professor Ioannis Vogiatzis 

Lung transplantation is a recognised treatment option for patients with end-stage lung disease. With increasing survival rates after transplantation, more attention is now focusing on enhancing independent functioning, quality of life and exercise capacity in these patients. Based on objective accelerometry-performed daily physical activity measurements, lung transplant recipients are markedly inactive in daily life compared to their healthy age-matched counterparts. Despite the well documented benefits of pulmonary rehabilitation to enhance exercise capacity and physical activity levels in lung transplant recipients, availability and uptake of these programmes remains problematic. 

Emily’s PhD will review existing interventions used to modify physical activity in lung transplant candidates and assess the efficacy of behavioural change strategies to increase physical activity levels. The main trial will investigate whether adding a semi-automated physical activity tele-coaching intervention combined with cognitive behavioural therapy to usual care is superior to usual care (including referral to pulmonary rehabilitation) in terms of change in physical activity levels, functional capacity, health-related quality of life, symptoms, engagement with conventional pulmonary rehabilitation and incidence of complications post hospital discharge following lung transplantation. 



James Manifield  

Thesis title: Effect of inspiratory muscle training on respiratory muscle function during exercise and daily physical activity levels in pre-frail/frail older adults 

Supervisor: Dr Gill Barry 

This research will involve the use of optoelectronic plethysmography (OEP) to determine chest wall volumes and respiratory muscle recruitment in frail and pre-frail older adults. Initially, a study to determine the reliability of the OEP system within this clinical population will be conducted before an exercise intervention, involving resistance and respiratory muscle training, is implemented. Changes in chest wall kinematics following this intervention in frail older adults will be compared to those observed in age-matched controls with findings potentially being used to update exercise guidelines for this population. 



Katherine Jones  

Thesis title: The impact of exercise on bone mineral density and muscular function in adults with Crohn's Disease 

Supervisor: Dr Katherine Baker 

‘Resistance training in inactive or mildly active Crohn’s disease patients: a randomised controlled pilot trial’ Investigating the potential benefits of a home based resistance training programme on bone mineral density, muscular performance, fatigue and quality of life in inactive or mildly active Crohn’s disease patients.  

‘Resistance and aerobic exercise training before surgery in adults with Intestinal Failure: a randomised controlled feasibility trial’ Examining the feasibility of conducting a larger randomised controlled trial within the preoperative intestinal failure population, evaluating how effective it is based on adherence, recruitment, suitability and retention. 



Rachel Kimble  

Thesis title: Dietary anthocyanins and cardiovascular risk factors: the influence of tart Montmorency cherries on health indices in middle-aged adults 

Supervisor: Professor Glyn Howatson 

Montmorency tart cherries have repeatedly been shown to be a rich source of various phytochemicals. These phytochemicals, such as polyphenols and flavonoids, are currently being investigated for their cardio- and neuro-protective properties. Therefore, there is a putative role for phytochemical-rich foods, such as tart cherries, to reduce risk factors associated with chronic diseases and preserve overall health. Using a multidisciplinary approach, Rachel’s PhD project will investigate to potential health benefits associated with longitudinal Montmorency tart cherry supplementation. The primary outcome of this research will be the effects of Montmorency tart cherries on vascular function. However, Rachel will also investigate other indices of human health to determine the applicability of this functional food to healthy aging.


See more from our students in Optimising Human Performance

See more from our students in Promoting and Preserving Health and Wellbeing

See more from our students in Informing Practice and Policy


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