School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

PhD opportunities

"By the time I complete my studies, I’ll be equipped with the necessary knowledge and the experience I need to carry out my future ambitions."

Student testimonials

Here’s what some of our PhD students have to say about their experiences.

Asya Barutcu: Eating Behaviour and Dietary and Exercise Interventions on Recreationally Active Individuals

Please tell us about your research.

My PhD focuses on the recreationally active and understanding the behaviour behind eating habits, or exercise interventions. We believe focusing on behaviour will be more important in terms of understanding mechanisms behind certain traits, and also help implement more successful intervention strategies. For my first study, we investigated the effects of exercise on meal planning, and results have been very interesting.

What did you do before your PhD?

I completed my masters in Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough and graduated in 2013. After that, I stayed around in Loughborough and did some voluntary work for about a year. I was employed as a technician in Exercise Physiology again at Loughborough University for about 9 months, before I started my PhD in October 2015.

Please tell us why you decided to come to Loughborough University.

I chose Loughborough because of its excellence in sports science research, and for the opportunity to work with my current supervisor – Dr Lewis James.

Also, I was attracted to Loughborough because of the sporting facilities and diverse sporting activities I could get involved with. Since I've been at Loughborough, I’ve tried many different sports, and became more active than ever before.

How are you funding your PhD?

My PhD is self-funded. I have some external funding from British Council in Cyprus and also the Turkish Cypriot Government. I also work as a voluntary subwarden at the Holt; employed part-time by the Leicester Diabetes Centre as a ‘Let’s Prevent Diabetes’ Educator; and also deliver teaching within the SSEHS.

We’d love to know the top three things about your experience so far.

1. Learning opportunities available in terms of skills training, teaching experience, project management, recruitment, writing and planning a study.

2. Gym Facilities. I took advantage of the three year membership which allows me to use the gym (Holywell), the exercise classes and the pool for the next three years.

3. Dining Halls. As I work as a subwarden, I’m allowed to eat at Dining Halls, and as I have a long intolerance list, it can be challenging to provide me with food. However, Towers Dining Hall cook specifically for me at lunch times, and I’m very grateful that they agreed to take me on.

What are your plans for the future?

I enjoy teaching, and therefore, see myself in a teaching role after I complete my PhD.

How do you think studying this course at Loughborough University will help you achieve these ambitions?

Loughborough University allows me to increase my experience in teaching alongside my PhD, and provides me with training in teaching skills. Also, as my PhD focuses on very specific behaviours and exercise interventions, by the time I complete my studies, I’ll be equipped with the necessary knowledge and the experience I need to carry out my future ambitions.


Lin Cherurbai Sambili: The Role of Sport in Countering Radicalisation: A case study of Kenya

Please tell us about your research.

This study is focused on investigating the potential role of sport as a tool to counter radicalisation in the Kenyan society. The research looks at the ongoing efforts of identified community based organisations in Kenya that are working to counter radicalisation through structured sport and play activities. The reason this work is important is because this is a global and national challenge, but not much attention has been paid to the possible effectiveness of sport as an intervention tool.

Where are you from?

I am proudly from Kenya.

What were you doing before you started your PhD?

Prior to starting on this great opportunity, I was a Tutorial Fellow in Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya where I worked with the growing Sports Department. Apart from teaching, I run a Sports for Development and Peace (SDP) organisation dubbed Sports with A Goal Africa (SWAGA) which uses sport as a tool to Reach, Connect and Empower youth in different communities in Kenya. This organisation is still continuing with the unwavering support of our local team.

Why Loughborough University?

Loughborough University is the best in the world for my field of study - that is sport. It is an absolute privilege to be able to live and study here. Since joining the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences in October 2016, I have grown immeasurably on all fronts. The University is equipped with excellent staff and resources which makes the learning and study experience very rich.

What do you enjoy the most about completing your PhD with us?

There are many things I enjoy about studying a PhD with Loughborough but I believe the student experience and interaction with brilliant colleagues and academic staff at the school tops it off. There is a sincere sense of community here and for that I am grateful.

Describe what it is like to study a PhD, and how this differs from undergraduate/masters study.

Studying a PhD is a constant self-learning process. it requires commitment and focus that I am having to cultivate a lot more of, because you are in charge of your time and growth. Whilst there is a vibrant PhD support group, one must remain committed to the opportunity and the deliverables. An undergraduate and masters study is outlined for you in a sense. A PhD requires you to do a substantial amount of digging and groundwork to unearth your research findings.

Describe a day in the life of a PhD student.

It involves partitioning your day into reading and writing sections, it is essentially a 9-5 job but with the freedom to do your work from where you are most focused. This could be at the office, the library, in your study area or even in a coffee shop. Other days you will attend training sessions at the Loughborough Doctoral College in order to further your research and development skills or attend a conference within or outside campus. But this said, some days are more intense than others where you need to write more while other days are easier where you can get more reading done.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD in your area?

I decided to undertake a PhD in the area of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) because I have seen the benefits of structured sports activities in the development and engagement of a community, an individual and even a society. Furthermore, I knew that if I was to make any substantial impact on a national and global scale, furthering my education would be key.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself as having graduated from my PhD and written a significant amount of work in the field of Sport for Development for my country and Africa. I also see myself working within an international sport governing body and building partnerships both for academia and the private sector in order to enhance the true value and impact of sport and development for others.

If you could give one piece of advice to a future PhD student, what would it be?

Believe in your voice, write daily and learn to listen to the wealth of knowledge that is in people.

Amber Guest: The Physical and Mental Health of Lorry Drivers.

Please tell us about your research.

I am part of a larger team which is conducting a 12-month health intervention on a large cohort of lorry drivers around the UK, where I have been conducting a process evaluation of the intervention, and analysing the drivers’ stress reactivity levels. I also initially carried out a systematic literature review to understand the global health status of lorry drivers.


What did you do before your PhD?

After finishing my A levels, I joined the ambulance service at aged 18 and worked there for a few years. This really sparked my interest in the human body, so I decided to do an undergraduate in Human Biology at Loughborough University. My final year undergraduate dissertation was researching the sedentary behaviour of ambulance workers, the results were quite shocking! This was my first bit of independent research and I loved it, so I knew I wanted to carry on down that path.


Why did you decided to come to Loughborough University?

Loughborough University is world-renowned for being a research-led university, to be a part of that culture was really important to me. The facilities are excellent, my desk is in an open plan office in the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine. Loughborough has a very inclusive and community feel, there is loads to do outside of the PhD, countless sports obviously, but also loads of groups and societies, so there is something for everyone.


How are you funding your PhD?

I applied to the Colt Foundation, a charity which funds research projects in the field of occupational and environmental health, particularly those aimed at discovering the cause of illnesses arising from conditions in the workplace. It included a detailed research proposal, followed by an interview. They cover all the student fees, a yearly stipend of £15,000, and costs towards your research expenses.


What are the highlights of your experience so far?

The best thing is that the health intervention is transforming lives, I met with a lorry driver recently that, because of our study, had lost 35 kilos and reversed his diabetes. Moments like that make it feel invaluable.

The PhD is opening doors that I did not even know existed, in my first few months I attended an international health conference in Prague and was in awe about all the research going on in the world. Since then I have presented my own research at two other conferences and won awards at both.

Of course, a PhD can be stressful and demanding at times, but overall, the lifestyle of being a PhD student suits me very well. Your supervisors are always there to guide and support you, but you quickly become independent and manage your own deadlines. Best of all, when you have a burning interest in an area, you can pursue it.


What are your plans for the future?

I would ideally like to stay in academia and either become a research associate or explore the avenue of lecturing. As a PhD student at Loughborough University, you can teach undergraduates in practical lab classes, which I have really enjoyed doing. I would like to gain the qualification of Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and pursue a career in lecturing alongside research.


How do you think studying this course at Loughborough University will help you achieve these ambitions?

Loughborough is providing me with all the tools I need in order to become a well-rounded researcher. This year alone I have attended over 17 days of training courses, and I have had experience presenting at conferences. It really helps with networking and building both confidence and knowledge. I have also had experience of teaching undergraduates in practical lab classes. Ultimately, it is a safe learning environment where it is okay to make mistakes and practice new techniques, because at the end of the day, I am still a student and the whole point is I am still supposed to be learning.


What advice would you give to someone thinking of undertaking a PhD at Loughborough?

My best advice is to just put yourself out of your comfort zone and go for it! Nobody can imagine themselves doing a PhD until they are actually doing one. Talk to people that are already doing one, or lecturers that specialise in something similar to what you are interested in. You will have to put yourself out of your comfort zone, but that is definitely the best way for personal and professional growth.

Benjamin Boxer: Effect of Exercise on Cartilage and Bone Physical Properties and Metabolism.

Please tell us about your research

The overarching goal of my research is to increase understanding of how exercise may impact upon osteoarthritis and osteoporosis risk through examining the acute and training effects of exercise on biomarkers and physical properties; as well as the impact of more habitual physical activity on joint symptoms.

The primary aim of this research is to examine the influence of specific exercise parameters on cartilage and bone physical properties and metabolism. It focuses on how these tissues respond to high impact and resistance exercise; examining the acute response to a bout of exercise, as well as the longer-term effects of a period of training. Additional aims are to examine how changing physical activity levels may impact on joint symptoms and what the effect of a period of exercise training is on bone structural properties as assessed by statistical shape modelling of dual x-ray absorptiometry scans.


What did you do before your PhD?

I completed an undergraduate degree in Sports and Exercise Science at Loughborough University. I did a placement year between the second and third year of my undergraduate. My placement was in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at the university; under the supervision of Dr Stephen Mears I examined best practices for nutritional and physiological support at endurance events.

In the summer after completing my undergraduate degree I was awarded a summer studentship from the Physiological Society where I conducted lab and questionnaire-based research examining fluid intake in runners, again supervised by Dr Stephen Mears.


Why did you decided to come to Loughborough University?

I had wanted to come to Loughborough University since visiting the university at 15 when my older brother had an interview for aeronautical engineering. Loved the campus and it was one of the top ranked universities in the country for Sports and Exercise Science at the time.


How are you funding your PhD?

My PhD is funded by Loughborough University in partnership with the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research, Versus Osteoarthritis.


What are the top three things about your experience so far?

  1. Lab work: I have always enjoyed lab work and have had the opportunity to learn a number of different techniques as part of my PhD.
  2. My supervisor: she has been amazing, always having time to provide help and guidance and giving me every opportunity to make the most of my PhD.
  3. The PhD student community: is a fun, supportive community.


What are your plans for the future?

To do a postdoc in a similar area that I am currently involved in.


How do you think studying this course at Loughborough University will help you achieve these ambitions?

Loughborough is a highly regarded institute for exercise physiology related research and my supervisors are high up in their fields so it should set me up well to secure a postdoc.


What advice would you give to someone thinking of undertaking a PhD at Loughborough?

Try and get as much experience in research as you can; participate in peoples studies, ask a a PhD student if you can be a spare pair of hands to help out with their study, do a research based placement; do a final year project in a relevant area.

Sebastian Sandgren: Development of a Participant-Centred and Evidence-Based Intervention to Address Eating Psychopathology in Athletes

Please tell us about your research.

My research is centred around health and sport psychology, specifically disordered eating in athletes. We have developed and tested a participant-centred and evidence-based intervention to support athletes with disordered eating. Initial results from my PhD are promising and further intervention testing is planned.


What did you do before your PhD?

I completed a BSc in Sports Science from the University of Stavanger, Norway, and from Universidad Catolica de Valencia, Spain in 2016. I later completed a MSc in Sport Psychology from the University of Stirling, Scotland, before starting my doctorate.


Why did you decided to come to Loughborough University?

Due to its reputation and evidenced quality research and teaching within health and sport psychology.


How are you funding your PhD?

I was awarded a 3-year, full-time funded PhD studentship.


What are the top three things about your experience so far?

A great work environment, excellent supervision and a good PhD community within the school.


What are your plans for the future?

I aim to pursue a career within research and academia with the goal of becoming a professor.


How do you think studying this course at Loughborough University will help you achieve these ambitions?

Loughborough University is a well-recognised institution and I believe this will benefit my career opportunities later. My time doing a PhD at Loughborough has taught me some valuable skills and provided me with some great experiences within and beyond research.


What advice would you give to someone thinking of undertaking a PhD at Loughborough?

Do it! The University provides an excellent environment for undertaking high-quality research.

Dr Maedeh Mansoubi: Physical Activity and Public Health

Please tell us about your research.

My research focuses on the impact of lifestyle on public health and using technology and innovation to promote public health.


What did you do before your PhD?

I was a lecturer at two different universities in Iran


Why did you decided to come to Loughborough University?

Learning about digital health and technologies to promote public health is my lifelong passion, and I was very keen to continue my education at the PhD level in one of the world’s leading universities in this field. I received acceptances from some other great universities at the same time, but it was an easy choice for me as Loughborough University is the world’s top university in Sport, Exercise and Health sciences.


How did you fund your PhD?

I was a fully self-funded PhD student, but I am happy with my investment.


What were the top three things about your experience?

  1. I had great supervisors at the time. Professor Stuart Biddle, Dr Stacy Clemes and Dr Natalie Pearson are all very knowledgeable and friendly, and they have a great understanding of international students needs. Their advice and support has helped me to cope well with the new environment quickly.

  2. Loughborough University offers a lot of free and useful courses which helped me during and even after finishing my PhD. These courses covered statistics, paper writing, proposal writing, preparing a CV for job applications, interview tips and so many other useful subjects, preparing me for life after my PhD.

  3. I made a diverse group of international friends at Loughborough University, which was a great experience, helping me to learn about different cultures.    


What are you doing following your PhD?

Currently, I’m Lead Technology, Innovation and Digital Health at Oxford Clinical Allied Technology and Trial Services Unit (OxCATTS) and also leading the innovation theme at Centre for Movement, Occupational and Rehabilitation Sciences (MOReS). I’m inspired and motivated to stay on this path to promote public health and well-being by using cutting edge technologies and innovative approaches.


What advice would you give to someone thinking of undertaking a PhD at Loughborough?

First, investing in a PhD is worth the time, money and effort. Being at Loughborough University is a great experience. Then, try to find a life balance, which will help you to have a more enjoyable and fruitful experience.