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PhD opportunity - the female cyclist at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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  • PhD opportunity - the female cyclist at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

    The female cyclist - sex differences and the effect of the menstrual cycle on cycling performance, physiology, and biomechanics (RDF23/HLS/SER/BURNIE)

    About the Project
    The Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University, Newcastle has a global reputation for academic excellence that is underpinned by a vibrant, high-quality research-rich environment. We are seeking enthusiastic and talented candidates for a PhD to investigate the sex differences and the effect of the menstrual cycle on cycling performance, physiology, and biomechanics.

    Background: 53% of the athletes that represented Team GB at the Tokyo Olympic Games were female (Ingle, 2021). However, most of the sports science research is conducted on male athletes which results in data from male populations being extrapolated to female athletes, despite known anatomical and physiological differences (Costello et al., 2014; Emmonds et al., 2019). This project will take an interdisciplinary approach to gain a comprehensive understanding of how sex and hormones influence the biomechanics and coordination of sporting movements and the physiological responses that are elicited. This will provide, where required, sex specific insight into training and performance.

    Project: Using cycling as an example sport, since it is a natural movement that can be accurately manipulated and the workload controlled, the aim of this PhD is to understand the sex differences and the role of the menstrual cycle in performance, physiology and biomechanics. Sex has the potential to influence cycling biomechanics due to inherent differences in pelvic anthropometry (Sauer et al., 2007), and muscle fibre type distribution (Staron et al., 2000) which may influence joint power contributions to overall crank power. The change in hormones across the menstrual cycle have been shown to influence knee extensor force (Ansdell et al., 2019), which could affect cycling coordination and power output - ultimately influencing performance. The biomechanical variables (kinetics, kinematics and EMG activity) that describe the outcome, technique and intermuscular coordination of cycling will be measured (Burnie et al., 2020), and in endurance cycling tests the physiological variables that describe efficiency and time to task failure (Ansdell et al., 2020; Hopker et al., 2010). The PhD objectives are:
    • To investigate the effect of sex differences on the performance, physiology, and biomechanics during cycling.
    • To investigate the effect of the menstrual cycle on the performance, physiology, and biomechanics during cycling.
    • To test a training intervention to optimise cycling performance of female cyclists.
    This research has the potential to inform coaching practice, training programme optimisation and bicycle design and set-up for female athletes.

    Project opportunities: This PhD will be based within the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University. This project offers an opportunity to develop applied research skills, as you will be working with high-level cyclists and collaborating with sport science practitioners at British Cycling and the English Institute of Sport. You will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team of Northumbria University experts from the fields of sports biomechanics and physiology, including specialists in female athlete physiology and sex differences.

    Academic Enquiries

    This project is supervised by Dr Louise Burnie (cycling biomechanics) and Dr Kirsy Hicks (female athlete physiology). For informal queries, please contact For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions.

    Funding Information

    Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).

    Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

    Eligibility Requirements:
    • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
    • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
    • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.
    Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
    • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
    • have settled status, or
    • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
    • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
    If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.
    • Immigration Health Surcharge
    • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
    • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
    • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.
    How to Apply

    For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

    Applications can be made for research study at any time of the year, normally to commence at the start of the academic year or calendar year.

    For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

    Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

    Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc

    For the full PhD advert refer to: