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PhD - Experienced Lifeguards (not full title)

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University of Chichester

The bursary amount will be £12,500 per annum

Part Time

Department of Sport & Exercise Sciences: Research Studentships

October 2017 - September 2020


PhD Title: Why experienced lifeguards are so good at hazard detection: What can the brain tell us?

This bursary offer students the opportunity to undertake a programme of doctoral research whilst also, potentially, developing their experience of learning and teaching in higher education in a supportive and supervised environment.

The studentship carry a tax-free stipend of GBP 12,500 and a full-time home-fees waiver. Students accepting the bursary may also undertake teaching duties up to a maximum of 6 hours per week (120 hours per annum), subject to availability. Such duties will be remunerated (currently at GBP 25.83 per hour). The bursary is funded for 3 years, subject to satisfactory annual review.

The preference is for students to undertake full-time research starting on the 1st October 2017.  Part-time research is possible and will be considered on a case by case basis.

The Department of Sport & Exercise Sciences has a strong research environment and has achieved excellent results in the most recent Research Evaluation Framework (with 97% of our research deemed to be internationally recognised and over 50% deemed to be internationally excellent). We have 28 full-time members of staff researching various topics within sport and exercise sciences (with particular research strengths and interests in Occupational Performance, Developing Coaches and Athletes, Health and Well-Being and Nutritional Supplementation). We currently have a cohort of 22 MPhil/PhD students.

The Application Process 

Applicants should hold a minimum of good upper second class honours degree and a Masters degree in relevant subject areas.  We welcome applicants with relevant industry experience who do not possess a masters level qualification. 

Non UK/EU students are eligible to apply however the usual processes for applying to study in the UK will be required (please see International Student pages. Students will also be expected to pay the difference between UK/EU fees and Overseas Fees and appropriate visa, if required. 

Each applicant will apply through the normal HR recruitment process i.e. online application, or hard copy of the online form. In addition to asking for personal details, education history, 'other information' and references, the application requests detailed information about the research proposal.  Applicants are encouraged to make contact with the relevant individual(s) in the subject area to discuss the research proposal.  

Application deadline: 20th August 2017 

Interview dates: w/c 4th September 2017

The University of Chichester in collaboration with King's College London are currently recruiting a PhD student to conduct a series of studies investigating whether there are differences in the brains of experienced and less-experienced lifeguards. Previous research has shown that experienced lifeguards were better at drowning detection (Page, Bates, Long, Dawes, & Tipton, 2011) and hazard detection (Smith, Long, Dawes, & Tipton, under review) than less experienced lifeguards. However, the differences in hazard detection were not underpinned by systematic differences in visual search. Furthermore, even when beach-specific information was removed (i.e., using simulations of heads bobbing in water), eliminating the need for context specific knowledge, experienced lifeguards were still better at detecting the drowning individuals. Therefore, this programme of research aims to examine the mechanisms that underpin the expertise of lifeguards in relation to, but not limited to: personality, information processing, contrast sensitivity function in the peripheral field, and visual search. It is envisaged that once the offline mechanisms that determine expertise are identified, an fMRI study will be conducted to examine brain volume, brain function (volume of oxygen being used at specific sites) and brain pathway connectivity (water diffusion) differences between experienced lifeguards and a group of matched controls. Furthermore, an eye tracker synchronised with the MRI will enable the identification of attentional strategies relative to brain function and connectivity. Once this programme of research is completed, we will be able to identify whether expertise in lifeguarding is underpinned by differences in psychological and brain-related variables. Such findings will enable identification of predictors of expertise. We would therefore like to recruit an individual with expertise in neuroimaging as well as an interest in psychology. 

The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by of Dr Jenny Smith (Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology (Skill Acquisition) and Visiting Researcher at King's College London, Professor Steven Williams (Head of Neuroimaging Department and Professor of Imaging Sciences at Kings College London) and Dr Marcus Smith (Reader and Principal Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Physiology).