PhD Studentship Development of techniques to quantify free-living human physical behaviour from body-worn instrumentation

The School of Health Sciences is a highly multidisciplinary environment with staff and research students drawn from the health professions and related disciplines. The School enjoys world class research facilities including on site clinical facilities, three human movement and biomechanics laboratories, and a clinical imaging suite. There are extensive collaborations within academic and clinical networks across the globe. The School currently boasts over £4 Million pounds of research funding and over 70 post graduate students studying to PhD or Masters by research.  

Eligible Candidates

UK/EU candidates only

Candidates should have a first or upper second class honours in an area relevant to the proposed research. This would include all computational sciences, engineering, sports science and bioengineering at either undergraduate or post graduate level. Evidence of post-graduate research and experience is preferred but is not essential. 

Research topic

Development of techniques to quantify free-living human physical behaviour from body-worn instrumentation

Supervisor: Professor Malcolm Granat


The quantification of free-living physical activities is important in understanding how physical activity and also sedentary behaviours impact on health. Quantification of these behaviours is also important in determining how interventions might modify free-living behaviour to enhance health. Small body-worn monitors are used to collect movement data and from this data activities can be classified. The volumes and patterns of these activities are a measure of human physical behaviour. 

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At present accelerometer data is used to classify body posture. In general these devices use the data to determine the inclination of one or more body segments and from this data derive positional information. At the basic level we can divide all physical behaviours into upright and sedentary behaviours. Upright behaviours can be divided into standing and stepping behaviours and stepping behaviours can further be classified based on stepping rate. 

It is proposed that this “vocabulary” of behaviours can further be extended to incorporate activities such as sleeping, cycling, sitting whilst in moving vehicle, etc. The expansion of this physical behaviour “vocabulary” would enhance our ability to understand human behaviour and the effects that interventions have on behaviour.

A working outline of the plan of activities will include:

  • A review of instrumentation and analysis techniques used for the quantification of physical behaviours. 
  • Identification of the key additional behaviours, such as lying/sleeping, cycling and outdoor walking which are presently not identified, or which are poorly described, by current techniques.
  • Development of techniques to robustly identify these new behaviours from body-worn instrumentation.  This will include a validation of these techniques on a range of populations.
  • An intervention study aimed at modifying one of these behaviours in a target population.

This studentship includes:

  • PhD tuition fees paid for three years (UK/EU students only)
  • Annual bursary of £13,726 for 3 years (tax free).

Applications should be made via the University’s online application system using the ‘Apply’ button below. All candidates must submit a research proposal with their application. 

Closing Date for applications: Friday 1st November 2013

Enquiries should be made to: Rachel Shuttleworth,

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