Funded PhD opportunities

The perceptual-motor control of adaptive human locomotion during complex environments

  • Application end date: 21st August, 2017
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (European/UK students only)
  • Department: Department of Sport and Exercise Science
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Matt Dicks, Dr Chris Mills

The Department of Sport and Exercise Science is seeking to appoint an enthusiastic and committed individual to a full time, fully-funded PhD studentship for a collaborative project with the Health and Safety Laboratory. The Department performed very well in the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014), is ranked amongst the leading Sport and Exercise Science providers in the UK across all major University League Tables (e.g., 2nd in the UK in the recent Guardian University Guide), has excellent student satisfaction (99% overall satisfaction in 2016) and the University has recently been awarded a Gold award for teaching excellence.


Escalators are common features of many environments including retail spaces and transport interchanges. Whilst in most cases, the use of escalators happens without incident, a number of fatal accidents are known to have occurred in recent years, and many more have resulted in injury. The movement of the escalator itself can exacerbate the risks and consequences of a fall, compared with a fall on a normal stair, for instance.

Whilst there is a body of evidence published on user interaction with stairs, and how to make that interaction safer and reliable, equivalent evidence is not available for escalators. Thus, use could potentially be made safer through changes in operational procedures, such as changing the speed of the escalator. However, it is not yet fully known how operational procedures of escalators could be modified in order to optimise safety. This project will therefore aim to examine possible changes that can be made to escalator procedures in order to reduce accident risk.  

The successful applicant will take the lead on the experimental aspects of the project, which will use integrated eye-tracking and motion capture techniques to develop novel measures of perceptual-motor coordination when stepping on and off of moving escalators. It is anticipated that experimental work will examine changes in perceptual-motor control behaviours following modification of the operational procedures including, for instance, (i) changes in the speed of escalators; (ii) variations in markings on escalators; and (iii) variations in signage on escalators and/or the wider public space within a building. This potential experimental work is yet to be confirmed, however, and will be finalised once the project commences. 

The successful candidate will receive full access to the University’s Graduate School Development Programme, research training, and internal qualifications that enable applications for Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

Entry Requirements

We are seeking candidates who have or are close to the completion of a Master’s degree in human movement or health and exercise sciences, or bio-engineering related disciplines. Expertise in biomechanics/motor control and motion analysis is essential and an understanding of visual control (eye movements) is advantageous. It is important that candidates have the personal skills to work as part of a multidisciplinary team, in collaboration with industry partners and where appropriate, children and older participants in the community.


Informal enquiries are welcome and can be made to Dr Matt Dicks on 02392 845170 ( or Dr Chris Mills on 02392 845294 (

The start date for this fully-funded PhD will be at the beginning of October 2017. Closing date for the application is the 21st August 2017 and interviews will take place at an arranged time at the end of August/beginning of September.

Supervisor profiles

Dr Matt Dicks

Dr Chris Mills

How to Apply

To apply, please submit your CV, a one-page letter of application, two references, copies of any relevant qualifications and evidence of IELTS if required (score of 6.5, with no component falling below 6.0).

More information on research in the Deprtment of Sport and Exercise sciences can be found here:

All applications should use our standard online application form and follow the instructions given under the ‘Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages:

When applying please note the project code - SPES3631018

Funding notes

 The fully-funded studentship provides three years of support to cover tuition fees, and a stipend that is in line with that offered by Research Councils UK of £14,553 per annum.