Faculty-funded PhD studentships

The faculty is offering PhD studentships for March 2024 entry. A selection of projects is offered below of which a portion will be funded through competition

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the project's first supervisor to discuss their interest before making an application.

Closing date for applications: 13:00 on 18 December 2023

How to apply

You must include the following in your application:

  • Online application form, available here (please ensure you select the correct faculty)
  • Statement of the title of the project(s) for which you are applying and the first supervisor's name (upload this as a separate Word document) – if this is not included, your application will not be considered for a studentship. A project proposal and timeline is not required with the application, but those shortlisted for interview will be required to send a full proposal and timeline a week before the interview.
  • An academic CV
  • Copies of your academic certificates and transcripts (degree level onwards) – applicants must have at least an Upper Second or First Class Honours degree
  • A copy of your English language qualification, if applicable (must be dated no earlier than March 2022) – see our English language requirements webpage for information about which qualifications are accepted
  • References will only be required for applicants invited to interview. References should be from professional or academic contacts and cannot be from family members or friends. At least one reference should be from someone who knows you from your most recent academic qualification (but is not a member of the supervisory team for the project).

If you are applying for more than one project, you must submit only one application form, but include the titles of all the projects for which you are applying. If more than one application form is received, only one of them will be considered.

Please ensure that all required documents are submitted together with your application form as we are unable to consider incomplete applications or documents sent separately.

If you have not heard from us by four weeks after the closing date, your application has been unsuccessful

Interviews will take place online, from 17 to 24 January 2024.

Funding available

  • Home tuition fee plus £20,622 stipend x 3 years

International applicants will be required to pay the difference between the Home and International tuition fee each year (£12,000 approx for 2023-24)

All research students in the Faculty are charged a bench fee each year, which is not covered by the studentship. The amount depends on the resources required for the project; the minimum is £500 full-time.

Project proposals for Faculty-funded PhD studentships

Please see the project proposals for PhD study, listed below.

Glycerol valorisation by clay-supported ruthenium catalysts

The valorisation of glycerol has gained significant recent attention as it is considered an industrial waste product from biodiesel production. It is well documented that the worldwide production of biodiesel (25 bn L/yr.) entails an enormous generation of glycerol. Colombia especially, with its immense biofuel industry (110000 barrels per day), contributes a significant amount. Thus, the development of efficient and sustainable chemical processes for the conversion of glycerol into valuable chemical products is of great interest.

The proposed project will focus on the synthesis of catalysts for dehydrogenation reactions to convert glycerol into dihydroxyacetone, which is an important raw material for cosmetic products. Furthermore, this process generates hydrogen gas, which can either be used as fuel or be recycled in other chemical processes (e.g. hydrogenation reactions).

Our preliminary studies show that ruthenium-based catalysts exhibit high activity and exceptional selectivity (compared to e.g. iron compounds) for the controlled dehydrogenation of glycerol. Due to their unique stereo-electronical properties, N-Heterocyclic Carbene (NHC) ligands are versatile ancillary molecules, which form robust NHC–metal bonds that may enhance the catalytic activity of the ruthenium metal centre. Surprisingly, such NHC-ruthenium systems are under-explored as catalysts for glycerol valorisation processes.

In collaboration with the research group of Dr Baquero (National University of Colombia) the new NHC-Ru complexes will be extensively tested as catalysts in high pressure autoclave reactors for homogeneous dehydrogenation reactions of glycerol. Depending on the solubility and the stability of the catalyst (tuned by functional groups in the NHC ligand framework), these reactions will be carried out in organic solvents or, to develop more sustainable processes, in water.

Solid supports may provide high stability and enhanced reactivity to molecular catalysts upon chemical immobilisation. Colombian clays are earth-abundant, non-toxic, and low-cost natural minerals, which are mainly composed of SiO2, Al2O3 and Fe2O3. Due to their layered structure, these materials have a large adsorption capacity and are thus ideal heterogeneous supports for molecular catalysts. The student will explore chemical deposition of the synthesised NHC–Ru complexes onto Colombian clays, to achieve heterogeneous-supported Ru-based catalysts. These composites with expected enhanced catalytic activity will be systematically characterised and then tested for heterogeneously catalysed dehydrogenation reactions of glycerol.


  • Synthesis and characterisation of NHC–Ru(II) complexes.
  • Deposition of NHC-Ru compounds onto Colombian clays.
  • Catalytic dehydrogenation of glycerol with Ru complexes and Ru-clay composites.

Synthesis of NHC ligands

Adapting literature procedures, the student will prepare NHC ligand systems with sterically hindered moieties and appropriate substituents to achieve lipophilicity (aromatic groups) or hydrophilicity (sulfonate groups), respectively. Importantly, these ligand frameworks will contain a hydroxyl moiety, to facilitate chemical deposition onto the clay support. The new NHC ligands will be characterised by conventional analytical techniques (NMR, EA, MS, etc.).

Synthesis of NHC–Ru(II) complexes

The NHC-Ru complexes will be synthesised following the in situ free-carbene approach: The NHC precursors (imidazolium salts) are reacted with a base and converted to the free NHC ligands, which are subsequently reacted with a Ru precursor. The new complexes will be purified and characterised by conventional analytical techniques (NMR, EA, MS, XRD).

Deposition of NHC–Ru(II) complexes onto Colombian clays

To achieve the chemical deposition of NHC-Ru complexes on a substrate, the clay will be activated following an established delamination process. This superficial exfoliation of the mineral results in an increased surface area. Subsequently, condensation reactions (between Lewis Acid sites on the clay and hydroxyl groups in the Ru complex backbone) allow the immobilisation of the catalysts on the clay surface. These Ru-clay composites will be characterised by SEM, EDX, N2 adsorption-desorption isotherms analysis, ICP, powder XRD, TGA. Furthermore, the project will benefit enormously from KU's new solid-state NMR facilities to characterise the catalyst material in the solid state.

Catalytic tests: Dehydrogenation of glycerol (NUC)

Both Ru complexes and Ru-clay materials will finally be tested for the catalytic dehydrogenation of glycerol. For this part of the project, we will collaborate intensely with Dr Baquero and his team, as they have profound experience in the catalytic transformation/valorisation of natural products. All reactions will be monitored by GC-MS and NMR spectroscopy to detect the formation of dihydroxyacetone and molecular hydrogen. Recyclability of the materials will be assessed to study catalyst stability and activity.

Supervisor: Dr Dominikus Heift
Email: D.Heift@kingston.ac.uk

Enhancing the Performance of Dry Powder Inhalers using Amino Acid Based Polymeric Nanoaggregates

The global burden of respiratory diseases has escalated since the Covid-19 pandemic, with over 1 billion people enduring acute and chronic respiratory conditions, as well as lung cancer. This requires the need for developing novel drug delivery systems and targeting strategies that can benefit from the lung's large surface area, high vascularisation, and thin blood-alveolar barrier Delivering drugs via respiratory route will enable the use of lower doses with minimal side effects. Recently, the use of nanotechnology has been utilised for targeted drug delivery of anticancer agents to reduce drug loss during transit and minimise related side effects. However, there is an inherent limitation in the availability of techniques for the development of safe and effective dry powder inhaler formulations that do not chemically or physically modify the innate properties of the active pharmaceutical ingredient. The performance of a dry powder inhaler (DPI) is affected by complex and subtle interactions between the drug substance, excipients and the device used. This makes DPIs more challenging than any other pharmaceutical product, as evidenced by the current commercial landscape [19]. Seretide Discus, one of the most successful DPIs for the management of Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) to come to market, was off-patent since 2004, but remained free of generic competition till 2019, despite well-funded efforts by a number of companies replicated the product. Therefore, provision of solution in formulation development that offer tight control on formulation performance would appeal to pharmaceutical industry.

The proposed project aims to develop and optimise a scalable dry powder inhalation (DPI) formulation using novel polymeric nanoaggregates based on biocompatible, biodegradable amino acid. The project further aims to develop a platform for the selection of ideal amino acid for the development of DPI with the aid of artificial intelligence and quality by design principles.

Amino acid Based Polymeric Nanoparticles Technology to enhance DPI performance using interfacial polymerisation and encapsulation technology is a cost effective, one-step process that can process a variety of drugs including low- and high-dose drugs, light and heat sensitive drugs, fixed dose combination drugs with encouraging high yields. The project proposes an innovation in a manufacturing system, as well as an innovation in materials development through an end objective of developing a novel DPI. This will not only enhance DPI manufacturability but also provide cost effective DPI performance enhancement solutions to the pharmaceutical industry and hopefully bring to market challenging drugs to address unmet clinical needs.

The ideal candidate for this PhD position should have a strong background in pharmaceutical sciences, analytical sciences, material science or related discipline, and more importantly, a passion towards research, along with skills in collaborative work as well as the ability to work well independently.

The PhD candidate will learn synthesis, characterisation of DPI aggregates and will gain invaluable experience in a range of techniques including HPLC, NGI, FTIR, DSC, PSA, TGA, XRD, and SEM in addition to the use of QbD programmes.

First supervisor: Dr Eman Dahmash
Email: E.Dahmash@kingston.ac.uk

Structural and functional characterisation of bacterial virulence factors

In the current era of growing antibiotic resistance, the world needs new therapeutics against bacterial infections as well as new vaccines.

The project will focus on the investigation of structure and function of selected bacterial virulence factors which help bacteria to invade the eukaryotic hosts such as human and to evade the host defences. We are interested in determining the structures of bacterial virulence factors and using these structural data to develop new therapeutics and new vaccines.

Students will learn a variety of techniques including cloning, protein expression and purification, protein crystallisation and protein structure determination by X-ray crystallography, basic cell biology techniques and activity assays.

This is an exciting opportunity for a talented and motivated prospective PhD candidate with a passion for structural biology and biophysics. We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with BSc/MSc in a relevant biological subject, independence and initiative are essential, MSc is desirable.

First supervisor: Dr Ekaterina (Katya) Lamber
Email: E.Lamber@kingston.ac.uk

Developing a novel drug screening platform for schistosomes using the free-living flatworm Schmidtea mediterranea

Schistosoma mansoni is one of three major schistosome species that infect over 240 million people across 70 developing countries, with an additional 0.6 billion at risk of infection. These blood-dwelling parasites cause human schistosomiasis by producing countless eggs intended for transmission via snail intermediate hosts. However, these eggs often become trapped in vital organs, like the human liver, causing damage through tissue inflammation. Adult schistosomes have a lifespan of 3–5 years but can endure for up to two decades in the blood vessels, leading to significant morbidity and mortality in endemic regions.

Control measures rely heavily on mass drug administration of praziquantel, the sole drug for widespread schistosomiasis treatment. Unfortunately, schistosomes can become refractory to this drug, and treatment does not prevent re-infection. This project aims to shed light on schistosome stem cell biology, growth, and development, and explore innovative strategies for schistosomiasis control through the development of novel drug-targeting approaches.

Planarians, close relatives of schistosomes, are free-living flatworms with remarkable regenerative capacities and abundant pluripotent stem cells. This makes them an ideal model for studying the mechanisms that underpin stem cell proliferation in flatworms in general, including in schistosomes.? Planarians are also easy to maintain in the laboratory. This project will initially focus on creating a novel platform for drug screening in the planarian, Schmidtea mediterranea; the data generated will then be interrogated to identify S. mansoni stem cell targets for study and drug prioritisation work.

We will begin by utilising planarian tissue fragments/biopsies that contain a significant number of proliferating stem cells. Our initial goal is to demonstrate that these biopsies exhibit characteristics like those observed in the stem cells in actively growing and developing S. mansoni worms. We will then investigate the cellular events that underpin tissue regeneration of planarians from the biopsies to provide valuable insights into the molecular processes, including through cellular signalling, occurring in planarians during development. We will perform drug screens of planarian tissue regeneration to inform our selection of targets in S. mansoni. In addition to the experimental work, this project will also entail extensive planarian and schistosome bioinformatics analysis.

We invite talented and motivated researchers interested in cell biology to join us. This project offers comprehensive training in molecular parasitology, encompassing various approaches including bioinformatics, proteomic-based techniques, confocal laser scanning microscopy, drug assay development, phenotype assays, and stem cell staining.

Applicants should have achieved at least an Upper Second (2i) class degree in a related subject (e.g. Biochemistry, Genetics, Biological Sciences). Experience in laboratory work or an MSc/MSc By Research would be an advantage.

First supervisor: Dr Eman Shakir
Email: E.Shakir@Kingston.ac.uk

Experimental and Computational Modelling Studies to Enhance the Performance of Dry Powder Inhalers for the Management of Asthma and COPD

Inhaled medications delivered via dry powder inhalers (DPIs) can help to relief symptoms for those suffering from health conditions that affect the lungs, such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder). The performance of a dry powder inhaler (DPI) is affected by complex and subtle interactions between the drug substance, excipients and the device used. Therefore, the provision of a solution in formulation development that offers tight control on formulation performance would appeal to the pharmaceutical industry.

Current technologies for developing DPIs are based on the use of micronised drug (i.e. the active pharmaceutical ingredient, API) with an aerodynamic diameter of 1-5 μm, often together with a coarse excipient (carrier), typically lactose, used to aid the handling, metering, and dosing of the formulation. Ternary agents such as magnesium stearate may also be added to modify surface properties, such as the strength of the adhesion between API and carrier. The blend is combined in a secondary manufacturing process such as high shear blending which is used primarily to distribute the cohesive drug particles throughout the bulk excipient to create a homogeneous formulation [5-7]. However, although the use of high shear blending to produce DPI formulations has been extensively researched, it still remains a black art that is based on trial and error with highly variable inputs to the subsequent DPI manufacturing value stream.? Furthermore, the process often entails the use of fine and coarse lactose to aid blending, or additional force control agents where the concentration of the fine lactose or force control agents and the processing conditions introduce other variables that all require controlling and optimisation. Therefore, the proposed project is tailored to employ modelling to develop a better understanding as to the formulation requirements, which should enable the production of DPI formulations in a controllable process as well as being both time and cost effective.

Here, we propose to explore the effect that modifying DPI formulations, including the use of nanoaggregates and specific novel ternary agents, has on its physical properties and downstream de-agglomeration through both multiscale modelling and experimental methods. We also aim to explore the effect that different dry particle coating processes have on these properties. Multiscale modelling is becoming more prevalent with the ongoing improvements to computational capability and can be performed using a combination of two or more computational methods; for this project, both computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and discrete element modelling (DEM) will be carried out using open-source software such as OpenFOAM and LIGGGHTS (a software package used to model granular materials based on LAMMPS, a well-known molecular dynamics simulation programme). Experimentally, a wide range of properties such as the shape, size, specific surface area, pore size distribution and surface energy of the dry powder formulations will be assessed using a variety of techniques. We also propose to investigate the discharge process from capsule-based DPIs as a reported unmet need.

The ideal candidate for this PhD position should have a strong background in pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry, material science or a related discipline, and more importantly, a passion towards research, along with skills in collaborative work as well as the ability to work well independently.

The PhD candidate will learn DPI formulation development, characterisation of DPI formulations, computational modelling, and will gain invaluable experience in a range of techniques including HPLC, NGI, FTIR, DSC, PSA, TGA, XRD, and SEM in addition to the use of QbD programmes.

First supervisor: Dr Gemma Shearman
Email: G.Shearman@kingston.ac.uk

Harnessing Breast Cancer Therapy: Innovative Formulation Strategies for Repurposing Medicines to Overcome Resistance


Research in the Kadri group focuses on developing innovative chemical approaches for the discovery of novel therapeutics to address unmet global health needs. Our research is multidisciplinary, spanning the fields of chemical biology, medicinal chemistry, biopharmaceutics, and biochemistry.

Aims and objectives:

Cancer continues to be a leading cause of death worldwide, necessitating the urgent need for improved anti-cancer therapies. Drug repurposing is an innovative strategy that maximizes the potential of existing drugs and accelerates the discovery of new therapeutic options for various diseases. This research project aims to develop innovative formulation strategies to enable the repurposing of existing medicines for use as anti-cancer therapeutics. The project will involve formulation studies, stability assessments, cellular uptake and toxicity studies, and evaluations of the anti-cancer properties of the developed formulations. The outcomes of this multidisciplinary project will significantly contribute to advancing the development of more efficient and targeted interventions in the field of chemotherapeutics and open doors to repurpose various other drugs for different therapeutic applications.

Training provided:

The prospective student will have access to state-of-the-art laboratories, facilities, and equipment available in the Pharmacy and Life Sciences departments. This multidisciplinary drug discovery project will provide a unique opportunity to receive high-quality training in a range of techniques at the interface of pharmaceutical chemistry, biopharmaceutics, and biology, including chemical synthesis and analysis (NMR, mass spectrometry, IR, and HPLC, etc.), the development of nanoparticle-based drug delivery formulations, cell culture, and biochemical-based techniques (western blotting, toxicity and biochemical binding assays, etc.) for the biological evaluation of synthesised compounds. The student will have the opportunity to present their research in our weekly lab meetings and will be encouraged to attend and present their research findings in national and international meetings.

Collectively, the skills acquired from working on this project will be extremely valuable for those wishing to pursue a career in academia or with pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies.

First supervisor: Hachemi Kadri
Email: H.Kadri@kingston.ac.uk

Shell-doped quantum dots as smart on-off catalysts for thermally sensitive organic transformations

Quantum dots (QDs) are photoluminescent nanoparticles which reside at the cutting edge of opto-electronic device development, with the 2023 Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to three of the most prominent scientists in the field. QDs owe their remarkable photoluminescence to their small size and semiconducting properties, with each of their dimensions smaller than the Bohr radius of the parent material in a strong confinement regime.

Research efforts have focused primarily on improving optical properties, reducing "blinking" and toxicity of QD materials and improving biocompatibility. To date however, there have been very few reports of using QDs to catalyse organic transformations. In this role, QDs offer significant advantages, as they are light rather than heat-activated and straddle the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, meaning they are fully dispersed in the reaction solvent and easily isolable by centrifugation.

QDs are often highly susceptible to oxidation, as well as being synthesised of toxic materials. The overgrowth of shell materials with similar lattice parameters and lower toxicity can preserve/enhance QD photoluminescence, prevent oxidation and inhibit leaching of toxic ions. For typical II-VI and III-V core materials (such as CdSe and InP respectively), ZnS is an excellent non-toxic, wide band-gap shell material.

Early synthetic methods for ZnS shells focussed on the use of highly pyrophoric alkyl zinc and malodorous silathianes. Whilst successful, these reagents require careful handling and specialist equipment (e.g. nitrogen gloveboxes) to use effectively. Since the early 2000s, alternative routes to QD shells based on the decomposition of air-stable, single-source molecular precursors emerged. In particular, inexpensive metal dithiocarbamate species which decompose cleanly into ZnS (and volatile organics) at low temperatures have moved to the fore.

In 2014, Bear, Hogarth et al. reported a method to synthesise composite QD shells on CdSe QD cores for catalytic applications. [4] Our work showed that doping copper with zinc (synthesising a CdSe/ZnS-CuS core/shell QD) had a detrimental effect on the overall photoluminescence, introducing a second, long-lived photoluminescence feature, but was essential for catalytic activity. Catalytic activity was assessed using the "Click" reaction of phenylacetylene and benzyl azide under 254 nm irradiation, achieving ≥99 % yield over several cycles for both the 1:1 and 1:3 molar ratio of copper:zinc. To date, this is unmatched in studies where QD catalysis and the same reaction was utilised. It was found that copper was released into solution by ICP-OES, and therefore postulated that the QDs act as catalyst vectors rather than true catalysts, albeit with impressive turn over numbers and able to catalyse multiple reaction cycles.

We will expand this work by synthesising new metal-sulphide single-source precursors for different core/shell systems. Work will focus on adding metals to CdSe/ZnS system, and expand the number of organic reactions catalysed, looking at carbonylation and carbon-carbon bond formation. In doing this, we will be able to ascertain how well the ZnS lattice reacts to doping with different metals, which will allow investigation of the mechanism of catalysis, which is currently unexplored. This can then be applied to bespoke organic transformations, such as the Clemmensen reduction.

The successful candidate will work between the Bear group at Kingston University and the Hogarth group at King's College London, and will have the opportunity to learn nano- and air-sensitive synthetic techniques, NMR spectroscopy (for in situ catalysis monitoring), ICP-OES analysis, electron microscopy and fluorescence spectroscopy. In addition, the Hogarth group has extensive experience in the synthesis of metal dithiocarbamate species required for QD shell doping, with the possibility of novel compounds to be synthesised and isolated.


  1. Investigation of the mechanism of catalysis in metal-doped QD shell systems.
  2. Explore how far the ZnS shell lattice can be doped with different metal ions.
  3. Expand the number of organic reactions that can be catalysed by metal-doped QDs.

First supervisor: Dr Joseph Bear
Email: J.Bear@kingston.ac.uk

Midwives' experiences and perceptions of using the Midwifery Ongoing Record of Achievement (MORA) to assess the proficiency of midwifery students in England and Northern Ireland

Following the publication of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) Standards of proficiency for midwives (NMC, 2019) a standardised practice assessment document, the Midwifery Ongoing Record of Achievement (MORA), was developed for use across all pre-registration midwifery programmes in England and Northern Ireland; a project that was led by the first supervisor. The implementation of the MORA began in 2020 and is now an integral part of all pre-registration midwifery programmes. Prior to the implementation of the MORA, midwifery student practice assessment processes across England and Northern Ireland varied widely, requiring midwives to understand and navigate different approaches to the assessment of midwifery students during clinical placements.

The rationale for the implementation of a standardised document and process using the MORA was to enhance validity and reliability of assessment, facilitate movement across service provision for both students and midwives and foster collaborative working between universities within a locality where placement sites were shared.

This project seeks to explore how midwives in clinical practice undertaking the role of practice supervisor, practice assessor or nominated person perceive the effectiveness of the MORA as an assessment tool, building on a research project exploring the experiences of student midwives and academic staff, currently being led by the first supervisor. It will also explore whether the original aims of implementing the MORA have been achieved.

There is a significant gap in the research in this field as the standardised practice assessment tool in pre-registration midwifery education in England and Northern Ireland is a novel concept. This study will contribute to the body of knowledge informing best practice in the field of midwifery and related healthcare assessment of professional proficiency.

The aim of the project is to explore midwives' experiences and perceptions of the effectiveness of the standardised clinical practice assessment process using the MORA (Midwifery Ongoing Record of Achievement), in ensuring the Standards of proficiency for midwives (NMC, 2019) are met for preregistration students in England and Northern Ireland.

The objectives of this project are to:

  1. Survey the opinions of the population of practice supervisors, practice assessors and practice nominated persons across England and Northern Ireland regarding the effectiveness of the MORA as an assessment tool.
  2. Explore in depth, through one-to-one interviews, the experiences of practice supervisors, practice assessors and nominated persons of using the MORA to support informed assessment decisions.

This project would suit a candidate with current NMC midwifery registration and recent clinical experience. A masters degree is required in addition to experience in using at least one of the proposed research methods.

First supervisor: Dr Lindsay Gillman
Email: L.Gillman@kingston.ac.uk

Helminth products as macrophage trainers: a novel tool to induce anti-inflammatory trained immunity

The innate immune system can display characteristics of immunological memory. This phenomenon, termed "trained immunity", refers to the long-term functional reprogramming of innate immune cells after the encounter with infectious or non-infectious agents that influences their capacity to respond to a secondary stimulus. Many infectious stimuli, including bacterial or fungal cells and their components (LPS, β-glucan, chitin) are considered potent inducers of innate immune memory, enhancing the pro-inflammatory effects of the innate immune system. However, innate immune cells also arbitrate anti-inflammatory responses, therefore following exposure to appropriate cues they can be trained to be anti-inflammatory.

Research in the past decade has highlighted the broad benefits of pro-inflammatory trained immunity for host defence in the context of infectious disease; however, anti-inflammatory trained immunity could on the other hand have a protective influence against the development of immune-mediated diseases, of important therapeutic implications. Diseases mediated by a dysregulated immunity, such as inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis or asthma, are often treated with immunosuppressive drugs, which, although effective, are not voided of serious side effects. We have previously shown that immunomodulatory strategies that, instead of suppressing, promote the body's natural protective innate immune responses can effectively ameliorate disease progression in models of inflammatory bowel disease.

Innate immune memory may also play a role in the connection between early life exposure to microbes and patterns of disease susceptibility. Of note, epidemiological studies reveal a significantly lower incidence of immune mediated diseases in developing countries with a high prevalence of parasite infections. Thus, it is possible that parasites could induce an anti-inflammatory training program in our immune system that may be key in preventing the development of those conditions.

This project aims to examine the hypothesis that helminth-derived products can effectively induce a training program in macrophages, reprogramming them to be more anti-inflammatory in response to a secondary inflammatory stimulus. The ability of different helminth-derived products to induce anti-inflammatory trained immunity in macrophages will be characterised based on functional and phenotypic changes (cytokine production, surface markers expression, gene expression, metabolic changes etc) and the mechanisms associated with such training program will be explored.

First supervisor: Natividad Garrido Mesa
Email: N.Garridomesa@kingston.ac.uk

Understanding the role of the menstrual cycle on neuromuscular and biomechanical indicators of ACL injury risk in women's team sports

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries at all levels of sport and recreation remain a substantial financial and societal burden. 133,270 ACL reconstructions were performed in the UK from 1997-98 to 2016-17 at an average cost of £8,000. Surgical reconstruction remains the gold-standard treatment, but a large proportion of reconstructed athletes do not return to pre-injury activity levels and suffer from increased risk of sedentary-related morbidities and osteoarthritis later in life. Furthermore, the negative psychological impact associated with decreased quality of life and long periods of leave from employment or study has been highlighted.

Female athletes are 3 to 6 times more likely to suffer non-contact ACL injury than males. Despite recent advancements in the sport and exercise sciences, injury rates continue to grow alongside increases in female sport participation and there remains significant underrepresentation of female athletes in sports medicine research. A lack of specialist knowledge of female specific considerations (e.g. menstrual cycle; MC) and a reluctance to adapt experimental designs to adequately meet these needs has hindered the ability of sport and exercise scientists to develop evidence-based guidelines for female exercisers. Recent calls have thus been made to address gender equality gaps in sport science and medicine research studies. Unfortunately, attempts to understand the role of the MC in non-contact ACL injury remains scarce and limitations in terms of methodological and research design have been identified. Several genetic, hormonal, biomechanical and neuromuscular risk factors for ACL injury risk have been identified, but it is unclear if MC hormone induced changes place women at greater risk of injury. Progesterone and oestrogen profiles will fluctuate during the various phases of the MC (i.e., early and late follicular, ovulatory and mid-luteal phases), leading to changes in ligament properties, knee laxity and neuromuscular function. However, whether these perturbations translate to a) decreased movement control and coordination and b) elevation of biomechanical surrogates of ACL injury risk during functional sport and exercise tasks remains to be seen.

If attempts by the sport science and medical communities to mitigate non-contact ACL injury risk via targeted prevention strategies are to prove successful, a deeper understanding of the role of the MC in injury risk profiling is needed. This project aims to build upon existing research to address these shortfalls. For example, prospective investigation of the specific phases of the MC (and their concurrent hormonal changes) in relation to neuromuscular and biomechanical indicators of ACL injury risk is warranted. This is particularly pertinent for young, team sports athletes who suffer from the highest levels of injury occurrence. Existing research has also tended to use planar and low impact jump landing tasks to infer injury risk. Since knee joint loading associated with ACL injury risk is often in the frontal and transverse planes (i.e. abduction and internal rotation moments), investigation of the influence of the MC when performing high impact (e.g. deceleration tasks) and non-planar tasks (e.g. unanticipated sidestep change of direction) requires more attention. Further, elevation of biomechanical surrogates of ACL strain are known to be influenced by kinematic changes at other parts of the body (e.g. ipsilateral trunk, hip and ankle). Group and individual level evaluation of the effect of MC on whole-body movement strategies during common ACL injury screening might therefore highlight if and how hormonal induced changes manifest in these functional movements.

The ideal candidate would have experience of using data collection techniques such as 3D motion capture, force platforms, electromyography, inertial measurement units to answer sport, clinical and/or biomechanics related research questions.

First supervisor: Dr Simon Augustus
Email: S.Augustus@kingston.ac.uk