International Society of Biomechanics
Gold sponsor

PhD Studentship: Negotiating outdoor terrains: exploring the walking gait, risk of falls and muscular strength in older adults

PhD Studentship
13 Apr 2023
13 Apr 2023
Huddersfield, England
United Kingdom
University of Huddersfield Queensgate Campus


Maintaining balance is essential for carrying out daily tasks without falling. While falls often have a multifactorial aetiology, many occur in connection with slips and trips when walking. It is well established that older adults have an increased risk of falls and fall-related injuries when walking on flat and even surfaces,withlower body strength and ankle instability identified as predisposing causes for loss of balance. An emerging area of research is the impact of outdoor environments on the risk of falls. There is evidence that artificially developed uneven surfaces in laboratory-controlled conditions can increase the risk of falls, with older adults being particularly susceptible. However, little is known about how real-world environments with uneven and unstable surfaces perturb the walking gait. 


Outline & focus 

This scholarship will build on research currently underway within the Division of Sport, Exercise and Public Health and will investigate the risk of falls for older adults when negotiating outdoor terrain and produce strategies to mitigate those risks. Areas of investigation may include but are not limited to one or more of the following: 

  • Comparison of healthy young adults and older adults for balance and fall risk when traversing different terrains, using appropriate outcome measures.  

  • Balance demands and fall risk for older adults when carrying an additional load and traversing uneven real-world terrains.  

  • A randomised control trial (RCT) to assess the effect of an intervention delivered to healthy older adults on balance fall risk on different terrains. An example of an intervention could be a resistance and balance training programme.


There is also potential for this research to focus on specific health conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, lower limb osteoarthritis, and/or visual impairments. The developed intervention might inform the fall prevention programmes provided by leisure centres or guide policies on urban designs. Therefore, there is some flexibility, but it is important not to include too many areas within research proposals.


For full details, and to apply, go to the Gait Biomechanics PhD Studentship here:


Eligibility criteria & conditions 

  • Achievement that equates to first-class honours at undergraduate level or a distinction at master’s level in a relevant discipline. Our preference is for applicants who have already demonstrated excellence at master’s level, but we will consider exceptional applicants without a master’s. 

  • Applicants who are expecting to achieve the above standard before October can still apply, so long as there is already clear evidence from coursework marks that they are on target to achieve a first/distinction.  

  • If your first language is not English, you will need to meet the minimum requirements of an English Language qualification. The minimum for IELTS is 7.0 overall no element lower than 6.5, or equivalent. 

  • A condition of the scholarship is that you will contribute an average of six hours per week to assisting with undergraduate teaching, preparation and marking and/or supporting staff research and broader School activities, without additional payment. 


Funding amount

  • Stipend matched to UKRI rates (currently £17,668 p.a. for full-time)  

  • Waiver of equivalent of home fees (International students will be charged the difference between home and international fees) 

  • Modest costs for field work and conference attendance  

[Partial fee-waivers may also be available to excellent candidates who are unsuccessful for the studentship]


Funding for

UK Students, EU Students & International Students


Application deadline – Friday 26th May 2023 Start date - October 2023 


Additional application notes

  • To ensure your application is considered for this School of Human and Health Sciences Scholarship, please select one of the following subjects of study in the application form: Psychology, Sociology, Criminology/Criminal Justice, Social work and Social Policy, Politics and International Studies, Public Health, Nursing and Midwifery, Applied Health Sciences.

  • Where the online application form asks about payment of fees,select 'other' and provide the name of the scholarship thatyou wishto be considered for in the free text box.  

  • Upload a research proposal with your application, addressing the issues identified above. Guidanceis provided by the University for writing research proposals. 

  • Please start the proposal with a 200-word summary of the proposed research project and include the name of the scholarship for which you are applying. 

  • At the end of the research proposal please include a 300 word statement explaining the broader contributionthat you would make to the School. This should include the qualities that you would bring to enableyou to contribute to the teaching and research communities of the School (e.g. contributing to seminars, assisting with staff research, assisting with undergraduate teaching and marking of assignments). 

  • When asked for staff names on the application form, please name Dr Sean Hudson and Dr Michael Fish.