Research Students


Ten PhD students began projects within CMAR in October 2018:

Tom Inns

Tom graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2018, completing a degree in Medical Physiology and Therapeutics with foundation studies. His dissertation research involved body-weight high-intensity interval training in young adults and this research was displayed at Europhysiology 2018 as a poster presentation.

Tom is based in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham's Derby campus. He will be investigating age-related differences in disuse atrophy following differing lengths of immobilisation, with an aim to gain a clearer picture of the time frame of disuse atrophy as a physiological process within young and old populations.

Ryan Marshall

Ryan completed my Bachelors and Masters degree at The University of Sunderland in Sports and Exercise Science, studying the role of low-load systemic and localised hypoxic resistance exercise on acute muscular and metabolic adaptation. His MSc thesis for this research was awarded the British Association of Sports and Exercise Sciences (BASES) Masters thesis of the year award in 2017.

Ryans PhD project is titled; ‘Novel exercise and nutritional interventions to alleviate inactivity-induced musculoskeletal deterioration in older adults’ supervised by Dr Leigh Breen (University of Birmingham, School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences) and Dr Daniel Wilkinson (University of Nottingham, Clinical, Metabolic and Molecular Physiology Research Group).

Daniel McCormick

Daniel McCormick is an accredited biomedical science graduate with previous research experience in cardiac and skeletal muscle physiology. He is studying skeletal muscle motor unit plasticity as a function of ageing, inactivity, and disease. The research will investigate the electrophysiological and molecular measures of neuromuscular function following various interventions such as muscle training, disuse, and acute damage. The project will utilise state of the art MRI technology available at the SPMIC and develop the latest iEMG techniques. The primary aim of the project is to provide mechanistic insight into the relative contribution of fiber loss and atrophy to total muscle loss, which will inform functional outcomes for patients.

The studentship is funded jointly by our Centre and the Nottingham NIHR Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and is supervised by Dr Mathew Piasecki, Professor Philip Atherton, Professor Paul Greenhaff and Professor John Gladman.

Andrew Wilhelmson

Andrew graduated from the University of Gloucestershire with a BSc (Hons) in Sport and Exercise Sciences, before completing an MRes at the University of Nottingham which investigated the impact of chronic high-intensity interval training on postprandial metabolism. Andrew then took some time out from academia before returning to Nottingham for this collaborative PhD project with the Nestlé Nutrition Institute.

Andrews project aims to better understand the relationship between myostatin (a protein primarily produced and secreted from skeletal muscle cells, that is known to negatively regulate muscle growth) and insulin resistance in lean and obese muscle cells. To that end, he will identify novel candidate mediators of myostatin expression that might be potential targets for therapeutic intervention; study the effects of novel nutritional compounds on myostatin expression/activity; determine if novel regulators of myostatin expression are differentially expressed in obese muscle, following contractile activity; and whether novel nutritional compounds can help muscle from the obese behave more like muscle from lean individuals, with regards to myostatin and insulin sensitivity.

Rosemary Nicholas

Rosemary Nicholas will be using MRI to elucidate the importance of physical activity to brain health and motor function in ageing.  She will be using exercise conducted in the scanner to examine differences in cardiac and brain structure and function in elderly people who are lifelong exercisers and those that are sedentary to isolate changes due to ageing from those due to inactivity.

She graduated with a BSc in Neuroscience from the University of St Andrews, and an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of York before working in the Center for Neurodevelopmental and Imaging Research at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.  

Rosemary is supervised by Sue Francis and Paul Greenhaff and based in the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre and the David Greenfield Human Physiology Unit, University of Nottingham.   

Matthew Weightman

Matthew completed both his BSc and MSc (by Research) at The University of Birmingham, specialising in sensorimotor neuroscience.

For his PhD, Matthew is investigating the use of non-invasive brain stimulation to improve upper limb function in the elderly. A gradual decline in motor function is an inevitable consequence of increasing age, however, research has shown this deterioration is not permanent and can be improved via brain-stimulation and specific motor training. His research will focus on using Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) to understand more about the ageing brain, with respect to upper limb function and investigate how TDCS can be most effectively applied in order to ameliorate age-related declines in motor function. He then hopes to translate his research into certain disease states, such as stroke, which often cause severe upper limb motor deficits.

Matthew is supervised by Dr Ned Jenkinson and Professor Chris Miall and is based in the School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences.

Sophia Brady

Sophia is researching "Sedentary behaviour and physical activity interventions for people living with Rheumatoid Arthritis”. Physical activity is recommended in Rheumatoid Arthritis for its anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective effects, whilst sedentary behaviour may exacerbate inflammation and disease progression. The aim of Sophia’s project is to research how physical activity and sedentary behaviours affect multiple disease outcomes in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients and develop interventions to improve these outcomes.

Sophia graduated from the University of Birmingham with a first class degree in Medical Science in 2016 where she specialised in sedentary behaviour and inflammation research.

Sophia is based in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham and is supervised by Dr Sally Fenton and Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan recently graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Biomedical Science. Using this experience he has now joined the Rheumatology Research Group in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, undertaking a PhD supervised by Dr Helen McGettrick, Dr Amy Naylor and Dr James Edwards.

Through my research, I aim to explore how a new agent (Pro-B1) changes the actions of osteoclasts (bone eaters) and osteoblasts (bone formers). Both cell types express proteins linked to Pro-B1 activity, and previously Pro-B1 has been found to resolve bone damage. This research will allow us to understand how Pro-B1 works to restore bone, leading to its possible use for treatment of age-related bone damage or bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

Georgiana Neag

Georgiana is a trained human biologist with previous research experience in microcirculation-related complications in the post myocardial infarction heart in ageing. She obtained her BSc in Human Biology at the University of Worcester before joining the University of Birmingham for a Master Degree in Cardiovascular Science. Before starting her PhD, Georgiana collaborated with Moor Instruments to test and optimise the use of a Laser Speckle Contrast Imager to monitor the spatio-temporal aspects of blood flow in the ischemic heart.

Under the supervision of Dr Amy Naylor and Dr Simon Jones at the University of Birmingham and Dr Anjali Kusumbe at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology in Oxford, Georgiana will investigate a novel therapeutic pathway and its feasibility of implementation to prevent bone loss in ageing. To achieve this objective the project will investigate the interaction between a group of proteins that act as glue connecting osteoblasts (cells regulating bone formation) to the cells of the vasculature. Data obtained from this project will help gain a better understanding of the role played by these proteins in bone tissue replenishing. This work seeks to identify novel and much-needed means to influence bone deposition for protection against age-related bone disease

Hussein Farah

Hussein graduated with a first class degree in Biological Sciences specialising in Physiology with Pharmacology at the University of Leicester. He spent time working with Professor Nicholas Brindle identifying novel ligands of the Tie2 receptor tyrosine kinase and their role in modulating the activity of the Tie2 receptor.

Osteoarthritis is a painful joint condition and one of the leading causes of pain and disability worldwide. Importantly, despite historically being seen as a “wear and tear” disease of the cartilage there is now evidence that inflammation of the synovial joint lining plays a key role in the disease pathology. A major risk factor for developing osteoarthritis is obesity which may be intricately linked with the inflammatory state observed in osteoarthritis. Hussein is currently researching whether metabolic reprogramming underpins the inflammatory phenotype of the obese osteoarthritic synovial fibroblast.

Hussein is based in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham and is supervised by Dr Simon Jones, Dr Claudio Mauro, Dr Stephen Young, Dr Mandy Peffers and Dr Lisa Chakrabarti.

A further 11 postgraduates will be recruited later this year and will begin their studentships in October 2019. All our studentships are advertised through


Five PhD students began projects within CMAR in 2014:

Stephen Ashcroft

Stephens PhD is ‘Determining the muscle anabolic and anti-catabolic potential of Ursolic Acid in Ageing’. Ursolic acid, an apple-derived nutrient, has been shown to increase muscle mass and reduce muscle wasting in mice. However, no studies have been performed in humans. We wish to determine whether ursolic acid is adequately digested absorbed in humans and whether it has any influence on skeletal muscle mass and function.

He is based in the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham and is supervised by both Dr Andrew Philp and Dr Phil Atherton.

Archontissa Kanavaki

Archontissa Kanavaki working on ‘The promotion of physical activity in middle-aged and older adults with lower limb osteoarthritis’. Physical activity is a first-line treatment for lower limb osteoarthritis (OA), but people with OA do not often maintain a physically active lifestyle. The aim of Archontissa's project is first to identify the psychosocial factors that correspond to physical activity adherence. Archontissa is conducting 1. a systematic review of existing qualitative studies, 2. patient focus-groups and 3. a large scale quantitative study (questionnaires and accelerometers will be used). This data will inform the development and pilot study of an intervention for physical activity promotion in people with lower limb OA.

Archontissa is based in the School of Sport, Exercise, and Rehabilitation Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, she is supervised by Professor Joan Duda, Dr Sally Fenton, Dr Rainer Klocke and  Dr Alison Rushton.

Sam Jones

Sam is researching  ‘The effect of physical exercise on neurocognitive functions of the young and ageing brain’. Human beings rely on many senses (vision, hearing, touch etc.) to interpret the world around them. We often need to combine information from two or more of these to improve our understanding of an event or situation - watching a person's lips move can make it easier to hear what they are saying in a noisy room, for example.  Sam's research aims to investigate how this process of multisensory integration changes as we age and whether any changes may be moderated by physical exercise.

Sam is based in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham and is supervised by Professor Uta Noppeney, Professor Penny Gowland, and Dr Susan Francis.

Stuart Mackenzie

Stuart Mackenzie Investigated the ‘Vestibular control of balance in older adults at high risk of falling’. The control of balance involves the integration of multiple sensory systems such as vision, proprioception and the vestibular system. As we age and during certain diseased states these systems become damaged and this increases the risk of falling. The vestibular system is often referred to as the balance organs. Stuart investigated the extent to which instability, in high-risk populations, is due to the impaired ability to utilise vestibular information versus the direct effect of the impaired sensory system. Read more about his research findings in the following two peer-reviewed papers:

Mackenzie SW, Reynolds RF. Differential effects of vision upon the accuracy and precision of vestibular-evoked balance responses. J Physiol. 2018 Mar 23. doi: 10.1113/JP275645. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29572826.

Mackenzie SW, Reynolds RF. Ocular torsion responses to sinusoidal electrical vestibular stimulation. J Neurosci Methods. 2018 Jan 15;294:116-121. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.11.012. Epub 2017 Nov 21. PubMed PMID: 29170018; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5786448.

Stuart was supervised by Dr Raymond Reynolds, Dr Urmila Tandon and Mr Richard Irving. Since the completion and submission of his PhD thesis, Stuart has been appointed as a Postdoctoral Research Associate position November at Burke Neurological Institute (formerly known as the Burke Medical Research Institute) in New York.

Daisy Wilson

Daisy Wilson completed a Clinical PhD on ‘Impaired pAkt regulation in muscle and immune cells: Targeting a shared mechanism in sarcopenia and immunesenescence’ Daisy was supervised by  Professor J.M.Lord and Dr Elizabeth Sapey.

During her time as a clinical PhD student, Daisy won both a scientific prize for her a poster on neutrophil dysfunction in frailty at the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) and the Jed Rowe prize for her work on frailty by the West Midlands Geriatrics Training Committee.


Simon Franklin

Simon Franklin

Simon is a Primary Researcher in the area of Biomechanics and Motor Control. He completed an undergraduate degree in Sports and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham and developed a particular interest in the biomechanical and neurophysiological basis of locomotion. After graduating with First Class Honours he progressed into Doctoral Research where he investigated how to improve the gait and balance of older adults particularly with respect to the human sensorimotor system. He examined the role of proprioceptive sensory feedback during walking and if this can be optimised through barefoot walking. The overall aim of his research was to increase the mobility and reduce the risk of falls in older adults.

Simon was a finalist in the 2014 Birmingham Three Minute Thesis competition and his entry can be seen here.

Simon was supervised by Dr François-Xavier Li, Dr Michael Grey and Professor Marco Narici.

Andrew Hale

Andrew graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2013 with a degree in Physics with Medical Physics, and has since gone on to combine his interests in both physics and physiology. Andrew’s primary research focus was in developing magnetic resonance (MR) techniques to quantify the cortical vascular response to exercise in young and old volunteers and to assess the impact of chronic exercise training. He also researched the link between physical activity and muscle quality and function, with a particular interest in studying whether brain tissue can benefit from exercise in a similar way to muscle tissue.

Graduating in 2017, Andrew was supervised by Professor Paul Greenhaff and Professor Susan Francis.

Nick Kitchen

Nick Kitchen’s research focused on investigating how sensory adaptations with age are associated with motor performance, or more specifically, how they might be targeted in individualized training paradigms to promote motor recovery of the upper limb. He used a 2D planar robotic manipulandum to develop a method of assessing upper limb proprioceptive acuity which can be used in the future to investigate causal relationships between proprioceptive loss and age-related motor impairments of the upper limb.

Nick who was supervised by Professor Chris Miall and Professor Alan Wing, is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Mhairi Macfadyen

Mhairi Macfadyen

Mhairi Macfadyen's research aims to validate the use of commercial pigs as an animal model for musculoskeletal ageing and osteoarthritis. Current animal models do not closely reflect the processes seen in human ageing; this research aims establish how the muscle and joints of commercial pigs age to determine if these pigs would be a more appropriate animal model for musculoskeletal research. She has a BSc (Hons) degree in Immunology from the University of Glasgow and is also a student member of the Nutrition Society.

Mhairi is supervised by Dr Andrew Murton and Dr Simon Jones

Danielle Thomas

Danielle graduated with a BA in Biological Sciences from Magdalen College, the University of Oxford in 2011 and followed this with an MSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Nutrition from Oxford Brookes University in 2013.

Danielle is researching nutritional and exercise interventions to preserve and increase muscle mass and function in adults aged over 70 years, with the aim of reducing the impact of sarcopenia. Her main objective is to consider a resistance exercise training programme in combination with protein supplementation and to study the effects of altering the timing and distribution of protein ingestion throughout the day. Danielle's PhD is entitled: Responsiveness of older muscle to protein supplementation: A comparison of the effects of bolus versus pulse supplementation of essential amino acids on muscle mass, function, protein synthesis and whole body protein turnover.

Danielle is supervised by Dr Carolyn Greig, Dr Philip Atherton, Dr Ken Smith and Dr Alison Rushton.

Yasir Elhassan

Yasir joined CMAR as a Clinical Research Fellow and he spent 2 years ‘Investigating novel nutritional approaches to improve skeletal muscle metabolic function in humans’. Based in the Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (CEDAM), at the University of Birmingham, he was supervised by Dr Gareth Lavery, Dr Andrew Philp, Professor Wiebke Arlt.