CSER PhD Opportunities

It’s the new year and we have some great opportunities for PhD study at the Centre for Sports Engineering Research.

Vice-Chancellor Scholarship

Sheffield Hallam University’s Vice-Chancellor scholarship program is a competitive process which will award the best students with a bursary which covers tuition fees and living costs.

The University has a large number of potential projects in numerous subject areas (see the main website) and CSER has 3 sports-engineering related themes (links below for details).

Industry Sponsored Project

In addition to the VC Scholarships, CSER has an industry-sponsored PhD in collaboration with adidas. Go here to read about the project details.

How to Apply

This is a competitive process and all of those interested need to complete an application form and e-mail it to HWB-DoctoralAdmin@shu.ac.uk by 12 noon on Friday 24th February 2017.

The quality of your application and the 1,500 word research proposal (section 9 of the form) will be used to judge your suitability for the program.

Along with the proposal, please identify:

  • the theme to which your proposal is aligned
  • whether you are interested in a full-time (fully-funded) or part-time (fees only) scholarship

You are encouraged to find out more about our staff and their current research to inform the development of your proposal, which will help ensure your proposal aligns with our research themes. Do not hesitate to contact a project lead (see theme descriptions) for more details and advice.

Selection process

Successful applicants will be required to attend an interview where you will be asked to talk through your research proposal. Applicants to the Vice-Chancellor’s scholarship will also be required to give a 10-minute presentation. Where travel to Sheffield isn’t possible, the interview will be conducted over Skype (or equivalent).


Where English is not your first language, you must show evidence of English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency: an overall IELTS score of 7.0 or above, with at least 6.5 in each component or an accepted equivalent. Please note that your test score must be current, i.e. within the last two years. Please view our eligibility criteria before submitting an application.

Theme Descriptions

Performance analysis in Olympic Swimming

Contact: Dr Chris Hudson

The Centre for Sports Engineering Research (CSER) has been a Research and Innovation Partner of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) for the past 3 Olympic cycles. CSER carried out 61 projects with 10 sports during the last Olympic cycle and this supported athletes that won a total of 42 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics. This partnership was showcased in a blog article by Professor Chris Husbands, the Sheffield Hallam University Vice Chancellor, as an exemplar of the how universities can have real-world impact. The nature of the support is often providing cutting-edge bespoke software and/or hardware solutions to support the Sports in the training and competition environments. The partnership has also included 4 PhDs, each working with a Sport. CSER has worked with British Swimming extensively over the past 8 years. Major projects include:

  • Producing British Swimming’s race analysis system – Nemo
  • Producing a start and turn analysis system that incorporates above and below water filming – Swimtrack – at the Loughborough National Training Centre.
  • Producing software and supporting the hardware installation of a permanent underwater swimming analysis system at the Bath National Training Centre

British Swimming enjoyed their most successful Olympics ever at Rio 2016 and will be looking to build on that for Tokyo 2020. The PhD research will be related to the work CSER does with British Swimming and provides the opportunity to work with world-leading athletes, support staff and infrastructure. This might be continuing prior research, using data collected by the CSER systems or asking a new research question based on current and future projects. Possible research areas include:

  • Start and turn analysis using the data collected from Swimtrack. This could look at athlete progression, intervention studies and development on the system and the analysis process.
  • Automatic data collection from training environments. This would implement work from a previous PhD that determined the calibration process and progressed work on automated stroke-rate detection for a camera based system. The work could be both practical system development and data analysis, cross-referencing with the data collected from competitions using Nemo.
  • Underwater swimming analysis using the systems at the national training centres and footage collected by CSER and British Swimming at major international competitions. This is a new area of development for British Swimming and there are likely to be many avenues to explore.

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Sports Injury Prevention

Contact: Nick Hamilton

Injury prevention is a key research area of the Centre for Sports Engineering Research. This work aims to reduce the prevalence of injury in sport through the development and evaluation of protective equipment and infrastructure. CSER have a strong reputation in sports injury research and have delivered many successful projects in collaboration with; governing bodies, commercial companies, standards agencies, elite sports and athletes. Our work has sought to understand the mechanisms of sports injury in order to mitigate their effect and inform the design of sports equipment and materials through a comprehensive methodology exploring:

  • causality;
  • infield measurement;
  • lab replication and testing;
  • material design and characterisation;
  • product development.

We have pioneered the use of infield measurements to better understand the causality of injury. This research has informed laboratory testing that can simulate injurious scenarios with fidelity. Materials and designs have been evaluated, characterized and developed to minimize the incidence of injury.

Recent projects include:

  • infield testing of football stud traction (adidas);
  • characterisation and simulation of in play football movements (adidas);
  • measurement of the damping characteristics of artificial turf (Labosport);
  • characterisation of snowboarding wrist guard performance;
  • characterisation and simulation of laceration injuries from studded footwear in rugby (World Rugby);
  • measurement of hip injury impact forces in figure skating;
  • characterization of materials for impact protection on human tissue;
  • development of auxetic foams specifically to reduce the forces during impacts within sports.

CSER welcomes applications for PhD study within the scope of injury prevention. Proposals should address a significant need within sport and focus on engineering techniques and methodologies. Successful applicants will benefit from the knowledge, facilities and capabilities of a world leading sports engineering group and will be able to develop rich research opportunities and commercial markets in the field.
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3D shape analysis and human body measurement

Contact: Dr Simon Choppin

Imaging in three-dimensions has come of age. Devices which can capture the external surface of an object or individual can now be purchased for less than £200. Through a research programme lasting over 4 years, we have developed an accurate (~3 mm), flexible and low-cost (~£1,500) 3D imaging system which we have demonstrated is an effective tool for measurement of human body size and shape in health and sport. Our work has demonstrated the system to be an effective replacement for traditional measurement tools (callipers, tape measure etc.). However, our interests lie in the new applications of this technology. There is great potential for advanced analysis and measurement which is impossible by traditional means. Work in the Centre for Sports Engineering Research is focused on applications and developments in sport, health and physical activity. Your project would be concerned with the application of this new technology to these research areas. We are looking for excellent candidates to work with our research group and we are particularly interested in how 3D shape analysis can be used to improve the measurement of the human body i.e. how 3D ‘shape’ in human body measurement can be used to inform, predict and diagnose. In the past we have completed projects regarding:

  • The assessment, monitoring and measurement of women undergoing breast cancer treatment
  • A motivation, measurement and assessment tool in obese populations
  • Bespoke training and assessment in elite sport for talent ID and training

We would expect your work to complement our existing work and demonstrate advancement in the field. We are interested in technical developments, participant-based studies and potential areas of application for our system. Your project could focus on any of these areas.
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Characterising player movement on hybrid football surfaces

External partner: adidas AG

Contact: Dr David James

Professional football is increasingly played on hybrid surfaces that combine both natural and artificial turf. The majority of top league stadiums around the world now use a hybrid surface that weaves artificial fibres into the natural surface. It is claimed that hybrid surfaces are more consistent, more robust, and provide better drainage.

Despite their popularity in the professional game, relatively little is known about the effect of hybrid surfaces on player movement. Footwear is typically designed for, and tested on natural turf. Recently, adidas AG sponsored a programme of research undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University to better understand player movement on artificial turf (Emery et al. 2016). It was found that the player movements and footwear requirements on artificial turf were different to those on natural turf. The research informed the development of new surface specific footwear and methods to assess their ‘real word’ performance. The absence of knowledge on hybrid surfaces and the potential to develop new products to enhance player performance provides the motivation for this PhD proposal.

The general approach of the project will be to focus on field-based observations of match play football. In sports biomechanics research there is a growing consensus that simulated labbased assessments often fail to elicit full match play intensity. This project will develop new methods (including the development of algorithms) to predict player kinematics and kinetics from multiple data sources including synchronised video, inertial sensor and GPS/LPS data. The Centre for Sports Engineering Research have developed considerable expertise in this area (Driscoll et al. 2015). The PhD will also involve a significant volume of fieldwork to establish and compare normative movement profiles for different footballers on natural turf, and hybrid turf.

The project is in collaboration with adidas AG, a global sporting brand with an excellent reputation for research and innovation. The results of the PhD will provide adidas AG with new knowledge and insights to develop new surface specific footwear for football.

A successful PhD candidate will be adept at developing excellent technical skills in fieldwork data collection with advanced data processing and predictive modelling methods. Furthermore, the PhD candidate will be confident in establishing strong working relationships with professional football teams, and the community of researchers at adidas AG. It is anticipated that the candidate will spend at least two months working in the research labs of adidas AG in Germany.


Emery, Jim, et al. “A Method for Characterizing High Acceleration Movements in Small-sided Football.” Procedia Engineering 147 (2016): 718-723.

Driscoll, Heather, et al. “Measurement of studded shoe–surface interaction metrics during in situ performance analysis.” Sports Engineering 18.2 (2015): 105-113.

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About wiredchop

Simon Choppin Simon’s sports engineering career began at the age of six when he loosened the wheels of his skateboard in order to make it go faster. While the experiment was chalked up as his first failure, his resulting dimpled skull has provided an aerodynamic advantage in more recent sporting pursuits. Academically, Simon completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering with Mathematics at Nottingham University before joining the Sports Engineering Research Group at Sheffield to start his PhD. His main interests include work with high speed video, mathematical modelling of various sorts and experimental work involving machines with big buttons. As a sportsman, Simon has an unfortunate lack of talent for anything requiring skill, tactical awareness or the ability to learn from mistakes. He does however seem to posess the ability to move his legs around for a long time until other people get tired, for this reason you’re most likely to see him on a bike of some sort or running up a hill in offensively small shorts. Simon was fortunate enough to have a stint at the Guardian newspaper as part of the BSA’s media fellowship, which gave him the idea for this blog. Other than this, his writing experience includes his PhD thesis and various postcards to his Mum.

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