The energy cost of running - resolving energy use at the level of the muscle

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

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  Dr G N Askew, Prof S Egginton  No more applications being accepted

About the Project

Project description
The mechanics and energetics of locomotion are linked via an energy transduction cascade in which muscles convert chemical energy (derived from food) into mechanical work that is transferred to the environment to produce movement. However, forging the links between mechanics and energetics has proved to be difficult in many systems. Most physiological studies of locomotion only consider metabolic energy expenditure at the level of the organism. Such measurements simply summarize all of the underlying physiological processes without being able to apportion metabolic energy expenditure between different muscles, or linking it to mechanical performance at the level of individual muscles.

The overall aim of this project is to use a multi-disciplinary approach to determine the relationship between mechanical performance and metabolic energy utilisation during running, its partitioning at the level of individual muscles and non-muscular physiological systems.
Measurement of regional blood flow will be used as an index of tissue-level energetics, allowing metabolic energy use to be partitioned between all of the muscles and by other, non-muscular physiological systems in relation to running speed (Marsh & Ellerby, 2006; J. Exp. Biol. 209:2385-94). The mechanical performance of the major locomotor muscles will be determined by measuring their length change and activity patterns during running and simulating these conditions in situ to measure force and power (Askew and Ellerby, 2007; Biol. Letts. 3:445-8). We will also assess the muscle’s capacity to utilise energy using metabolic enzyme assays and phenotypic histology. Hence, we will identify the primary determinants of organismal metabolic rate, and address a major question in animal locomotion - what determines the energy cost of locomotion?

This studentship would suit a student with a strong background in biomechanics, physiology, or zoology with experience of hands-on experimental work. The student will receive training in a wide range of research skills, including the collection and analysis of respirometry data, muscle physiology and working with animals. The student will be part of a dynamic, interdisciplinary research group based at University of Leeds.

The Faculty of Biological Science is Number 1 in the UK for ‘world-leading’ research in the area of sport and exercise sciences (REF, 2014) and is ranked 3rd in the UK for SES (The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018; The Guardian University Guide 2018). This is an exciting opportunity to undertake a PhD in this area whilst also contributing to the outstanding teaching on our undergraduate courses. Research in our department incorporates both multi- and inter-disciplinary investigations aimed at improving the understanding of the relationship between physical activity, exercise, health and the predisposition to chronic diseases. Our research uses a contemporary systems-integrative perspective to investigate exercise responses, control mechanisms and exercise adherence. Application and translation spans elite athletes, the elderly, and children as well as patients with chronic heart and lung disease, spinal cord injuries, and motor impairments.

We are seeking PhD applicants with the necessary skills and proven enthusiasm to undertake demonstrating with our Sports and Exercise Sciences undergraduate cohorts. The successful candidate will be expected to undertake 120-250 hours of teaching per year alongside their PhD research. You should hold (or be in the final year of) a strong degree, equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours, in a relevant discipline and should also have an interest in teaching.

Funding Notes

Project is eligible for funding under the FBS Faculty Studentships scheme. Successful candidates will receive a PhD studentship for 4 years, covering fees at UK/EU level and stipend at research council level (£14,777 for 2018-19).
Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 or above at undergraduate level in a relevant field. If English is not your first language, you will also be required to meet our language entry requirements. The PhD is to start in Oct 2018.
Please apply online here Include project title and supervisor name, and upload a CV and transcripts.


Kissane RWP, Egginton S, Askew GN. Regional variation in the mechanical properties and fibre-type composition of the rat extensor digitorum longus muscle. Experimental Physiology 103, 111-124. doi: 10.1113/EP086483. 2018
Holt, N.C., Roberts, T.J. and Askew, G.N. The energetic benefits of tendon springs in running: is the reduction of muscle work important? J. Exp. Biol. 217, 4365-4371. 2014.
Holt, N.C. and Askew, G.N. Locomotion on a slope: metabolic energy use, behavioural adaptations and the implications for route selection. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 2545-2550. 2012.

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