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Validation of Novel Physical Performance Assessments for Ski Athletes (VP2231)

   Health & Life Sciences

About the Project


This project provides an exciting and groundbreaking opportunity to research, design and test a performance assessment tool alongside Snowsport Scotland and Sportscotland. Specifically, this project will look to examine the validity and reliability of a field-based assessment tool, hoping to assess maximal oxygen uptake, critical power and anaerobic capacity.

In cross-country skiing, a strong positive correlation is present between level of performance and VO2max (Tønnessen, 2015), demonstrating the importance for coaches and athletes to have an accurate assessment of VO2max. Further, due to the demands of cross-country skiing, it is important to assess an athletes’ anaerobic capabilities. As such, current practices within cross-country skiing utilise an ‘all-out’ 3-minute test (Vanhatalo, 2006) on a ski ergometer, allowing for estimation of VO2max, critical power and peak power. However, to date this field based assessment test has yet to be validated against a criterion measure or assessed for reliability so therefore lacks scientific rationale when being used to monitor endurance performance and/or, talent identification.

The Project

Snowsport Scotland have highlighted that to best prepare athletes for future success in the sport they need to be developing those with appropriate attributes including elements associated with double polling performance. A validated field assessment is required to support athletes across their pathway at a range of age groups and performance levels. The aim of this project would be to validate the 3-minute all out maximal exercise protocol (Vanhatalo, 2006) for use during double polling exercise on a ski ergometer. There are a number of component parts to the project:

1. Concurrent criterion validity will be sought for the 3-minute all out assessment against the gold standard measure for endurance capabilities, via the attainment of VO2max on a RAMP test.

2. Concurrent criterion validity will be assessed of the critical power and anaerobic capacity estimates gained in the 3-minute all out assessment against a criterion 2 trial critical power protocol.

3. Assessment of reliability and predictive validity of the 3-minute all out assessment within controlled and field based environments.

4. Translating the research to an applied environment to allow for continuous monitoring of athletes across the performance pathway in Snowsport Scotland.

Based at the University of the West of Scotland’s (UWS) Lanarkshire campus, the candidate will work under the supervision of Dr Tom Macpherson, Dr Laura Forrest and Professor Chris Easton from the Division of Sport and Exercise. At UWS, our Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science, which the supervision team are part of, encompasses all exercise, physical activity, and health-related research within UWS. In the 2022 Shanghai Ranking, a global league table of world university rankings, recognised the Institute as the highest-ranked Sports Science research institute in Scotland, and 4th in the UK. Our research institute comprises of 30 academics, which has attracted a research income of over £1.5 million, produced over 350 papers, and successfully graduated over 26 PhD candidates over the last 5 years. The group has received a £2.3m investment in state-of-the-art research facilities, including a bespoke consultancy space - of use to the PhD candidate for data collection and skill development. Our Institute has postgraduate coordinators who liaise directly with students, staff, and the Doctoral College to oversee student progression, and who encourage PGRs with opportunities to engage in research seminars, host events, and foster a PGR community. The UWS Academy and Doctoral College support students using the Vitae Researcher Development Framework and training for your development. The Careers team support students’ career aspirations with advice on writing, publishing work, networking, leadership, presentation skills, and interview preparation. The Doctoral College supports opportunity to undertake the Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, and there is opportunity as part of the studentship to gain relevant academic teaching experience. Our PhD candidates have desk-space on campus within a modern, open-plan setting beside all research and teaching staff in the Division, allowing for networking and engagement in a supportive environment. There will also be opportunity for hybrid working to support life balance and a sustainable approach to the research journey. At UWS, we pride ourselves on our holistic support and development of all students and our campus environment supports this.


The successful candidate will have at least an upper second-class undergraduate degree in sport, physiotherapy, or health related subjects. An MSc degree qualification in a relevant area is desirable. Evidence of the skills needed to work with elite athletes and ideally direct experience conducting quantitative research.

In the online application, please upload a word document entitled ‘research proposal’, which includes the title of the PhD studentship and for the attention of Dr Tom Macpherson within the body of the document. 

Funding Notes

The funded studentships are open to UK citizens and EU applicants with pre-settled or settled status. Funding for applicants meeting these criteria will cover UK fees and they will also receive an annual stipend (currently £15,609)

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