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Research

SRI staff at work

Our Research

The School of Health, Sport and Bioscience has a well established track record in the fields of Research and Knowledge Exchange (R&KE). This is reflected in the excellent results of the REF2014. We look forward with confidence to building on our success and to grow sustainable research and enterprise which contributes to the advancement of the world around us. Our expanding portfolio of Research is carried out at national and international levels, undertaken with a variety of partners and other UK and overseas universities. The university’s recent Research Strategy 2014-2017, provides a framework for taking forward high quality research and enterprise to build a strong national and global reputation.



Most of our Research activity is concentrated in research groups and we have a close working relationship with the Institute for Health and Human Development. We have a track record of research geared towards our local East London community, and have expertise in the areas of Health Promotion and Wellbeing, Biomedical Science, Public Health,  Pharmacology, Podiatry and Physiotherapy. Our research groups benefit from the expertise of experienced researchers working within interprofessional groups. Our increasing numbers of PhD students make a major contribution to the overall research capacity of the School. 



Research Groups

Medicines Research Group (MRG) 

Research and scholarly activity undertaken to date and work in progress is summarised under three broad areas of interest: Phytomedicines and dietary supplements, Pre-Clinical In vitro Toxicity Testing and Antimicrobial agents.  Please contact Professor Olivia Corcoran for more information


Infection and Immunity Research Group (IIRG)

Research within this group explores the role of infection and immunity in causing disease pathologies. Please contact Professor Sally Cutler for more information

Neurorehabilitation Unit (NRU)

Our expertise is in Restorative Neuroscience and Rehabilitation. I hope you find the information helpful in choosing to become involved in our work.  Please contact Professor Duncan Turner for more information

Clinical Research Group (CRG)

Research within this group is the school’s clinical research base to impact on clinical practice.  Please contact Professor Michael Seed for more information. 







 

Research Students

The School often has fully funded Phd and Masters of Research scholarships which we advertise when they are available. Below are just a handful of examples of our amazing research students and their interesting projects. Come to one of our Open Evenings and find out why you should study a research degree with us.

PhD Student Profile - Alison Lyddon

Project Title: FAiMiS: Foot and Ankle Impairments affecting Mobility in Stroke

Supervisors: Dr Mary Cramp (UWE), Dr Stewart Morrison

Background

Prior to start my PhD I was a member of the teaching team on the undergraduate Physiotherapy course at UEL (which I remain a part of now, part time). I completed my MSc in Advance practice for Health professionals in September 2011 and prior to that worked clinically as a Physiotherapist (Band 6, neurosciences) at Bart sand the London NHS trust.

Project outline

This project is a joint project with Plymouth University. The first phase of the research seeks to explore qualitatively, from the perspective of individuals with stroke, the impact of foot and ankle impairments on mobility and balance following stroke.  The second phase is to evaluate the psychometric and clinimetric properties of clinical measures of foot and ankle impairment for application with people with stroke. The third phase is to examine the relationship between foot and ankle impairments and mobility and balance post stroke to inform the clinical assessment and management of these individuals; and to compare the severity of foot and ankle impairments of stroke patients with those of age- and gender- matched controls.

Why I chose this project

This project has the potential to have a wide ranging impact in the field of both Podiatry and Physiotherapy providing key information about the association between foot and ankle impairment in stroke patients but also providing robust clinical tools and measure to assess these. This will provide a foundation for further studies looking at interventions at this level (impairment and function) as well as help identify characteristics of this population to enable better service provision.

My future career

Following completion of this PhD I will aim to continue to contribute to these fields of study (Mobility and Neurology), and utilise the skills and knowledge gained to contribute to my teaching and supervision of school research activities.

PhD Student Profile - Carol Resteghini

Robot mediated arm reaching in standing and the impact on lower limb muscle activity in healthy adults & stroke affected adults

Supervisor: Professor Duncan Turner

Background

I am a qualified physiotherapist specialising in neuroscience and have taught neurology for Physiotherapy at UEL for 8 years since completing my masters studies in this area at UCL.

Project outline

This research study, proposes to use a robot arm in conjunction with a target driven computer game to examine different characteristics of arm reach on postural balance mechanisms. The study will be completed in a standing position with muscle activity measured from leg muscles controlling ankle movement. Healthy adults and adults with chronic stroke symptoms will be invited to attend this single event experiment.

Why I chose this project

This topic follows on from my masters studies in this area and combines innovative developments in rehabilitation with significant practical application for clinical treatment.

My future career

I would very much like to promote the research in different learning forums and continue to develop and progress this research area, preferably in collaboration with other research teams. I have ambitions to develop my role in research within the University setting.

PhD Student profile - Cynthia Eloho Umukoro

The role of morphogens in B cell development

Supervisor: Dr Susan Outram

Background

I started with a BSc Biomedical Science at the University of East London and then went on to do a masters in MSc molecular biology and the pathology of Viruses at Imperial  College London before beginning the PhD studies

Project outline

Morphogens are molecules that determine cell fate and organogenesis. They act by forming a gradient and depending on the concentration a cell perceives it would act to produce a different outcome. Morphogens include hedgehog proteins. Hedgehog proteins are intracellular signalling proteins that are important for development. There are three homologues in vertebrates, sonic, desert and Indian hedgehog protein. Previous research have shown hedgehog protein a morphogen to play a crucial role in T cell development but the role it plays in B cells is not very clear. The aim is to investigate the role of sonic hedgehog protein plays in B cell development.

Why I chose this project

I have always wanted to work in an immunology field and my supervisor was an expert in the field with years of experience and ties with Russell group universities.

My future career

After my PhD studies, I intend to carry on research by doing a post-doctoral research.

PhD Student Profile - Kim Hastings

Aerobic capacity, whole body oxygen uptake kinetics and thigh muscle oxygenation of stroke survivors and neurologically intact age matched sedentary controls

Supervisors: Dr Mary Cramp (UWE), Dr Jane Culpan, Professor Helen Dawes (Oxford Brookes)

Background

Prior to my time in academia I was a full time mother to 3 young children.  Following my divorce I returned to college to complete 2 A levels so that I could do a degree in sports science.  I completed my BSc (Hons), MSc (res) and PG Dip in HE at the University of Greenwich between 2000-2005.  Following these qualifications I was employed as a visiting lecturer there until my appointment as a GTA here at UEL in 2006.

Project outline

Reduced aerobic fitness can impact on the ability to sustain exercise and marked reductions can result in functional limitations in everyday living. It is known that aerobic fitness of stroke survivors is significantly reduced in comparison to healthy age-matched adults and may affect everyday activities and contribute to reported fatigue. Aerobic fitness has been commonly measured as peak amount of oxygen used during a maximal exercise test and reflects oxygen consumption of the body, particularly by working muscles. Oxygen kinetics is another means of examining aerobic fitness that considers the uptake of oxygen during the transition from rest to steady exercise. If the rate of oxygen uptake is slow, the body relies on anaerobic metabolism which leads to an accumulation of fatigue inducing metabolites and reduce ability to sustain activity. There is limited information available about oxygen kinetics of stroke survivors; the research aims to examine peak oxygen uptake and the rate of oxygen uptake of stroke survivors in comparison to healthy age-matched sedentary individuals.

Oxygen uptake and utilisation is influenced by blood flow to muscles and associated oxygen delivery. It has been noted that blood flow in the resting paretic limb is reduced by one third and there are differences in blood flow to paretic and non-paretic limbs during exercise. Reduced blood flow will impact on how muscles perform and therefore affect the individuals’ aerobic capacity. Using near infrared spectroscopy, it is possible to examine muscle tissue oxygenation of paretic and non-paretic muscles to reflect muscle capillary blood flow. The research also aims to examine muscle tissue oxygenation in paretic and non-paretic muscles and its association with oxygen kinetics.

Why I chose this project

I have had a keen interest in brain injuries and the resultant effects on muscle use for many years.  I was fortunate enough to come to UEL where there is significant expertise in this area in the form of my supervisory team.   I have received tremendous support and guidance on my PhD journey.

My future career

I will continue to research in the area of stroke and hope to develop a more effective and efficient training programme that will enhance the stroke survivors’ fitness and strength that results in meaningful improvements in their functional abilities.

PhD Student Profile - Leo Watwkins

A Psychosocial Study of Young Adult Recreational Runners’ Relationship To ASICS and Other Running Brands

Supervisors: Dr Marcia Wilson, Dr Richard Buscombe, Professor Mark McDermott 


Background

Working in the fitness industry as a freelance personal trainer.

Project outline

My research is a psychosocial study of young recreational runners' (18-24 yr olds) relationship to running shoes, with a focus on ASICS and Mizuno branded shoes. I have 3 studies planned:
The first study is looking at related advertising of ASICS and Mizuno running shoes. I am going to analyse a couple of specific commercials from each brand and then the idea is to form 2-3 focus groups (of 5-6 participants) and get runners' reactions to the ads.
The second study is going to look at runners' perceptions of different running brands. Again I'm planning to use 2-3 focus groups to get feedback on different brands, this will then be followed up with a series of one-to-one interviews asking runners about their purchase motivations.
The third study will take the form of a series of interviews examining the way runners' use and experience Mizuno and/or ASICS running shoes. In particular this study will look at how use of particular running brands relates to the construction of identity.

Why I chose this project

I applied to do this project due to the unique partnership UEL had developed with ASICS, the funding available and the chance to develop previous knowledge surrounding consumer behaviour. I did not chose my supervisor but have been happy with the input and help received thus far from both my supervisory team and Director of Studies.

My future career

I am open to both academic and commercial pathways, and am as yet undecided.

PhD Student Profile - Nadeeka Deepthi Samarasinghe Herathge

Assessing antimicrobial and immunomodulatory activity of Human beta defensin-2

Supervisors: Dr David Rowley, Dr John George,  Dr Susan Outram

Background

My childhood ambition was to actively participate in medical research and completion of BSc degree in Sri Lanka strive me to come and do MSc Molecular microbiology in the UK. Upon successful completion of MSc inMolecular Medical Microbiology at University of East London, I've received a half scholarship to undergo research MPhil/PhD programme at UEL, which is another step forward towards fulfilling my ambition. My previous experience and disciplines in research activities encourage me to choose this research topic. activity which I undertook my first research activity in 2004 where I made a comprehensive presentation on “Gastro-intestinal parasites of Grey Langur the natural population in nature sanctuary, in Sri Lanka. The series of experiments paved the way to isolate Bertella sp. for the first time in the grey langur population. The MSc research work that I under took at UEL was based on “Adaptation of Streptococcus pneumoniae to environmental challenges’’ wherein I used techniques such as MALDI-ToF for the detection of protein produced by pathogen.

Project outline

Epithelial and endothelial surfaces represent the first barrier against invading micro-organisms. As well as forming a physical barrier, it has been demonstrated that these cells can produce proteins or peptides with antimicrobial activities. One such class of peptides is the human β-defensins. These are small positively charged molecules which contain three di-sulphide bridges. Human genome project indicated that there could be as many as 25 human beta defensins; however, only 3 of these have been successfully isolated from living tissue. These are Human Beta Defensin 1, 2 and 3. Human beta defensin 2 is has potent antimicrobial properties and has a wider spectrum of activity, including some Gram-positive organism. It also possesses the ability to interact with macrophages, maybe acting as a bridge between the innate and adaptive immune systems. This molecule is also sensitive to salt. It is currently unknown how these molecules exert their antimicrobial activity but it'd be due to charge mediated interactions between the negative bacterial membrane and positively charged peptide. This study is necessary as the increase in number of organisms resistant to traditional antibiotics continues to rise. Resistance to antimicrobial peptides is rare as the interaction is thought to be charge based and therefore, relatively non specific. The research is based on antimicrobial, salt sensitivity and immunomodulatory activity of hBD-2. More than 6 different hBD-2 mutations were used for above experiments. Then amino acid sequences responsible for the various activities were identified. Finally, Molecular models of ‘improved’ HBD-2 will be bound together to produce an altered hBD-2 which exhibit less salt sensitivity and potent antimicrobial activity. Production of altered hBD-2 will leads to development of novel therapeutic agents that exhibit both microbicidal and immunoenhancing capabilities.

Why I chose this project

This project is unique and it is a privilege to be included in the research team.  My supervisory team possess expertise in this area of research and also I have known them since my MSc.

My future career

A number of naturally occurring peptides and their derivatives have been developed as novel anti-infective therapies for conditions such as oral mucosis, lung infections associated with CF, topical skin infections MRSA and viral infections. On completion of the PhD, I have a plan to do further research on different types of defensins and their synthetic chimeric peptides (with high net positive charge) which has broad spectrum of activity against pathogens and to find a novel therapeutics to treat chronic infectious diseases such as AIDS, MRSA etc. 

PhD Student Profile - Oghenetega Francisca Umukoro

The effect of alcohol on G-protein gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster

Supervisors: Dr Stefano Casalotti, Dr Olivia Corcoran

Background

Prior to the start of my PhD studies, I was studying MRes Translational Medicine at Imperial College London.

Project outline

The effects of addictive drugs on behaviour persist beyond the lifetime of the drug in the body. This has led to the suggestion that these drugs lead to long-term changes in gene expression. Drosophila melanogaster has been developed as a useful model system to identify genes that regulate behavioural responses to alcohol. Alcohol causes an increase in the extracellular levels of dopamine. Binding of dopamine to dopamine receptor causes the release of Gα and Gβ-γ subunits, which interact with a variety of effectors including adenylyl cyclase (AC), which produces cAMP synthesis leading to the activation of protein kinase A which can phosphorylate nuclear factors (such as CREB), which can facilitates the expression of specific genes. Studies have shown that certain G-protein coupled receptors can associate with more than one subtype of G-protein oligometric complex and these specific G-protein subtypes can activate different effectors. The aim of this research is to investigate the changes in specific G-protein subunits expression in Drosophila with response to alcohol.

Why I chose this project

This project because of the link between of molecular biology and pharmacology and also to improve my knowledge and laboratory skills surrounding these subject areas. I find the theory behind alcohol addiction and gene expression intriguing and working with Drosophila as a model. I chose to work with Dr Stefano Casalotti because of his experience surrounding gene expression, alcohol addiction and the use of Drosophila as a model.

My future career

On completion of my PhD, I plan to gain a postdoctoral research post involving the use of Drosophila in gene expression or similar or gain a position in a university, which involves teaching. 

PhD Student Profile - Oliver Mudyarabikwa

Evaluation of the Planning and Implementation of NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) schemes in East London

Supervisors: Dr Rachel Aldred, Professor Adrian Renton

Background

I have 26 years work experience in health prior to my PhD studies.  I worked as Policy Coordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare for 11 years.  I joined the University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Science in 1993. I was Lecturer in Health Policy, Health Financing, Health Services Management and Health Economics until 2007. My responsibilities included being the Administrative Coordinator of the MPH Programme that jointly organised by the Department of Community Medicine and Ministry of Health under sponsorship by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Centres for Disease Control (CDC).

Project outline

LIFT is a public-private partnership arrangement designed to facilitate the procurement of improved primary care buildings within PCTs. It involves the government and local businesses forming partnership companies (Liftcos) whose remit is to mobilise financial resources needed to deliver new or improve the conditions at pre-existing GP surgeries. LIFT is expected to deliver bigger and appropriately designed buildings that are managed and maintained by the Liftco to ensure regular availability for use by GPs and PCTs. This is a noble initiative seeking to increase patient experiences in accessing modern primary care at buildings that are equipped with relevant technology.

Why I chose this project

Despite appearing to be a noble initiative, many commentators have criticised LIFT for a number of reasons. Among other problems, it is argued that LIFT is expensive compared to government led procurement. Some argue that LIFT is too complex and presents the involved PCTs with challenges in making it effective. A serious criticism is the perception that it represents government privatisation of NHS estate planning, ownership and management. Such criticisms influenced the current research to explore with the experience and perceptions of PCT staff involved and affected by LIFT to understand whether and how its contexts and mechanisms facilitated or constrained them is discharging their responsibilities. It was hoped that the study would enable ascertaining if the problems in LIFT were caused by flaws in its design, or mistakes and oversights in its implementation by those involved.

That my supervisor previously researched and published on LIFT made her a natural choice to supervise the research. The Director of Studies is involved with a number of research projects in east London. His contacts and history of collaboration with the local PCTs would facilitate the research.

My future career

I plan to continue teaching at the University of East London in the Health Services Management and related topics. My PhD work provides relevant stuff to share with students wishing to work within the NHS.

PhD Student Profile - Dawei Chen

Crosstalk between components of the host innate and adaptive immune system in response to infection by pathogenic and commensal bacteria in the gut

Supervisors: Dr Susan Outram, Dr John George, Dr David Rowley

Background

Before I started my PhD studies, I studied in Shenzhen University for my Master’s degree in Cell Biology. My MSc project was molecular cloning of antimicrobial peptides of grouper (Epinephelus).

Project outline

The aim of this project is to investigate the interaction between the human innate and adaptive immune responses in response to a bacterial infection. AMPs form a key component of the innate immune response. Human beta defensins (hBDs) are one major family of AMPs that are primarily expressed by the epithelial cells. In particular, hBD-2 and hBD-3 are two members of the beta-defensin family that are known to be important components of the human innate immune response due to their antimicrobial activity. This activity may be characterised by an ability to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms. Additionally, recent studies suggest that hBDs may also play a role in regulating the adaptive immune response by recruiting dendritic cells and T cells to inflammatory sites through their interaction with the chemokine receptor, CCR6.  This interaction links the innate and adaptive immune responses. However, the molecular events triggered by the interaction between hBDs and T cellss are not clearly understood and therefore an investigation of the mechanisms underpinning these events forms the basis of this programme of research.

Why I chose this project
This is a continuation of my MSc study involving the study of antimicrobial peptides
My supervisor, Dr. Susan Outram is a specialist in immunology, especially in T cell research; Dr John George is an expert in antimicrobial peptides; Dr. David Rowley specialises in Medical Microbiology. They can give me strong support to my study in this project.

My future career

On completing my PhD I plan to progress to post-doctoral research.

PhD Student Profile - Ryan Mahaffey

Biomechanics of the paediatric foot and lower limb:  associations with adiposity

Supervisor: Dr Stewart Morrison

Background

BSc in Sports Science followed by an MSc by research at the University of Greenwich.

Project outline

Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the UK and primary schoolchildren are particularly at risk. With this growing concern, the associated co-morbidities of obesity are increasingly evident.  There has been limited research undertaken to quantify the impact of adiposity (body fat) on the function of the child’s foot. This study aims to evaluate the influence of adiposity on the forces/kinetics applied to the foot and the motion/kinematics of the foot during walking. By using sophisticated motion analysis equipment and recording the 3D motion characteristics of children’s feet, it is proposed to relate altered foot and lower limb biomechanics to adiposity in young male children, and to further the understanding of how obesity effects walking and function of the paediatric foot in a sample of prepubescents.

Why I chose this project

This project provided the opportunity to continue building my knowledge of 3D motion capture and biomechanical analysis of human movement. I chose my supervisor based on his extensive research activity and detailed knowledge of foot biomechanics and gait analysis.

My future career

I hope to continue my research in a post-doctoral position at the University of East London.