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Executive Dean’s PhD Studentship in Turning attention to turning: How does attention allocation impact older adults’ ability to safely turn when walking?

The College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences at Brunel University London is offering a fully-funded Dean’s PhD studentship to investigate how attention allocation influences risk of falling in older adults.


Falls during turning are a leading cause of avoidable injury. Falls-prevention typically focuses on addressing specific physiological risk factors, such as strength loss. However, to improve their efficacy, interventions should also target psychological risk factors to address deficits in movement planning and control. This PhD project will involve experimental work to investigate (i) how attention allocation contributes to maladaptive turning strategies in older adults, and (ii) explore underlying inefficiencies in cortical and visual processing. This project will ultimately inform the development of interventions targeting specific deficits to address high-risk turning behaviours.


Based in and funded by the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, this studentship offers a full-time annual London rate stipend estimated at £20,551 plus Home/EU tuition fees, for a maximum of 36 months.

The start date will be 1 October 2023.


The PhD studentship will involve studying gaze behaviour and cortical activity during complex gait tasks in community-dwelling older adults. The project also aims to co-design an evidence-based intervention that targets mechanisms contributing to high-risk turning. This will be done in close collaboration with academic and clinical partners and with older adults, to ensure its feasibility and acceptability for use in health care settings.

The successful candidate will be supervised and trained by an expert interdisciplinary team of supervisors.

For informal discussions, please contact Dr Elmar Kal (principal supervisor; or Dr Adam Cocks (second supervisor;


Candidates should have an undergraduate degree (first or upper second class) or equivalent qualification in (Sports) Psychology, Sport and Exercise Sciences, Movement Science, Neuroscience or a related field. An MSc qualification in a relevant area would be desirable. Knowledge of quantitative research in areas relating to movement performance is essential. Research or professional experience with older adults and/or clinical populations would be desirable.

Applicants who have not been awarded a degree by a University in the UK will be expected to demonstrate English language skills to IELTS 7.0 (minimum 6.5 in any section).

How to apply

If you wish to apply, please e-mail the following to by 7th of June 2023:

  • An up-to-date CV
  • A single-page A4, single-spaced, personal statement describing why you are a suitable candidate (i.e., outlining your qualifications and skills)
  • One example of your academic writing (e.g., an essay, a section from a dissertation)
  • A summary of your teaching experience or your willingness to support teaching activities
  • Names and contact details for two academic referees
  • A copy of your highest degree certificate and transcript
  • A copy of your English language qualification, where applicable

Short-listed applicants will be required to attend an interview week commencing 28 June 2023.

For further information about how to apply, please contact the College of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences Postgraduate Research Office on

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Elmar Kal - I gained my BSc (2011) and MSc (2012; cum laude) degrees from the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (The Netherlands). I subsequently worked on a PhD project in which he investigated implicit motor learning in people after stroke. In this collaborative project, I gained experience with a range of study designs (RCT, systematic reviews, questionnaire validation), measurement techniques (e.g. EMG, 3D motion registration) and statistical approaches (e.g. regression-, meta-, and factor analysis). Towards the end of my PhD, I also worked as Lecturer in Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, leading a 2nd-year BSc module on Pathology of Movement and teaching on evidence-based practice. I additionally worked as researcher at the chronic pain unit of Rehabilitation Centre Heliomare.I moved to London in March 2019, to take up my current position as Research Fellow at Brunel. I am currently in charge of the posture and gait lab, with my current research focusing on the topic of falls in older adults and neurological populations. I am mostly interested in the influence of cognitive and psychological factors on postural stability during standing and walking in these populations. This requires the use of different measurement techniques to parcel out the complex mechanisms governing healthy and pathological balance control. Ultimately my goal is to use this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of specific motor learning interventions (e.g. implicit learning) to target specific impairments in posture and gait in these populations.