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Student Vacation Research Assistant: Characterisation of immune cell phenotype and function in response to moderate and high intensity exercise - Open to current University of Worcester students only*

Research Assistantships provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV.


Background to Project
Exercise causes acute muscle trauma, which in turn induces a coordinated inflammatory response governed by various immune cell populations. Despite well documented evidence that regular exercise can enhance immune function, less is known about the mechanisms governing exercise-induced immunosuppression, a condition observed in both highly trained individuals and immunocompromised patient populations. A recent study by members of the VRA application team provided novel insight into the mechanisms governing the mobilisation of immune cells into the bloodstream. Using a fluorescent probe, we identified a specific population of immune cells (CD8+ T-reduced+) that are mobilised to a greater extent in response to exercise. Interestingly, we demonstrated that these cells have reduced levels of the immunosuppressive protein, Programmed Cell Death Protein-1 (PD-1). Overexpression of PD-1 in healthy immune cells has been associated with a wide range of cancers and this data suggests that one bout of exercise can reduce the levels of this protein. It is our aim to expand on these exciting preliminary findings for the purpose of this studentship.

Current Research
This project will enhance cross-institutional research collaboration blossoming between staff in the ISE, ISES & IoHS. The project aligns with the expertise of the cross-disciplinary supervisory team. The main applicant has published 13 research articles in the area of Biology & Exercise Medicine. A recent submission to Free Radical Biology & Medicine (Impact Factor 2017: 5.8) provided the pilot data and rationale for the proposed project. This work is also forming part of an application for the Cancer Immunology Project Award (up to £300k) funded by Cancer Research UK (Deadline: 9th May, 2017).

Aims and Objectives: Intended Activities, Project Feasibility & Timeline
The purpose of this VRAS application is to investigate in how PD-1 levels in immune cells alter in response to moderate and high intensity exercise. Furthermore, the impact of these changes on immune cell function will be explored in the context of immunosuppression. The student will gain experience in the fields of applied exercise physiology and analytical biochemistry, as well experience in managing the administration of a human exercise study. These skills will be gained across three of the Universities institutes, facilitating inter-departmental collaboration. A full ethical application will be submitted in advance of the project. It is suggested that the student is employed for 8 weeks at 0.5 FTE:

Objective One: Recruitment (7 weeks continuously)
The student will take the central role in the recruitment of up to 10 individuals for the study.

Objective Two: Laboratory Induction (1 week)
The techniques being used are fully validated at the University of Worcester; therefore Dr Alex Wadley can administer full training. This objective will run simultaneously with objective 1. Induction will involve instructions on running exercise tests and isolating and analysing human immune cells using flow cytometry.

Objective Three: Data Collection and analysis (2-8 weeks)
The student will run the study under the supervision of Dr Alex Wadley and other members of the team

*Please note that this post is open only to students completing the penultimate or final year of an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) at the University of Worcester or partner institutions;
Students completing, or who have completed, an undergraduate degree at another university (with 1st or 2:1 predicted/achieved) who are about to commence postgraduate studies at the University of Worcester.

Closing date: Wednesday 31 May 2017

Reference number: STUVRA1705 - 2004

Job details

Job details

£8.44 per hour, plus £1.18 per hour holiday pay
8 weeks
Responsible to
Dr Alex Wadley
Responsible for
Interview date
w/c 12/6/2017

Institute of Science and the Environment

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The University of Worcester is funding 20 Vacation Research Assistantships for the summer of 2017. These Research Assistantships will provide undergraduates and recent graduates with ‘hands on’ experience of working on a research project over the summer vacation, enabling them to gain insight into a research career, as well as enhancing their CV. These are prestigious awards, marking out a student as a future researcher and potential academic. In addition, this scheme provides UW staff leading on a research project with invaluable support in taking the project forward and experience of supporting and developing a young researcher.

On completion of the project, the supervisor and student must complete a report providing the following information:
• Objectives set
• Objectives met
• Methods employed
• Results
• Conclusions
• Outputs
• Benefits to the student including training undertaken, skills developed, etc.

Main duties

Main duties

The successful applicant will be required to conduct laboratory-based research in the areas of exercise physiology and biochemistry. The candidate will assist with the running of exercise performance tests. Following this, the candidate will be required to isolate and analyse the immune cells using density gradient centrifugation and flow cytometry respectively.

• To lead recruitment to the project
• To use a range of laboratory techniques, including; cell separation, cell counts and flow cytometry
• To assist with the running of exercise performance tests.
• To communicate your findings to the project supervisor
• To liaise with other members of staff
• To analyse your findings using appropriate computer software with support
• To write up your findings in a draft report with support

*Maintain personal and professional development to meet the changing demands of the job; participate in appropriate training activities and encourage and support staff in their development and training.

*Take steps to ensure and enhance personal health, safety and well being and that of other staff and students.

*Carry out these duties in a manner that promotes equality of opportunity and supports diversity and inclusion, and takes into account the University's commitment to environmentally sustainable ways of working.
Person specification

Person specification

Please provide evidence of how you meet each of the essential criteria.


1. Excellent communication skills with an ability to convey information in a clear, concise and accurate manner
2. Excellent organisational skills and the ability to work within a team, with good attention to detail
3. Ability to work using own initiative and analyse data appropriately
4. Ability to maintain proper records
5. Computer literate
6. Competent in the use SPSS or equivalent statistical packages
7. A good understanding of the interactions between exercise and the immune system.
8. A good understanding of redox biology; specifically the role of protein thiols in cellular signalling.


1. Experience of the key biological techniques to be used including, but not limited to; cell separation from peripheral blood and flow cytometry.

Applications from Non EEA Workers:

Prospective applicants are advised to ensure that they are eligible to work in the UK without restriction.

Prospective applicants in points-based system immigration routes should assess their circumstances against the published criteria, which are set out on the GOV.UK website at

Visit for more information on how you can use a qualification from outside the UK to meet the requirements of the immigration rules.

Unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs

The University is strongly committed to the fair treatment of its staff and potential staff, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, responsibility for dependants, age, physical/mental disability or offending background.

In line with the University's policy on the Recruitment of People with a Criminal Record, shortlisted candidates are required to provide information of any unspent convictions, cautions and bind-overs. Applicants are advised to seek independent advice if there is any doubt about the status of a previous conviction, caution or bind-over. Disclosures will only be considered at the point when an offer of employment is made. The existence of a criminal record will not in itself prevent you from gaining employment.

This is a description of the job as it is presently constituted. This job description is intended to enable a flexible approach to be offered working across the University as required. It is subject to review and amendment in the light of changing needs of the University and to provide appropriate development opportunities. Members of staff are expected to participate fully in discussions about changing requirements and it is the University's aim to reach agreement to reasonable change. If agreement is not possible, it reserves the right to require changes to the job description after consultation with the individual concerned.

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