Careers in Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences

Sophie Carter

"The application of sport and exercise to health is where I found my passion during my degree."

Dr Sophie Carter, BSc Sports and Exercise Science and MSc Sport and Exercise Science graduate, now a Senior Lecturer at York St John University.

I chose Essex for my undergraduate degree in Sports and Exercise Science as I was impressed by the subject-specific facilities that were available in the School, and how the modules focused strongly on anatomy and physiology, which were big interests of mine. I also really liked the campus at Wivenhoe Park and the access to lots of green, outdoor space.

When I started my degree I always thought of sport and exercise in relation to elite performance, so I envisioned going into a sport performance role. But although I found aspects of the course that focused on enhancing elite athlete performance interesting, I questioned the wider impact of findings that enabled athletes, which represent only a small percentage of the population, to perform at a higher level.

Instead, it was the modules that allowed me to apply sport and exercise to health improvement and disease prevention that fascinated me. I could see the far-reaching impact such knowledge and research could have at a whole population level. The application of sport and exercise to health is where I found my passion during my degree and is where I have now focused my research interests as an academic.

During my undergraduate degree I completed three placements via the Frontrunners work experience scheme during my studies. Two placements were at the University’s Sports Centre providing support in the gym to clients, and the other placement was at the Human Performance Unit (HPU). This gave me the experience of applying the skills and knowledge I had learnt during my degree when testing amateur and elite athletes from a range of sports. Following these placements, I was able to secure part time work at the Sports Centre that helped fund my Masters study at the University.

My undergraduate dissertation supervisor was an excellent mentor and introduced me to the idea that it I could have a career in research. Before this point I never truly believed I was capable of taking on a PhD and the careers this could lead to.

After graduating from my BSc and MSc, I gained a PhD scholarship at Liverpool John Moores University. Over four years I conducted research investigating the effects of sedentary behaviours, particularly sitting, on cerebral blood flow and function and how this may impact cognitive performance. I submitted my PhD thesis in August 2018 and graduated in the summer of 2019. Shortly after handing my thesis in, I secured a role as Senior Lecturer in the School of Sport at York St John University.

My advice to students is one word - persevere. Not everything works out first time and you need to learn from your experiences and take them on to the next opportunity.