An investigation of immune system activity in obese/diabetic participants following an exercise intervention: A COVID-19 study

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees and general allowance toward consumables

Duration: Full-Time (42 months)

Application deadline: 30th October 2020

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: January 2021

To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Mike Duncan.

Project details

There is an emerging pattern of high disease mortality from COVID-19 in patients with obesity and diabetes. This application will endeavor to elucidate the underlying mechanisms, which increase disease severity and death rates in individuals with obesity/type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM).

A common feature of increased mortality in COVID-19 patients is an over-reaction of the patients innate immune system, the so called ‘cytokine storm’ part of the acute phase response to this viral infection. This feature is the body’s response to an infectious agent and leads to systemic blood clotting, organ failure and increased mortality risk.

The body’s defense against this is led by the counter regulatory immune system comprising of glucocorticoids and anti-inflammatory cytokines. This system represents our natural protection against over reaction of the innate immune system and is attenuated in obesity.
This multidisciplinary project will measure immune system activity and inflammatory responses in participants before during and after a 12 week home based, resistance exercise intervention in participants with obesity/T2DM.

The results of this project will allow us to determine whether a home-based resistance exercise program can reduce the likelihood of over-reaction of the immune system to an immune challenge such as COVID-19.


This is a fully-funded PhD studentship, including:

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend/bursary
  • Additional allowances


Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Candidate specification

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average. 
    the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Additional requirements

  • High-calibre student, BSc/MSc 1st or 2:1 in Applied Physiology, Sport and Exercise science, Human biology, Physiology, or other relevant bioscience degree.
  • Experience of working with human participants and biological laboratory skills would be an advantage.
  • A good knowledge of statistical techniques to analyse relevant data sets.

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

To find out more about the project please contact Professor Mike Duncan.

Apply to Coventry University
Coventry University ranked 15 in the UK
Coventry University awarded TEF GOLD Teaching Excellence Framework
University of the year for student experience
QS Five Star Rating 2019
Coventry City of Culture 2021