Paul Lester - Student profiles - University of Derby

Paul Lester - Ideal preparation for a research career

Paul, who graduated in 2015 and is now working towards a PhD, gained wide-ranging experience of research projects and high-profile research conferences during his course. They helped him identify his true passion within sport science: respiratory physiology and applied nutrition.

Most of the lecturing team had completed or were completing their own PhD research, so I was able to obtain a variety of perspectives on the potential challenges involved. As a result, I felt far more assured that undertaking a PhD would be something I was capable of, and would thoroughly enjoy.

For his internships, Paul supported various investigations led by University of Derby researchers, such as assessing the effects of Deep Ocean Mineral Water on cycling exercise performance.

One of the most significant initiatives looked at how carrying a military-style rucksack can have an impact on the functions of the inspiratory muscles in typical exercise tasks undertaken by army recruits during basic training. It also explored whether specific training of the inspiratory muscles could improve exercise performance while carrying a rucksack.

Paul went on to present some of the findings at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES) Student Conference. As part of his studies, he also attended a symposium on fatigue at the GlaxoSmithKline Human Performance Laboratory. Such experiences gave him insights from prominent international researchers and valuable feedback on his own work, while expanding his academic networks.

They also served him well in progressing his PhD research, which he is pursuing alongside a lecturing role. His study focuses on how bacteria living in the gut contribute to the development of asthma, specifically in adults whose asthma is triggered by exercise. He is exploring the interactions between gut bacteria and airway inflammation and investigating how changing nutritional intake could ease the severity of asthma.

Paul says: I would like to continue my work in this field. It is an area of research which has only begun to emerge over the last decade. There is enormous scope for expanding our current understandings and exploring future treatment prospects.

My aspirations are to pursue a career as a professional researcher either through a research fellowship at an academic institution, or as part of a civilian/military research institute.

Along with gaining research experience at Derby, Paul undertook a teaching internship role, assisted with applied sport science support for Derby County FC and acted as a student ambassador and programme representative.

He urges any future Sport students to show a similar commitment by getting involved in as many different work placements, internships and voluntary roles as possible. You may discover your own passion and future career prospects from an internship, even if you don’t anticipate it,” he explains.

People often say that everyone will leave university with a good quality degree; it is the experience alongside the studies that separates you from the other candidates when pursuing future employment.

Paul is full of praise for the support he received from lecturers and technicians alike. At Derby, there is a genuine sense of investment in your future, he says. Knowing that the staff care so much about your progress was a valuable source of confidence and motivation during stressful periods of study.