Department of Sport and Exercise Science

News Highlights

India visit for department member

India needs to embrace a new way of thinking about sport if it is to ride the wave of rich economic returns.

According to British sports management expert Dr Mike Rayner, India risks losing the happy ending of its huge popularity, including its ability to attract global superstars in football and cricket, by not seeing the big picture and investing in sports management expertise.

Evidence suggests sport, as a recognised independent industry, has the potential to contribute 1-5 per cent of India’s GDP. To put this in context, globally, in 2017, sport was estimated to be worth between £340-435 billion pounds.

Dr Rayner, a sports scientist at the UK’s University of Portsmouth, was visiting India as part of a British Council-funded trip.

Read more on our news site

Group of India delegates at conference

Ella gets gold at World Transplant Games

Ella Gibson, a kidney donor recipient who graduated from DSES with a BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Science in 2015, competed in the 2017 World Transplant Games in Malaga. Ella competed in five events to win six medals. She took part in the 5km road race run (bronze), 5km individual time trial bike (bronze), 400m freestyle swim (bronze), 800m track run (bronze) and 30km road race bike (silver), with the longer run, cycle and swim compiling to win her gold in the virtual triathlon. After returning home from the Games, Ella said, “It was inspiring to meet so many other transplant recipients and hear their incredible stories of how they made it to the Games”.

Ella Gibson

Alumni success story

Rob Chave, who completed his BSc Sport and Exercise Science (2008-2011) and MSc Sports Performance (2011-12) degrees with us, has just been appointed the Physical Preparation Manager for Sri Lankan Cricket following two years as the Strength and Conditioning Coach for Sussex Cricket. Rob’s new role is to manage all aspects of physical preparation across the U19, A-Team and National Performance Squad at the High Performance Centre in Colombo. Rob had also taught on our BSc Sport and Exercise Science course for the past five years, passing on his excellent knowledge and experience to our students, and will be sorely missed.

Rob’s advice to current DSES students?
‘Any keen sports science or sport and coaching student should flourish at University of Portsmouth, providing they are willing to work hard themselves and use the lecturers to facilitate and progress their learning’. Rob adds: ‘The University of Portsmouth has been hugely important in allowing me to develop as a practitioner and enabling to make some significant steps in an applied world. I am hugely grateful to everyone in the department, particularly Dr Gemma Milligan, for giving me the opportunity to progress as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Whilst the academic and applied world can seem vastly different, there are plenty of transferable skills that can contribute to a coach’s success’.

Rob Chave

DSES staff excel in sport

In the summer Dr Chris Mills won an impressive gold medal at the European Masters Athletics Championships in Denmark in the pole vault event, with a final height of 4.20 metres. Physiology technician Christine Joliffe was awarded with an outstanding contribution to GBR TeamGym Award in July. Christine has been associated with the Portsmouth School of Gymnastics since its formation in 1990 and has represented GBR at four senior international competitions, going on to qualify as a TeamGym coach and judge. Dr Zoe Saynor will continue to play for Harlequins Ladies this season, who are to compete in the inaugural Tyrells Premier 15s competition, the highest level of women’s domestic rugby. This follows on from a remarkable unbeaten season with the club in 2016-17. Congratulations to Chris, Christine and Zoe for their sporting achievements!

Zoe Saynor

What does it take to thrive in elite sports?

Those at the top of their sporting game put their heart and soul into doing their best, but new research has shed light on why thriving at elite sports is far more complex than it appears.

In the first study to examine thriving in elite sports performers, the department's Dr Daniel Brown and colleagues at the University of Bath have identified internal and external factors which contribute to a sportsman or woman being – and feeling – outstanding.

In a small-scale study examining the views of athletes, coaches and sports psychologists in elite sport, the researchers found 16 personal and external factors which promoted thriving, eight characteristics of thriving, and five outcomes of thriving.

Read more on our news site

elite athletes

Department lecturer wins prestigious award

Dr Chris Wagstaff has won an award for ground-breaking research in the field of applied sport psychology. He has been presented with an early career researcher award by the Association of Applied Sport Psychology, the field’s leading practitioner society.

Dr Wagstaff won the Dorothy V Harris Memorial Award for his outstanding contribution to innovation, the impact his work has in the field of sport psychology, and the importance of this work in applied settings.

Read more on our news site

Wagstaff award

Guardian Uni Guide 2018

The Department of Sport and Exercise Science offers the best sport and exercise courses in England, according to the Guardian University Guide 2018.

Head of department Richard Thelwell said: “We are always striving to be the best, so we are thrilled that this is reflected in the Guardian guide.

“We have consistently excellent student satisfaction results and our talented team is full of enthusiastic academics who combine high quality teaching with high impact research in extreme environmental medicine and science, and in human performance and health.

“Our graduates go into a variety of careers after they’ve studied at Portsmouth, so come and join us and graduate from the highest ranked department in England."

The University of Portsmouth is now in the top 40 universities in the UK having risen for the third successive year.

Portsmouth is 37th in the 2018 guide, an independent ranking of quality in higher education. It has risen from 43rd in last year’s guide, and 49th in 2016.

guardian guide

Sports Management student wins sports bursary

Sport and Recreation Tennis Coordinator and Sports Management Masters student, Emma Boucher, has won the Chris Potter Sports Bursary!

British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) have awarded the Chris Potter Sports Bursary to a committed tennis player and coach from the University of Portsmouth. Emma Boucher, a Sports Management Masters student at Portsmouth, was awarded the first prize of £750 for the significant contribution she has made to tennis whilst at university.

Whilst studying for her undergraduate degree, Emma took on the role of Tennis Activator as part of Sport and Recreation's Get Active, Stay Active programme. Throughout her volunteering, she was able to build an inclusive tennis programme for both team and recreational players. Emma worked hard to deliver sessions such as Beginner Tennis, Returner Tennis, Campus Sport Box League, Monthly and Termly tournaments, Drop In Cardio Tennis and Touch Tennis, BUCS Doubles team training and Doubles Club recreational coached sessions.

In addition to her role as Tennis Activator, Emma also undertook roles within the University Tennis Club. During her undergraduate degree, she was Vice President, Women’s 1st Team Captain and University Tennis Ambassador. In her third year, she also took on the role of President whilst continuing her role as University Tennis Ambassador.

Currently completing her Masters degree, Emma also works for the Department of Sport and Recreation as the University Tennis Coordinator. In addition to this, she is also Women’s 1st Team Captain for the University Tennis Club.

Her involvement has helped to contribute to a 41% increase in student club membership at the tennis club this year.

emma boucher

DSES staff raise £2k for charity in memory of a colleague

In February DSES were extremely saddened by the loss of their colleague Dr Alex Milligan who lost her fight with leukaemia after a brave and inspirational 15 month battle. Alex had been part of the department for 10 years, as an UG and Masters student and later as a PhD student and Senior Research Associate, and was a popular and much loved colleague and friend to many. In response 17 members of DSES took part in a ‘DeChox’ challenge during March where chocolate (and anything with cocoa in it!) was banned to raise money for Bloodwise, a UK specialist blood cancer charity. To- date ‘Team DeChox’ has raised an impressive £2000. It is not too late to donate to this worthy cause, please visit our JustGiving page ( Alex was passionate about raising awareness of the importance of blood and stem cell donation and encouraging people to become donors as she benefited from this throughout her treatment. For more information on how to become a donor please visit and

team dechox

Extreme Environments Lab TV Appearances

The Extreme Environments Laboratory (EEL) gets a lot of media attention and requests to film the lab which are filtered by determining whether the programme will inform and increase the awareness and safety to the public and enhance the profile and reputation of the University.

The most recent programme to be broadcast that was filmed in EEL was Channel 4's “Staying Healthy: A Drs Guide” with Dr Pixie McKenna. Through this medium we get to speak and demonstrate to 2-3 million people in one go. 

In the show Professor Mike Tipton and the team demonstrate and talk about “cold shock”, which they have researched for many years and which is the primary cause of death on immersion in cold water. They immersed three boxers in 12 °C water, making sure they were well out of arms reach! It is young men who make up the largest group in the drowning statistics and who are most resistant to safety messages. The boxers struggled to hold their breath and had a big cardiac response. Mike explained the dangers of cold shock and how to reduce these problems whilst still enjoying the water.

Watch Mike's segment with the EEL from "Staying Healthy: A Dr's Guide" here at 32 minutes into the programme: