PhD student 'wheelchair sports and data science push it to the limit'

PhD student 'wheelchair sports and data science push it to the limit'

Published Deadline Location
11 Sep 14 Oct Groningen

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Job description

The Center for Human Movement Sciences and the TU-Delft are together offering two four-year government-funded PhD studentships in the framework of the ZonMw project ‘WheelPower’. (click here for more information). These two PhD’s will collaborate closely together within the WheelPower consortium, including VU Amsterdam, The Hague University of Applied Science, industry, NOC*NSF, Sports unions and rehabilitation centers. The WheelPower project consists of three main work packages (WP): WP1 (PhD project TU Delft), WP2 (PhD project UMCG Groningen), and WP3 will be performed by the postdoc within the project. The two PhD positions are advertised seperately, the present one will be based in Groningen (WP2).

Objective of the WheelPower project
The objective of the WheelPower project is to improve the power output of athletes in their sport-specific wheelchair to perform better in competition. To achieve this objective the current project systematically combines the three Dutch measurement innovations (wheelchair mobility performance measure, Lode Esseda wheelchair ergometer, PitchPerfect system) to monitor a large population of athletes from different wheelchair sports resulting in optimal power production by wheelchair athletes during competition. The data will be directly implemented in feedback tools accessible to athletes, trainers and coaches which gives them the unique opportunity to adapt their training and wheelchair settings for optimal performance.

Overall research questions of the WheelPower project
The main research question is: what are the performance indicators for optimal power production by wheelchair athletes during competition and how are they improved using continuous performance monitoring, combined with direct feedback?
The sub-questions are:
- How do the power demands, monitored during training and competition, compare to the maximum measured power production capabilities of wheelchair athletes?
- What is the biomechanically optimal technique for efficient power transfer from the upper-body into the wheelchair-sport specific goals? For instance, how does timing of subsequent rotation of (upper-)body segments affect the efficiency of power transfer when pushing the hand rims, or when hitting the ball with the racket during wheelchair tennis?
- How does direct feedback on the performance indicators for power production in wheelchair sports actions improve the competition performance of wheelchair athletes?

Wheelchair power analyzed
The objective is to perform detailed standardized lab measurements of (an)aerobic power output (W) and physiological responses on the wheelchair ergometer and add these data to the Performance Portfolio. Detailed biomechanical analyses on the kinetic chain (i.e., skill) will be performed to optimize the power flow for producing optimal power outputs. These outcomes together with the field-based outcomes of the Wheelchair Mobility Performance Measure and PitchPerfect system are the big data foundation for the data science approach and subsequent Performance Portfolio. This will ensure an optimal knowledge translation pipeline between the knowledge partners and the professionals of each of the sports disciplines involved.

The PhD-student will closely work with researchers and professionals from the participating institutes with the goal to perform and publish innovative research in the area of Paralympic wheelchair sports and human movement sciences.


University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG)


- a (research) Master's degree in Human Movement Sciences, Sport Sciences, Biomedical Engineering or related disciplines with a background in exercise physiology and biomechanics
- strong analytical skills
- excellent English and academic writing skills
- eagerness to publish international peer-reviewed articles and write a dissertation
- excellent organizational and communication skills and ability to work in an interdisciplinary team
- affinity with Paralympic wheelchair sports
- teamplayer

The UMCG has a preventive Hepatitis B policy. The UMCG can provide you with the vaccination, should it be required for your position.

In case of specific professions a ‘Certificate of Good Behaviour’ is required.

Conditions of employment

The Center for Human Movement Sciences is offering a four-year government-funded PhD studentship in the framework of the ZonMW funded project WheelPower (1.0 fte CAO NFU).

Your salary is € 2.422,- gross per month in the first year up to a maximum of € 3.103,- gross per month in the last year (scale PhD). In addition, the UMCG will offer you 8% holiday pay and 8.3% end-of-year bonus. The terms of employment comply with the Collective Labour Agreement for Medical Centers (CAO-UMC).


Center for Human Movement Sciences

The Center for Human Movement Sciences (CHMS) fully joined the University Medical Center in 2010, following its 25th anniversary in 2009 at the University of Groningen (RUG). The University of Groningen is currently in or around the top 100 in several influential ranking lists.

The CHMS offers a 3-year Bachelor program Human Movement Sciences and two, 2-year master’s in Human Movement Sciences and Sports Sciences to over 600 students. These programs are ranked among the best Dutch programs in their field over the past 5 years (NSE). The Center is 29th on the Shanghai ranking for ‘human movement and sport sciences’ among ~300 universities, offering similar programs. Education and research are intensely connected in the Center, where PhD, master and bachelor students work in an academic learning community and inspiring environment, playing a pivotal role in our research success.

The Center is founder of the research program SMARTmovements as part of the research school SHARE of the UMCG. SMARTmovements adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the scientific study of human movement and its effects on performance, functioning, health, societal participation and quality of life. There are 24 scientific staff, 8 support staff and over 40 PhD candidates. As of 2014, the Center runs a competitive master-PhD program providing opportunities for talented master students to complete a PhD (currently 4 PhD places per year). The Center is penholder of the Sports Sciences Institute Groningen, and the Sports Sciences Innovation Center and plays a strong role in the national research agenda’s. Research output in the form of Q1 publications, grant awards received, and PhD promotions is substantial.

The Center strives to provide high levels of academic training and research to:
- develop fundamental theory and knowledge in human movement science,
- provide a high quality teaching programme committed to the education and training of the next generation of human movement and sport scientists and professionals,
- apply this knowledge to developing novel interventions, treatments, and innovations and improve human motor function in different settings,
- contribute to society by disseminating new knowledge, implementing new methods, and by innovating health care, labour, educational and sports practice, and industry.

At least as important as a pleasant working environment is a comfortable living milieu. Groningen is the 6th largest city in the Netherlands. With one in four residents being a student, Groningen is a historical university town in the North with a thriving art and music life, relatively inexpensive housing, peace and space. Residents complete nearly 60% of travel each day by bicycle, a figure high even by the standards of this bike-friendly country.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Health
  • University graduate
  • 190555


University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG)

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Hanzeplein 1, 9713 GZ, Groningen

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