Department of Exercise Sciences


Meet our students and alumni

Our students have different research interests, and follow varied and exciting career paths after graduation. Meet some of our current students and graduates and find out their hopes for the future.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Photo of Exercise Sciences PhD student Roonan Mooney
Ronan Mooney

Ronan Mooney

Ronan is a doctoral student in the Movement Neuroscience Lab (MNL), under the supervision of Professor Winston Byblow.

“I began my PhD in 2015. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a PhD scholarship in the Movement Neuroscience Laboratory (MNL) through a Health Research Council Project Grant.

“The aim of my doctoral research is to investigate the effects of healthy ageing and stroke on intracortical circuits within the primary motor cortex and the implications this may have for motor learning and motor recovery, using neuroimaging and non-invasive brain stimulation.

“My interest in neuroscience began during the third year of my undergraduate studies here at the University of Auckland.

"I completed my Bachelor of Science in 2013, in Sport and Exercise Science and Physiology. Exposure to courses which focussed on the neural control of movement led me to pursue an Honours project in 2014, within the MNL.

“As I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the lab, I made the decision to remain in the MNL and began a PhD.”

Ronan is currently investigating the effects of ageing and stroke on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and its implications for motor learning and recovery.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences PhD Student Clare Turner
Clare Turner

Clare Turner

Clare completed her PhD with the Department of Exercise Sciences in 2016. Clare also completed her undergraduate Bachelor of Science and Honours degrees with the Department and was awarded a Summer Research Scholarship.

“I initially chose to study with the Department due to its wide variety of courses and strong focus on science and evidence-based learning.

"I found that the emphasis on building a solid scientific understanding of concepts throughout the undergraduate degree was crucial for transition to my postgraduate study.

”My doctoral thesis focussed on the influence of nutritional interventions and metabolic challenge on brain function. I used dietary supplements to increase brain creatine levels in humans.

"Creatine is an important energy source and I discovered that supplementation can enhance brain function during oxygen deprivation.

"My findings show that creatine may have utility as a therapeutic supplement to help those recovering from brain injury.”

Clare is now a Professional Teaching Fellow in the Department of Exercise Sciences. She is coordinating SPORTSCI 105 Exercise Prescription, and is also a research fellow in the Exercise Neurometabolism Laboratory.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences PhD student Hayley MacDonald
Hayley MacDonald

Hayley MacDonald

Hayley completed her PhD in 2015 in the Department of Exercise Sciences Movement Neuroscience Laboratory (MNL). She also completed her Bachelor of Science and Honours degrees at the University doing a double major in Sport and Exercise Science and Physiology.   

"I realised half way through my second year at university that although I was interested in all systems of the body, my passion lay in neuroscience. "

"During my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees I was offered opportunities through two summer scholarships and attendance at overseas conferences, which proved to be very valuable learning experiences. They allowed me to develop my research skills and skills in presenting to, and networking with, colleagues.

“With the support of a W & B Miller Postgraduate Scholarship from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand, my PhD investigated mechanisms of impulse control and how they are affected by dopamine. I am very grateful to have had an excellent grounding in research during my time at the University of Auckland.”

After completing her PhD, Hayley received a Philip Wrightson Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand to conduct postdoctoral research at the University of Birmingham, UK. Hayley intends to return to New Zealand to advance her research career in clinical neuroscience.

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Masters


Photograph of Exercise Sciences Masters student Ellie Natttress
Ellie Nattress

Ellie Nattress

Ellie began her University study with a conjoint in Law and a Bachelor of Science majoring in Sport and Exercise Science.

“I soon fell out of love with Law and more in love with the abilities of the human body. I had always thrived on sport – if I wasn’t playing it, then I was coaching it. My undergraduate studies gave me the multi-disciplinary knowledge to get the best out of my sport performance, and that of my athletes.

“It wasn’t until I took courses on clinical exercise physiology that I could see the need for using exercise as a prevention and treatment method for chronic diseases. I completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Exercise Physiology and decided to continue with a Masters degree.

“My research investigated the effectiveness of exercise in reducing the metabolic syndrome risk factor profile in adolescent Pacific Island and Maori females. I felt satisfied and rewarded by the positive results of these research participants. My Masters gave me the independence and ability to critically analyse and critique the literature, and to form my own judgment in the face of conflicting evidence."

Since finishing in 2014, Ellie has worked as a Health Consultant and Exercise Physiologist for Vitality Works and helped develop Auckland’s first medically focussed exercise rehabilitation clinic, ExerScience.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Masters student Avyn Rowland
Avyn Rowland

Avyn Rowland

Avyn completed a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma of Science in Cardiac Rehabilitation, and then a Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology completing the latter in 2013.
 
“My Masters research examined the effects of exercise therapy on breast cancer survivors. I teamed up with the Body Composition Unit at the University’s School of Medicine to assess and compare changes in muscle quantity against functional changes after exercise rehabilitation. This gave me some insight into characterising the time course of physiological gains obtained during a period of exercise rehabilitation.

“The Department of Exercise Sciences has great teaching facilities and academic support from some of the top Clinical Exercise Physiologists in the world. My postgraduate studies ensured that I would graduate with the highest level of competence to provide the safest and most effective exercise therapy for individuals with chronic illnesses.

“I developed the tools to quickly become an independent professional and feel confident I have graduated with a well-rounded qualification.”

Avyn’s qualifications led him to a promising opportunity developing a private clinical exercise service at the Millennium Institute of Sport and Health in Auckland. In 2015 Avyn gained certification with the American College of Sports Medicine as a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Masters student Nicole Somervillle
Nicole Somerville

Nicole Somerville

Nicole graduated from a Physical Education degree at the University of Otago, before enrolling for a Postgraduate Diploma in Cardiac Rehabilitation in the Department of Exercise Sciences at the University of Auckland.

"I enjoyed the experience and interacting with leading researchers so much that I decided to continue with a Masters in Sport and Exercise Science.

“My Masters research project examined the effect of exercise training intensity on cardiovascular disease risk factors in sedentary young and early middle-aged adults. Completing it increased my knowledge in research methodology, project management and the ability to work both independently and collaboratively.

“After completing my studies, I accepted a position as an interventional trial coordinator in the Cardiology Department at Auckland City Hospital. I manage a portfolio of multi-centre studies in the field of Interventional Cardiology. This means I’m involved in various stages of the research process including study design, budget management, site initiation and patient recruitment.”

Nicole is very grateful for her time at the University of Auckland, and for the encouragement and support she received from the Department of Exercise Sciences. She highly recommends the University of Auckland to anyone wishing to pursue a career in the field of cardiac rehabilitation.

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Bachelor of Science (Hons)


Photograph of Exercise Science BSc (Hons) student Matthew Ross
Matthew Ross

Matthew Ross

At high school Matthew enjoyed science and developed an interest in understanding human health and performance. Enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Auckland was a natural progression.

“During my undergraduate studies, I particularly enjoyed the wide range of specialities taught within the Sport and Exercise Science programme including movement neuroscience, exercise physiology, exercise psychology and biomechanics. A significant portion of time is dedicated to laboratories which reinforce lecture material and develop important practical skills.     

“I was lucky enough to be awarded a Summer Research Scholarship with the Department Exercise Sciences that examined the prevalence and determinants of an impaired heart rate response during exercise in patients with known cardiovascular disease.

“Understanding this topic is important, as patients with an impaired heart rate response have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality.

"This project helped me to develop an area of research for my postgraduate studies. If you want to be challenged, you should definitely consider this degree at the University of Auckland.”

Matthew has ambitions to continue his studies and become a researcher and lecturer.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences BSc (Hons) student Madeline Barbarich
Madeline Barbarich

Madeline Barbarich

Madeline chose to do a Bachelor of Science (Hons), majoring in Sport and Exercise Science, as her love of sport stimulated her curiosity into how the human body works when exercising.

“What I liked about studying Sport and Exercise Science was the wide range of subject areas we were introduced to, such as physiology, biomechanics, sports nutrition, and movement neuroscience as well as the opportunities to talk with lecturers and tutors..

“I received Summer Research Scholarships which gave me the opportunity to work in the laboratory environment, and a taste of what postgraduate study would be like. It led me to pursue an Honours degree the following year.

“For my dissertation, I combined the two areas of movement neuroscience and exercise nutrition, under the supervision of Dr Nick Gant. We investigated the differences between consuming either a Low GI versus a High GI breakfast on neurophysiological and neuropsychological variables throughout the morning. I really enjoyed the process of designing and conducting my own experiment.”

Madeline worked as a tutor in the department during her studies, and since graduating she has been working as the Exercise Physiology Technician. She valued her time in the department, and looks forward to her future in the field of Exercise Sciences.

Photograp of Exercise Sciences BSc (Hons) student Mike Beaven
Mike Beaven

Mike Beaven

Mike completed his Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Sport and Exercise Science, doing verification testing on heart patients under the supervision of Dr Lance Dalleck.

“At high school I spent much time pondering on my future. I eventually came across this interesting degree and found out it encompassed aspects of Exercise Physiology, Psychology, Biomechanics and the General World of Sport and Exercise.

“As a competitive Ballroom Dancer I found the effort I put into dancing reflected in my studies as well. I thrived on knowledge, and even had the opportunity to explore the Biomechanics of Dancing in one of my courses, which was great.

“I received two Summer Research Scholarships. The first involved testing the mechanical and metabolic energy expenditure while using spring-loaded and standard crutches. This research was published in the Journal of Assistive Technologies. For my second summer studentship I reviewed literature and proposed protocols for exercise testing of medical populations, particularly those with heart disease.”

“I have had an amazing experience thanks to my tutors and lecturers. For those who put the effort in, the support is there.”

Mike looks forward to becoming a Cardiovascular Physiologist, or a practitioner in the area of cardiovascular disease.

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Postgraduate diploma


Photograph of Exercise Sciences Postgraduate diploma student Hadley Donald
Hadley Donald

Hadley Donald

Hadley Donald completed a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Science early in 2017 and has since enrolled in the Postgraduate Diploma in Science specialising in Clinical Exercise Physiology.

“From a young age, I was always heavily involved with all types of sports, so pursuing a qualification that had a heavy emphasis on both physical activity and exercise was a natural progression for me.

“After weighing up my options in terms of education providers, I decided to choose the University of Auckland, as I believed it would lead to the best career opportunities.

"As I have progressed, I’ve noticed that one of the great thing about the programme is the number of career paths Exercise Sciences presents to students.

“Over the 2016/17 summer break, I was fortunate to be awarded a Summer Research Scholarship. My project involved attempting to find the location of an exercise sensing protein in skeletal muscle.

"The practical nature of the research and the opportunity to develop new skills was an experience I will forever be grateful for.”

Hadley hopes to one day apply exercise rehabilitation measures to help individuals regain quality of life after a life changing event such as a heart attack or stroke.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Postgraduate diploma student Sarah Peek
Sarah Peek

Sarah Peek

In 2016, Sarah Peek completed a double major in Sport and Exercise Science and Earth Sciences for her Bachelor of Science. She has chosen to continue on with a Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology.

“Science and sport have been two of my strongest interests throughout my life. How the body works, how physical activity causes different adaptations, and how different training protocols lead to different performance results or injury recovery, all drew me to study in the Department of Exercise Sciences.

“I applied for a 2016/2017 Summer Research Scholarship to develop my research skills and help prepare me for continuing on into a Masters Degree.

“My application was successful and I ended up working with Professor Winston Byblow conducting an experiment into different neural stimulation techniques, and how they might be utilised in terms of motor recovery for someone recovering from a stroke, or another condition.

“Examining the literature, piloting the experiment, recruiting participants and finally conducting and completing the experiment were all part of the experience."

Sarah now has a greater understanding of what is involved on the research side of a science degree. She thoroughly recommends the experience to those who are curious about science and keen to continue their studies.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Postgraduate diploma student Jessica Cadenhead
Jessica Cadenhead

Jessica Cadenhead

Jessica Cadenhead completed a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Sport and Exercise Science and Psychology in 2016. She’s now studying towards her Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Exercise Physiology.

“Having played and coached netball, football and badminton, sport is a big part of my life. I studied physical education right through high school and learning more about how the body functioned fascinated me.

“I knew I was good at biology, physical education and psychology, so I chose to study at the University of Auckland in the Department of Exercise Sciences.

“During my last undergraduate year I really enjoyed the Exercise Physiology papers and decided this was the postgraduate path I wanted to pursue.

“Over the 2016/17 summer break I received a Summer Research Scholarship. Associate Professor Heather Smith supervised me for 10-weeks while I looked into resistance training in middle-aged women.

"This taught me valuable research skills I can use in my postgraduate studies to develop my knowledge and help people in the clinic.”

Jessica has enjoyed every aspect of the programme, from the range of different courses to her extremely knowledgeable lecturers. One day she hopes to be a registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

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Bachelor of Science

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Bachelor of Science student James Cooper
James Cooper

James Cooper

James Cooper completed a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Science in 2016.

“Throughout my life I have always been heavily involved in sport, representing many sporting codes such as football, touch, athletics and surfboats.  My sporting passion grew throughout high school, along with my interest in sports medicine.

“Initially I enrolled in the Biomedical Science major but after one year I transferred to a major in Sport and Exercise Science.  I was happy to make this change as there are many practical opportunities offered within the Department of Exercise Sciences and in the labs that are part of the courses.

“The wide range of topics offered such as Biomechanics, Movement Neuroscience, Psychology and Physiology helped to shape my interest in certain areas.

“I was lucky to be supervised by Dr Angus McMorland for a SPORTSCI 309 practicum course in which I looked at characterising movement patterns within individuals to improve current stroke rehabilitation methods.  This practicum gave me valuable insights into what is involved in the research process and how work in areas such as this can impact on people and society.”

James thoroughly enjoyed his undergraduate degree and the opportunities that came with it. He is considering postgraduate options on offer through the University of Auckland.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Bachelor of Science student Rachel Sulivan
Rachel Sullivan

Rachel Sullivan

Rachel chose to complete her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Auckland because she believes it is a top class university with world leading research.

 “I have always been interested in the functioning of the human body and have been highly athletic throughout my childhood, competing in a range of activities from netball and athletics to gymnastics and dancing.

“My degree with the Department of Exercise Sciences allowed me to combine these two interests and learn more about the systemic effects of exercise on the human body. 

“As part of my degree, I was privileged to receive a Summer Research Scholarship looking at the impact of exercise on visual perception. I gained valuable insight into a professional research environment, working with participants and learning advanced laboratory techniques such as VO2 max testing

“What I like most is that the combination of courses allows you to graduate with a wide knowledge base and therefore multiple career opportunities. The skills you acquire are fundamental to helping clients reach their peak, whether they are athletes, first time exercisers or individuals requiring rehabilitation.”

Rachel hopes to continue with postgraduate study in clinical exercise physiology and make a positive influence on people. 

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Bachelor of Science student Simona Lokeni
Simona Lokeni

Simona Lokeni

Simona completed a Bachelor of Science with a major in Sport and Exercise Science.

“In high school I played many sports, but excelled in rugby making the Blues and Auckland representative sides.

"I was also good at science and wanted to find a degree that suited both of my interests.

“The Sport and Exercise Science major combines sport and science. I could choose from many different areas of study, such as Biomechanics, Sport/Health Psychology, Movement Neuroscience, and Exercise Physiology.

"As I progressed I learned much more than what I was expecting and my passion for the exercise sciences grew.

“For my SPORTSCI 309 practicum I was fortunate enough to have Dr Stacey Reading as a supervisor, and had to choose a research topic of interest to me.

"Specifically I looked at the reliability of the ‘OMNI-Resistance Scale Rating of Perceived Exertion at different Repetition Ranges for resistance exercise in older adult clinical population’.”

Simona valued his experience working with clients at the University’s Health & Performance Clinic and developing a better understanding of how research works. He is interested in postgraduate study in the Department of Exercise Sciences.

Photograph of Exercise Sciences Bachelor of Science student Jonathan Finch
Jonathan Finch

Jonathan Finch

Jonathan majored in Sport and Exercise Science and Physiology for his Bachelor of Science degree.

“Throughout high school, human movement in sport always fascinated me, but I wasn’t sure how I could use this as a career opportunity or where I could go. Fortunately at the University of Auckland open day I found the Exercise Sciences programme.

“The programme's diversity was a real driving factor for me to reach my final year. It offered a great variety of topics – especially neuroscience - that kept me fascinated throughout my degree. It also interested me in pursuing more complex aspects of human movement.

“At the end of my second year I was fortunate to receive a Summer Research Scholarship to work in the movement neuroscience lab, investigating how we perceive time under hypnosis and the correlations with motor conversion disorder.

“I met many fantastic people within the department as well as some incredible international researchers from Japan and Germany. The scholarship was a great opportunity. It benefited me academically, gave me confidence in my work and encouraged me to pursue an Exercise Sciences postgraduate degree.

Jonathan hopes to build his career within the Department of Exercise Sciences as a researcher.

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