Professor Barry Drust introduces 20 years, 20 stories
The Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences was established in 1997. One key aspect of the development strategy for the Institute was to increase the numbers of postgraduate students in order to build the capacity to complete high-quality and innovative research projects. This focus has seen the PhD research community within the Institute increase from a number of around 10-20 in 1997 to approximately 150 current students in 2017.
The PhD students who have completed research projects in this time period have been an incredibly important part of the energy that has promoted the outstanding research contributions that RISES has made to the knowledge base across the disciplines of sport and exercise science. For these efforts, this group of individuals are worthy of recognition in the celebration of this 20 year anniversary of RISES. Celebrating this group of individuals is also important from another perspective. They embody the commitment of the research institute to the development of young researchers; something that was at the core of the motivation of the late Professor Tom Reilly. Every developmental journey in science has a human side to it that is just as important in the success of the project as the quality of the scientific approach. This human side provides the context to demonstrate the personal skills that are needed to succeed in both the professional and personal arenas of life. Telling the stories of 20 PhD students, one for each of the 20 years of the institute, provides a great way to illustrate how RISES has shaped the thinking of generations of individuals as well as inform sport and exercise science research. To choose the 20 individuals whose stories to tell from the hundreds who have graduated in this time period was an almost impossible task. The choices made here are an attempt to reflect both the diversity of science and of the individuals who have been part of the postgraduate community in this time period. The contribution of all those who graduated over this period are, however, partly reflected in these 20 stories.
"Telling the stories of 20 PhD students, one for each of the 20 years of the institute, provides a great way to illustrate how RISES has shaped the thinking of generations of individuals as well as inform sport and exercise science research."
I completed my PhD in 1997 and can therefore provide some perspective on both the influence and contribution of RISES to an individual’s personal and professional development. My project on examining the metabolic responses to soccer-specific intermittent exercise provided the opportunity for me to radically change the way that I viewed the world. The insights that come with the focussed study of a given topic clearly profoundly alter the level of awareness and understanding of it. The background physiology related to both soccer and intermittent exercise that I gained during my PhD, set the scene for the professional achievements in my career both from a scientific and applied perspective. Completing the requirements of the project gave me many formative experiences that now seem fundamental in shaping me as a person. Coming to Liverpool for my undergraduate degree had already opened my eyes to a wider world than I had previously seen. The international travel for conferences and data collection that accompanied my PhD research created opportunities to see more new things and meet more new people. These inputs were just as important in changing my world perspective as the scientific knowledge that I gained. Forming new friendships with other PhD students and staff (particularly Tim Cable) helped me develop a more complex view of human interaction and see the importance of collaboration in completing any project. I was also able to see at close quarters the approach needed to be a success in the world of sport science. I was truly humbled at times to see the discipline, dedication, love and enthusiasm for science, sport and for the development of people demonstrated by Professor Tom Reilly in his day-to-day activities. Though I didn’t realise it at the time, it is his lessons that have most profoundly shaped me and will continually make me grateful for the opportunities that RISES provided.
– Professor Barry Drust