The start of this academic year saw HART Researcher Rachel Langbein successfully defend her dissertation research which explored the psychological experience of low energy availability in sport and exercise. Rachel recently reflected on her main findings and experiences of the viva:
After three years of worrying about being interrogated about each line of every page of what turned out to be a 380-page-long thesis, I successfully passed my PhD Viva in October. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the experience, as it was an opportunity to share my key findings and discuss the potential applied applications of my research in the field of sport and exercise psychology.
The aim of my thesis was to explore the psychological experience of low energy availability in sport and exercise, which occurs when athletes and/or exercisers consume insufficient energy from their dietary intake to support the demands of their body, once the energy they expend during exercise has been taken into account.
Overall, the thesis concluded that the aetiology and consequences of low energy availability cannot be sufficiently understood through the use of solely quantitative methods that focus on predominantly physiological aspects of the issue. Rather, qualitative methods that enable in-depth exploration of psychological factors influencing an individual’s eating and exercise behaviours are necessary in order to better understand how syndromes of low energy availability can be better identified, treated, and better still, prevented from occurring in the first place.
My advice to any future PhD students approaching their Viva is to be humble and open to critique, but also be confident in and proud of the work you have done and the journey you have been on to get you to the end goal of the PhD.