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The role of sleep in health and wellbeing in children and adolescents

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Wednesday, 30 January 2019
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Medicine (Dunedin)
Professor Rachael Taylor, Associate Professor Barbara Galland


We are seeking potential PhD candidates with interests in sleep, diet, physical activity, health, physiology, or computer science to undertake projects examining the role of sleep in health. All three projects have the potential to be tailored and developed to suit specific skills, background, expertise, and interests.

Project descriptions

  1. Development of new algorithms for sleep measurement
    Recent physical activity guidelines highlight the importance of measuring all activities across the 24 hour day (sleep, sedentary time, and physical activity), but many questions remain regarding how best to measure this. This validation study will compare gold standard measures of each behaviour (e.g. polysomnography for sleep) with novel technologies that measure behaviour objectively in the free-living environment (e.g. wearable cameras). Data will be analysed using pattern recognition techniques.
  2. How does sleep influence body weight? Discovering the mechanisms
    Although we know that getting enough sleep reduces the risk of obesity in children, whether this occurs through diet, physical activity, or other behaviours is not well understood. This short-term randomized controlled trial will manipulate sleep over 3 weeks in 8-12 year old children. Measurements include diet, activity, energy expenditure and eating behaviour.
  3. The use of screens before bed in adolescents—just how are they impacting sleep?
    Using electronic media before bed disrupts good quality sleep. This project is using wearable cameras and other novel technologies to gain a better understanding of how screens impact sleep—both positively and negatively.

The ideal candidate

The ideal candidate(s) will possess experience in nutrition, physical activity, psychology, or another related health science. We also welcome applicants with expertise in computer science (for projects 1 and 3 particularly) with an interest in applying their knowledge to health related research. The candidate will be motivated, organized and collegial, with a demonstrated capacity to master the broad skill set necessary for the successful completion of a research project.

Minimum qualifications: BSc (Hons) or MSc/MAppSci/MPHed (A- average or better).

Scholarship funding

Financial support is expected to be available for a high achieving student with an A average or better via a University of Otago or Departmental scholarship (see the link below).

The Department of Medicine also has scholarships available, aimed at those who just miss out on University scholarships.

University of Otago Scholarships Office


The University of Otago and Departmental scholarships are open to all nationalities. However, overseas candidates for whom English is not a first language must satisfy the English Language Requirements of the University to be eligible for study.


Professor Rachael Taylor