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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Acute impacts of physical exercise on emotional reactivity

Research environment

The School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences at Queen Mary is one of the UK’s elite research centres, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). We offer a multi-disciplinary research environment and have approximately 150 PhD students working on projects in the biological and psychological sciences. Our students have access to a variety of research facilities supported by experienced staff, as well as a range of student support services.

The PhD student will work in the group of Dr Beyer. Dr Beyer's work is focused on studying the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying social cognition and the development of social skills. Current projects study the impact of stress on social cognition, the link between behaviour and social reward processing, and the role of avoidance behaviour in dealing with interpersonal betrayal and aggression.

Training and development

Our PhD students become part of Queen Mary’s Doctoral College which provides training and development opportunities, advice on funding, and financial support for research. Our students also have access to a Researcher Development Programme designed to help recognise and develop key skills and attributes needed to effectively manage research, and to prepare and plan for the next stages of their career.

Through this project, the student will develop research skills involving behavioural, phsyiological, and neural measures. The student will develop skills in experimental design, programming, data collection and data analysis, including physiological (ECG, blood pressure, cortisol) and neural (EEG) measures.

Project description

Physical exercise can improve wellbeing, and in some cases support recovery from mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders. However, the mechanisms by which exercise affects health and wellbeing are poorly understood.
This project will investigate the mechanisms by which physical exercise affects emotional processes and wellbeing, to allow for evidence-based predictions of how and when exercise interventions can be most useful.

This project will combine exercise manipulations with subsequent emotion induction, and measurement of physiological, neural, and subjective responses. It will use a number of techniques including cardiovascular measures, electroencephalography, behavioural responses, and subjective ratings. This research will elucidate by which biological, neural and cognitive mechanisms exercise can support resilience to negative life events.

Further research will then take into account interindividual variability in personality traits, physical fitness, emotion regulation abilities, and general wellbeing, to better understand which individuals might benefit the most from exercise interventions.

Together, these studies will greatly advance our understanding of how exercise can be utilized in mental health settings. The project will equip the student with a range of research skills, including advanced experimental design, psychophysiology, and psychometrics.


This studentship is open to students applying for China Scholarship Council funding. Queen Mary University of London has partnered with the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to offer a joint scholarship programme to enable Chinese students to study for a PhD programme at Queen Mary. Under the scheme, Queen Mary will provide scholarships to cover all tuition fees, whilst the CSC will provide living expenses for 4 years and one return flight ticket to successful applicants.

Eligibility and applying

Applicants must be:

  • Chinese students with a strong academic background.
  • Students must hold a PR Chinese passport.
  • Applicants can either be resident in China at the time of application or studying overseas.
  • Students with prior experience of studying overseas (including in the UK) are eligible to apply. Chinese QMUL graduates/Masters’ students are therefore eligible for the scheme.

Please refer to the CSC website for full details on eligibility and conditions on the scholarship.

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates with or expecting to receive a first or upper-second class honours degree in an area relevant to the project such as Psychology, Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience. A masters degree is desirable, but not essential. Applicants must have experience in conducting behavioural and / or physiological experiments involving human participants. Knowledge of statistical analysis is required. Experience in developing experimental designs and / or writing scientific publications is desireable, but not essential.

Applicants are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. Please see our English language requirements page for details.

Informal enquiries can be sent to Dr Frederike Beyer ( 

The deadline for applications to Queen Mary is 30th January 2022. Applicants will need to complete an online application form by this date to be considered, including a CV, personal statement and qualifications. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for a formal interview by the project supervisor. Those who are successful in their application for our PhD programme will be issued with an offer letter which is conditional on securing a CSC scholarship (as well as any academic conditions still required to meet our entry requirements).

Once applicants have obtained their offer letter from Queen Mary they should then apply to CSC for the scholarship by the advertised deadline with the support of the project supervisor. For September 2022 entry, applicants must complete the CSC application on the CSC website between 10th March - 31st March 2022.

Only applicants who are successful in their application to CSC can be issued an unconditional offer and enrol on our PhD programme.

Apply Online

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