Ms Olivia Knowles

Field: Exercise Science

From the footy oval to the sleep lab, one of Deakin’s PhD students is helping female athletes get the most out of their bodies.

We sat down with Olivia to talk about her Higher Degree by Research (HDR) journey.

I was driven to continue my studies with a PhD because Deakin offered access to state-of-the-art gym and lab facilities, a connection to the sports industry and the option of flexible study.

Olivia's HDR Journey

Why did you choose to study a PhD at Deakin?

I started my Deakin journey long before my PhD! I completed my Bachelor and Honours in Exercise and Sport Sciences here. I was driven to continue my studies with a PhD because Deakin offered access to state-of-the-art gym and lab facilities, a connection to the sports industry and the option of flexible study.

What is your PhD research project about?

My PhD investigates the effect of inadequate sleep on strength training and skeletal muscle health in females. The purpose of this is to understand how a lack of sleep might impact training adaptations and health outcomes.

What have you achieved that you never thought possible before beginning your PhD?

During my PhD, I have been able to publish multiple research papers as a first author, which is a massive achievement for me! I also love teaching undergraduate and Masters students as a lecturer in the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences. This allows me to build my teaching experience and establish wider connections with industry.

Additionally, the quantity and quality of research performed on female athletes has been very low in the sport science industry, making my PhD quite unique. Completing my PhD with a female lens has been really rewarding and opened new avenues for my team and myself.

How is your PhD helping you make an impact on society?

My PhD has taught me skills that are transferable in industry which has been really important for my career development in sport – I have a greater capacity to help female athletes optimise their training and get the most out of themselves!

How has Deakin supported you to achieve your goals?

My supervisors and mentors have been really supportive both in my current PhD but also in setting me up for long term career success. I also love Deakin’s passion for flexible study, it has allowed me to pursue my multiple passions from research to supporting players on the footy field.

What are your future career ambitions? How has your PhD helped you realise these?

Beyond studying my PhD, I work as the AFLW High Performance Manager at the Western Bulldogs Football Club. My role is to manage players physical loads and prepare them for game day, as well as manage a team of high-performance staff.

In the future, I am keen explore a range of options in the sport science field, be it further research or working in a high-performance sport role.

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