Avital Prais

Sport and Exercise PhD

Avital knew from her first year at BCU that researching the menstrual cycle and sport performance was a passion she wanted to pursue. As a PhD student, she’s been able to overcome self-doubt to complete impactful research that will make a difference to others.

"I came to BCU to study my undergraduate degree in Sport Nutrition. I had always had a passion for sports, but I wasn’t sure yet what my niche interest was and what I wanted my career to be. During my first year, one of my lecturers piqued my interest in research that was going on surrounding sport and the menstrual cycle and I was fascinated.

From then on, I was pretty sure that I wanted to continue with my studies after my undergraduate degree. So, when the opportunity arose at BCU to complete a PhD in a topic that I was interested in and passionate about, staying was a no brainer. It meant having the luxury of researching a topic of interest whilst getting to stay in an environment I was already comfortable in. I felt confident going into my PhD knowing I was in a supportive environment where I already had a great relationship with the staff.

Prior to starting my postgrad degree, I had felt a bit lost; I had all this passion for sport and the menstrual cycle but didn’t have the right avenue to direct all my energy towards. I had lots of ideas about what was missing from the area, especially from a research perspective, but felt like I wasn’t able to do anything tangible with them. Working towards my doctorate has enabled me to channel my passions in a way that is productive and also opens up doors to further my career and I think importantly, makes me feel validated in the work I’m doing.

The menstrual cycle and sport performance is an area which still has huge scope for understanding and importantly, a research area that would benefit multiple groups of people. I am a firm believer of evidence-based practice so it’s an incredibly exciting opportunity to undertake my own research and add to the current body of research available.

As a postgraduate student, you get a lot more freedom to make your own decisions and direct your study according to your wants and needs. This comes with responsibility, but I find the process to be rewarding as I’m at the centre of my work and decision making. I found it slightly overwhelming initially but now I’m in a place which feels exciting getting to direct my own work and create something entirely new.

When I started my studies, I had a lot of doubts about whether I was smart enough to complete a PhD and the freedom that came with doctorate study was daunting. I’m grateful to be surrounded by a great support network, both at university and on a more personal level who see through all my self-doubts. The academics that I’m lucky to work alongside at BCU create a great environment. I always feel fully supported by staff who bring out the best in me and give me the confidence I need.

The post-grad community here at BCU is also a great support network for me. Self-directed study can sometimes get lonely, so the opportunity to connect with students in the same boat as me is invaluable. There are always networking, social and support sessions for postgraduate students that I enjoy going to.

Alongside my research, I teach at the university, predominantly on the undergraduate sports courses. Teaching also allows me to upskill myself in a comfortable environment ready for my post-doctorate career plans. Working towards my doctorate feels like an essential part and strong start to my career plans considering I want to go into research, research communication and education.

I’ve been a part of the BCU community for over 7 years now and it’s difficult to articulate the positive changes I’ve made on an academic and personal level whilst here. Studying at BCU has equipped me with the knowledge and tools I need to prosper in my studies, future career plans, and life outside of work.

To me, ‘I AM BCU’ means support, community, growth, challenge, acceptance. These are words that I see every day at BCU and hope to emulate during my studies here and throughout my future career."