Fitness, cardiovascular risk, and exercise blood pressure

Understanding the role of fitness in determining the cardiovascular risk associated with exercise BP: the EXERcise stress test collaboratION (EXERTION)

Degree type


Closing date

29 October 2021



Citizenship requirement

Domestic/International Onshore

About the research project

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the greatest cause of morbidity worldwide, and high blood pressure (BP) is the number one risk factor for CVD. One in three Tasmanian adults has high BP, the highest prevalence in Australia. Many more have undiagnosed or inadequately managed high BP, further increasing CVD risk. Thus, we have an urgent and currently unmet need for improved and easily implemented methods for better detection and management of high BP and its associated CVD risk.

Work of the supervisory team has demonstrated that abnormally raised BP during clinical exercise testing, called ‘exercise hypertension’, is a signal for CVD events and death. This CVD risk may, however, not be detected in up to 50% of individuals using traditional methods of BP assessment at rest. Thus, exercise BP offers a unique opportunity to identify individuals at high risk for BP-related CVD.

Several factors (including, but not limited to, functional capacity – ‘fitness’) have been shown to influence exercise BP, and its subsequent association with CVD outcomes. The relationship between exercise BP and functional capacity suggests there may be both pathological and physiological pathways to generating abnormal exercise BP. Physiological insight to the cardiac structure and function that underpins these differential BP responses to exercise, as well as the associated longer-term CVD risk is lacking (the supervisor team recently wrote an invited review article on this issue).

The proposed PhD program will address this key knowledge gap relating to exercise BP with the goal to understand how fitness mediates the relationship between elevated exercise BP and CVD risk. Data to address the project aims will be drawn from the EXERcise stress Test collaboratION (EXERTION) study, a collaborative established by the supervisory team to enhance clinical understanding of abnormal exercise BP.

Primary Supervisor

Meet Dr Martin Schultz


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $28,597 per annum (2021 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.


The project is open to domestic (Australian and New Zealand) and international applicants who are already in Australia (onshore) at the time of submitting their application.

Due to current Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions the University cannot accept applications from international applicants who are currently overseas.

Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Previous expertise/experience working with large clinical and/or linked health research datasets
  • Some knowledge of statistical techniques and associated software

Application process

There is a three-step application process:

  1. Select the project, and check you meet the eligibility and selection criteria;
  2. Contact the Primary Supervisor, Dr Martin Schultz, if you have any questions about the project; and
  3. Click here to submit an application by the closing date listed above.
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • As part of your application you will be required to submit a covering letter, a CV including contact details of two referees and your project research proposal.

Following the application closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email.

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