Professor Andrew Jones

Published on: 15 April 2015

Professor Andrew Jones

Professor Andrew Jones was recently appointed as Associate Dean for Research (ADR) in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences (CLES).  As ADR, Professor Jones will take a leading role across the College’s research activity, which ranges from biosciences to human geography.

He is Professor of Applied Physiology and has worked in the University of Exeter’s Department for Sport and Health Sciences since 2005. We spoke to him about his new appointment and his own research.

What attracted you to the ADR role?

Well, I had already served as Director of Research for Sport and Health Sciences, and had been Head of Department for more than four years, and we achieved a lot in that time – good Research Excellence Framework (REF) results, good employee engagement and good national student survey results.

I could have just sunk back into the department and got on with my research but these opportunities do not come up very often, so I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring to see what would happen!

What do you think the challenges of your new job will be?

It’s a big time of change across the University - we have to reflect on the REF 2014 results and get ready for REF 2020. That will mean a big focus on impact as well as outputs such as publications. Income is also a major issue, especially for CLES, which is a big engine room for external funding – with the pressures on public funding we have to look to diversify, and work more with charities and industry.

And for me, being new to the position, I don’t know as much about Biosciences, Psychology and Geography as I’d like to. So my early months are going to be spent engaging with the departments across our three campuses to get a better feel for them. I’d like to be a ‘hands-on’ ADR.

Moving on to your own research – what you are working on at the moment?

My main interest is the physiology of exercise – how the body responds to exercise both acutely and more chronically. In particular, I look at endurance exercise, the transport of oxygen in the body and its ultimate use in the muscles. I am interested in interventions which could have an impact on that process. Factors such as a person’s highest rate of oxygen consumption, how efficiently they can use oxygen to produce energy, and how rapidly they can increase oxygen consumption at the start of exercise are very important for performance – whether that’s an elite athlete trying to set a World record or an older person trying to climb a flight of stairs.

I’m presently working on projects which involve quite invasive investigations into muscle energetic and the mechanisms of muscle fatigue. We’re also looking at nutritional precursors to the production of nitric oxide – an important signalling molecule – and the effects that can have on cardiovascular and metabolic health as well as exercise performance.

Who do you work with outside of the University?

We work closely with the sports nutrition industry and also with charities such as the Dunhill Medical Trust and Exeter Leukaemia Fund. Those projects are all looking at how dietary nitrate, which occurs in green leafy vegetables and beetroot, can affect people - whether that’s in terms of exercise performance, blood pressure, muscle and cognitive function, or quality of life.

What impact has your previous work had?

I have worked as a consultant for various sports organisations going back a number of years. The performance research I do has direct applications with the world’s leading athletes. I’ve worked closely with UK Athletics and the English Institute of Sport, for example.

I look at how you best prepare athletes for competition – their warm-ups, their nutrition, their training immediately beforehand. We also do some mathematical modelling of performance, to understand how various interventions might interact to maximise the chances of success.

Most of my individual consultancy work has been with long distance runners – I’ve worked with Paula Radcliffe and Jo Pavey, for example. Over a number of years I developed treadmill protocols to measure the factors that influenced their performance. I was able to interpret those data and feed back to the athlete and coach to minimise weaknesses and enhance strengths. As a former elite athlete who didn’t quite “make it”, I’ve enjoyed vicarious success!

Finally, going back to your new post – what do you think makes CLES great at research?

The College is doing really well right across the board – every unit did really well in the REF. The four disciplines bring a different balance of strengths to the table. I think it’s this diversity which helps to make CLES resilient and successful.

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