Respiration and lung function

Many of us take breathing and respiratory health for granted, even though respiratory conditions make up 5 of the 30 most common causes of death worldwide.*

Respiratory health is a top global priority and respiratory physiologists will have a key role to play in the years to come. Respiratory physiologists study all aspects of lung function. As a researcher in this field, you will work towards understanding the causes and progression of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis amongst other breathing conditions. You will likely work both in the lab and closely with patients in hospitals and clinics. You will be involved in running tests and developing life-saving diagnoses. With over 1 billion people suffering from respiratory conditions, your research will most certainly have a huge and global impact.


*Forum of International Respiratory Societies. The Global Impact Of Respiratory Disease – Second Edition. Sheffi eld, European Respiratory Society, 2017.

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How do I get involved in respiratory physiology research?

An undergraduate degree in any life science subject (including physiology, biomedicine, medicine, sports science, neuroscience, genetics etc.) will open the door to a career in physiology research.

Following this, you will have to apply for a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) if you wish to pursue a research career in a university. This involves a substantial research project, typically 3-4 years in length, and training in scientific as well as transferable skills. These are usually fully funded by Research Councils, charities or increasingly industry.

Graduates often complete a Master’s degree before undertaking a PhD. Master’s degrees like a MSc (Master of Science), MRes (Master of Research) and, increasingly, integrated Master’s degrees (e.g. M.Biol or Master of Biology) help to develop a greater understanding of a particular scientific area. This will give graduates a better grounding and make them more competitive for PhD positions.

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