PhD student | Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network Fellowship
‘Importance of the activity intensity distribution for health across the lifespan (fulltime/ 36) ’

Apply until: 30 June 2023

Offer Description

We want to recruit a doctoral candidate for a project on the “Importance of the activity intensity distribution for health across the lifespan” that aims to characterise how age shapes activity intensity distribution over the life course and how it impacts the association between physical activity and health. The candidate will join the Learning Network for Advanced Behavioural Data Analysis (LABDA), a stimulating, high-level European Doctoral program including 13 PhD students trained in several European countries!

The LABDA project

LABDA is an EU-funded MSCA Doctoral Network that brings together leading researchers in advanced movement behaviour data analysis at the intersection of data science, method development, epidemiology, public health, and wearable technology to train a new generation of creative and innovative public health researchers via training through-research. The main aim of LABDA is to establish novel methods for advanced 24/7 movement behaviour data analysis of sensor-based data, examine the added value of advanced behavioural data analysis and multi-modal data for predicting health risk and facilitate the use and interpretability of the advanced methods for application in science, policy and society. Via training-through-research projects, 13 doctoral fellows will establish novel methods for advanced 24/7 movement behaviour data analysis and assess the added value of linking multimodal data. Together, they will develop a joint taxonomy to enable interoperability and data harmonisation. Results will be combined in an open-source LABDA toolbox of advanced analysis methods, including a decision tree to guide researchers and other users to the optimal method for their (research) question. The open-source toolbox of advanced analysis methods will lead to optimised, tailored public health recommendations and improved personal wearable feedback concerning 24/7 movement behaviour.

What will you do

Analyses of physical activity accelerometer data have concentrated on descriptors of time spent in a few gross intensity categories, ignoring the continuum of energy expenditure. The project will overcome these limitations by investigating the full spectrum of the activity intensity distribution. This project aims to get an insight into physical behaviour along the life course by examining the full spectrum of intensity instead of the most commonly used intensity levels (sedentary behaviour, light and moderate to vigorous physical activity). Using innovative statistical analyses and multiple data sources spanning ages from 3 to more than 80 years old, the project will examine how age shapes activity distribution and whether the association between the intensity distribution and health differs across age groups. This will provide knowledge for future targeted prevention.

The objectives of the project are:

  1. To describe the activity intensity distribution across the lifespan using multiple data sources
  2. To explore and compare methods allowing for the use of the complete activity intensity distribution during waking hours: functional data analysis (FDA) and multivariate pattern analysis (MPA)
  3. To identify activity intensities associated with health across the lifespan using the full intensity spectrum using both FDA & MPA and assess the interpretability of the findings. .

Expected results are:

  1. an in-depth description of movement behaviour over waking hours using methods to consider the full spectrum of intensity distribution, namely FDA and MPA.
  2. a better understanding of how age shapes activity intensity distribution to inform future targeted interventions.
  3. a better understanding of how activity distribution shapes health over the lifespan.

Your main tasks and responsibilities in this project are:

  • Conduct a literature review on the research questions
  • Harmonise data from different data sources
  • Understand and implement Functional Data Analysis and Multivariate Pattern Analysis in the different datasets
  • Conduct statistical analyses to answer the project aims
  • Write research papers
  • Present findings at (inter)national meetings/conferences
  • Collaborate and exchange knowledge and skills with the other LABDA fellows
  • What we expect

    We seek a highly motivated scientist who has methodological skills, is keen to work as part of a team and communicate with supervisors and other team members, and has an interest in public health. The research project should result in defence of PhD thesis.
    To be eligible for this position, the applicant must satisfy the following requirements and conform to the Marie Curie admission requirements: -
  • Must not already hold a doctoral degree;
  • Must comply with the mobility rule: not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in France for more than 12 months in the three years immediately before their recruitment.
  • In addition, you meet the following requirements and experience:
  • Masters’s degree in biostatistics, epidemiology, sport science, public health or equivalent with good knowledge in statistics
  • Experience in statistical analyses using R or equivalent
  • Demonstrated research ability (Master internship, scientific publication, or previous work experience)
  • Fluent in English.
  • The following experience and skills would be highly valuable:
  • Previous experience with accelerometer data
  • Previous experience in research on physical activity.
  • Your working environment

    Host organisation Inserm is the National Institute of Health and Medical Research. Its’ one goal is to improve the health of all by advancing knowledge of life and disease, innovation in treatment, and public health research. The EpiAgeing team where the PhD candidate will be primarily based, is part of the Inserm Centre of Research in Epidemiology and statistics( based in Paris. The Centre encompasses more than 300 staff members, including researchers, PhD students, and support staff who together aim to identify and characterise health determinants in various populations by undertaking innovative methodological research to contribute to the development of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. The EpiAgeing team (, comprises around 15 persons, including researchers, clinicians, statisticians, post-doctoral researchers and Master and PhD students. The team works on determinants of health in older adults. Within this context, one of the projects led by Dr. Séverine Sabia (main supervisor of the PhD) focuses on physical behaviours (assessed objectively by accelerometers) as determinants of health among older adults.
    Supervisors: Dr Séverine Sabia (Inserm, France) and Dr Eivind Aadland (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway)


    This PhD project will be co-supervised by Dr Eivind Aadland from the Department of Sport, Food and Natural Sciences at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, who has expertise in methodology for accelerometer data and physical activity in early life (website). The project will be conducted in collaboration with Dr Bjorge Herman Hansen from the University of Agder in Norway (website) and Dr Nicolas Berger from Sciensano in Belgium (website). The PhD candidate will visit each of the three partner institutes as part of his training (6 months at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, 2 months at the University of Agder, and 2 months at Sciensano).

    What we offer

    This PhD position is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) of the European Union’s “Horizon Europe 2022” research and innovation program under grant agreement No 101072993. You will be appointed as a full-time PhD for 3 years at Inserm. The MSCA programme offers competitive and attractive working conditions. The successful candidates will receive a salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for doctoral candidates. Gross salary will consist of a Living Allowance (from 3 957,60 € per month with taxes) and a monthly Mobility Allowance. An additional monthly allowance is applicable depending on the family situation (for additional information, see the EU MSCA website). Please be aware that these amounts are subject to taxes, and the exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment. The research project should result in a PhD thesis. Successful applicants are eligible for parental leave in compliance with France’s legislature/keeping with Inserm's standard employment policy. In addition to excellent accessibility by public transport, we reimburse 50% of your travel costs (commuting costs, maximum 96,36 €). As part of your contract, you will have 32 days of holidays per year.

    Next to your local PhD training, you will participate in an attractive educational program customized to the 13 doctoral candidates. The Learning Network for Advanced Behavioural Data Analysis training program consists of 3 secondments in European countries (2 in Norway and 1 in Belgium), monthly online training, 4 in-person 3-day workshops, and conferences to optimally develop your academic and transferable skills. The doctoral school (ED 393) will also provide an opportunity to follow further training and development and an annual PhD meeting in Saint-Malo (France) to enhance skills for presenting and disseminating your research findings.
    This training program prepares you for a prosperous career as an expert in the epidemiology of physical activity, either as a researcher or data scientist in the private or public sector. If you don’t have the nationality of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, you will need a residence permit to live and work in France. We will help you with the application for this.

    For more information

    For more information about the application procedure or position, you can contact Séverine Sabia at ( The starting date of this project will be the 1st of October, 2023.

    How to Apply?

    1. Read the whole text about the vacancy and prepare your CV and motivation letter accordingly.
    2. We are taking the motivation letter very seriously. In the letter, try to impress us with the relevancy of your education and professional experience (if any) to the position. Moreover, we appreciate it if you could write about what and how you can contribute to the project.
    3. Send your CV and motivation letter to with the subject "Ph.D. Application for position 5."