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Portsmouth physiologists among best in world

Published: 16th February 2022 14:35
Two University of Portsmouth scientists have been recognised as being among the best in the world in their field.

Professor Mike Tipton MBE and Dr Joe Costello, both in the university’s School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science’s Extreme Environments Group, are in the top 0.1 per cent of physiologists worldwide in their area of expertise.

The group focuses on survival in high altitudes, humid jungles and in rough seas, and its work directly or indirectly saves lives and improves the performance of those who work, compete in or visit such environments. 

Professor Tipton led the group for decades and has long been recognised internationally for his expertise.

Dr Costello, associate head of the School’s research and innovation, was named a world expert by Expertscape based on his reach and influence in the field over a decade. 

Such is the expertise in Portsmouth it is the first port of call for sporting stars, including Team GB athletes preparing for the Olympic Games, major national sporting bodies, the government, MoD, medical, legal and search and rescue organisations and journalists wanting to factcheck stories on cold water swimming, drowning, cryotherapy and all manner of other sport and exercise challenges. 

The group’s labs are world class and include cold chambers and immersion facilities.

Together, the expertise and lab facilities also attract Hollywood – actors Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal visited the labs ahead of filming Everest, to prepare for the cold and altitude and better understand how it would affect their physiology. Television stars also routinely visit the chambers.

Professor Tipton has spent 35 years working in thermoregulation, environmental and occupational physiology and the selection, preparation and protection of those who enter extreme environments.

His research examines what happens to the human body when it is exposed to cold, how to train people to overcome sudden cold, and what benefits might arise from cold, including cold water swimming. He has led or been on the board of several major national bodies working to protect lives, including the RNLI, whose Float First campaign was underpinned by his research.

Professor Tipton said: “It is always satisfying to be recognised for your work, and I am delighted my colleagues are now being recognised for their excellent work in this area; we have a great team. However, nice as these accolades are, we are all more driven by trying to learn things that can be used to save lives by prevention, search, rescue and treatment.” 

Dr Costello’s research examines the physiological effects of heat, cold and hypoxia on human performance. His expertise has brought him wide attention in the field of cryotherapy, where athletes – and non-athletes – immerse themselves in sub-zero temperatures post-exercise in the belief it speeds up muscle healing. 

Dr Costello said: ’It is a great honour to be included in this list and I’m delighted to be in the company of these world leading physiologists. I enjoy working with colleagues in the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth to investigate important issues related to human physiological and cognitive performance in extreme environments. Conducting high quality research is a team effort and I would like to thank my collaborators, mentors and students who have contributed hugely to this accolade.’’

The School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science is home to a wide range of experts across all aspects of human health and sporting excellence.

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