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2016 PhD Studentships for UK/EU Applicants

Opportunities are available in the Developmental Biomechanics group for excellent UK/EU PhD applicants to the Bioengineering Department Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT). The two projects advertised are described below. For further details please contact Dr Nowlan by email.

Recapitulating skeletogenesis

Recapitulating skeletogenesis in vitro: biomechanics and mechanobiology of cartilage and bone development

Research from our group has shown that mechanical stimulation due to fetal movements (in vivo) or due to applied mechanical forces (in vitro) leads to measurable changes in growth and shape effects in the developing skeleton. This project will use a bioreactor system to culture developing chick and mouse limb explants in order to quantify the relationship between movements and developmental change, and to explore the cell and organelle level changes leading to the observed changes. The work will be highly relevant to tissue engineering of cartilage and bone, as we will be aiming to use mechanical forces to more closely recapitulate developmental processes leading to functional skeletal tissues. This project would be suitable for candidates from either biology or engineering backgrounds.

Fetal movements

Fetal movements as biomarkers of prenatal brain development

Fetal movements are an important indicator of a developing baby’s health and particularly of brain development. However, fetal movements are not commonly assessed clinically and no automated tracking or analyses of movements are performed. Ongoing research in our group has developed algorithms to track fetal leg movements, and pilot data indicates that aspects of fetal movements may correlate with healthy or unhealthy brain development. This project will build upon previous projects to develop enhanced automated tracking methods for fetal movements from fetal cine MRI data, and correlate the movements with normal and abnormal brain development. This project offers a valuable opportunity to work on a highly interdisciplinary project, with close collaboration with clinicians. The project would be suitable for candidates with a bioengineering, biophysics or computer science background, with prior knowledge or experience of image processing being a particular advantage. This project will be joint-supervised by Dr Bernhard Kainz from the Department of Computing at Imperial.

MRes Opportunities for 2016/17

Opportunities are available in the Developmental Biomechanics group for enthusiastic MRes students. The research focus of the group is the importance of fetal movements for skeletal development. When a baby doesn’t move enough in the womb, their bones and joints may not form normally, and our research aims to find out why and how this can occur. Both experimental and computational projects are available, and researchers from either a biology (e.g., developmental biology, physiology, genetics) or engineering background are welcome- we are an interdisciplinary group!

If you are interested in pursuing an MRes project in our group then please email Dr Nowlan to arrange a chat and include in your email (a) your CV and (b) a brief description of what type of project you are interested in and why. Please note that applicants must arrange their own funding sources.

Possible project ideas:

  • The importance of mechanical forces for spine development in the embryonic chick
  • Creating a mechanobiological simulation of joint shape morphogenesis
  • Computational modelling of human fetal movements
  • Effects on prenatal joint development of a period of immobility followed by movement recovery in the chick model system
  • Image registration analysis of joint shape development
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