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Comprehensive characterisation of the prostate using multidimensional MRI

Project Description

This PhD project is well suited to students who would like to combine their knowledge of programming, computational modelling, physics and mathematics to better understand the structural changes in biological tissue in health and disease.

Diffusion MRI (dMRI) is the preferred tool to study tissue-microstructure in health and disease. Notwithstanding the increasing amount of studies showcasing the sensitivity of dMRI features
to diseases, it is increasingly apparent that the ultimate aim of being unambiguously specific to
microstructural characteristics cannot be achieved with current methodology1. At Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), we are developing MRI methodology and have access to an MRI system with ultra-strong gradients (one of three worldwide) to boost the performance of dMRI2.

In addition, an emerging zeitgeist in microstructural-MRI is that combining multiple MRI-modalities will yield a more complete picture of tissue-physiology2,3. This has renewed hope of establishing biophysical models for healthy and diseased tissue. We have recently developed multi-modal MRI protocols to establish correlations between physical and chemical tissue-properties: diffusion MRI provides information on the size, shape, and orientation of tissue-compartments, while relaxometry can add complementary information on chemical composition4,5. This rich data has the potential to improve the disentanglement of different tissue-compartments and to use approaches with fewer assumptions than commonly used biophysical models, which is important in disease-characterisation where the number and properties of tissue-constituents are unknown. So far, these efforts have been solely focussed on the brain.

This project aims to develop an efficient diffusion-relaxometry MRI framework for comprehensive microstructure-characterisation in the prostate with ultra-strong gradients.

The human prostate is a heterogeneous structure composed of compartments with different size, shape, and chemical properties. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, hence there is an ongoing need to optimise diagnostic techniques. Transrectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsy acquires systematic samples of the prostate, but it could miss cancerous parts between the needles. Moreover, the procedure is unpleasant for the patient and there is a risk of infection. With MRI it is possible to image the whole organ non-invasively, facilitating longitudinal assessment.

As part of this project, you will implement new sequences on CUBRIC’s Siemens ultra-strong gradient scanner. In addition, you will develop methodology for optimised image processing and modelling of diffusion-relaxometry data in prostate. The project would suit a physics, engineering, maths or computer science graduate with an interest in neuroscience and brain structure. Equally it would suit a neuroscientist with a strong mathematical and computational interest. The project is a collaboration of Cardiff University with Siemens Healthineers that will tutor the sequence development activity.

As only one studentship is available and a very high standard of applications is typically received, the successful applicant is likely to have a very good first degree (a First or Upper Second class BSc Honours or equivalent) and/or be distinguished by having relevant research experience.

Funding Notes

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals, and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education.

You can apply online - consideration is automatic on applying for a PhD in Psychology, with an October 2019 start date (programme code RFPDPSYA). Interviews will take placeon 10th/11th September with decisions being made by the 12th September.


The School’s excellent standard of research and teaching has been recognised in every Research Assessment Exercise. Our facilities offer unique opportunities for complementary and collaborative studies across methodologies to address novel research questions -

Clinical Neuroscience - Our research labs are equipped with the state-of-the-art facilities to address key questions of basic and clinical neuroscience

Brain Imaging (CUBRIC) - Our research facilities include one of Europe’s most powerful brain scanners, as well as a purpose-built environment for patients and volunteers taking part in medical research and clinical trials

How good is research at Cardiff University in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 69.33

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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