Investigation of non invasive feedback in prosthetic limbs
Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2019.
The PhD will be based in the School of Energy and Electronic Engineering and will be supervised by Professor Peter Kyberd.
The work on this project will:
-Develop experimental protocol
-Gain ethical approval for experiments with healthy volunteers
-Conduct experiments with volunteers
-Gain ethical approval for experiments with prosthesis users
-Recruit volunteer users
-Conduct experiments with users
-Write up and present results
The mechanical design of prosthetic hands has undergone major improvements in the last decade, however, the control of the hands has remained less well developed. Of the differences between the natural and prosthetic hands, one aspect that stands out, is that the amount and types of feedback that the person with a natural hand uses, while powered prosthetic hands have very limited feedback (usually only visual).
Internal feedback to the nerves of the user is still difficult and will be expensive for the foreseeable future, so non invasive feedback to the skin should be more practical and immediately realisable. When other forms of feedback, such as force, are applied to prosthetic limbs they tend not to improve the functional performance of the operator. This could be because the feedback is not of the right form or perhaps fed to the user in the wrong way. The project aims to investigate why feedback forms are not usable and to find ways to improve the performance by adopting the correct approach.
The successful candidate will study the use of feedback to enhance prosthetic grasping. You will begin by creating tests and using unimpaired volunteers explore the limits of different feedback modalities, from vibration to force, heat to pressure, and the different senses being reproduced (force, touch, motion, proprioception and temperature). The tests will include sensory substitution, one external sense being replaced by another fed back (force for vibration). The tests will involve both Virtual Reality as well as physical simulation of grasping and manipulation. Tests will explore which sense is useful, under which circumstances.
When the tests have allowed sufficient understanding of the problem, and identified the most effective solutions, the tests will be adapted to be applied to users of prosthetic limbs in the lab. The stretch goal for the project will be that the systems will be adapted further to be used in the field by a selected few prosthesis wearers.
General admissions criteria
You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) in Engineering, Bioengineering, Applied Psychology or a related subject, or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject, and a desire to excel as a researcher together with disciplined work habits. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
Specific candidate requirements
You must be familiar with programing techniques and prepared to learn to work with electromechanical hardware, when appropriate. You’ll have significant interaction with volunteer subjects (general population and prosthesis users), must be able to apply for ethical permission and recruit volunteers.
In particular, we’d welcome candidates with:
-good interpersonal skills
-an engineering or psychology degree
-interest in biomedical engineering
How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Professor Peter Kyberd ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code. For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact Linda Janes ([Email Address Removed]).
When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Energy and Electronic Engineering’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.
If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code ENGN4820119 when applying.
The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£15,009 for 2019/20) for three years. The Faculty of Technology may fund project costs/consumables up to £1,500 p.a.