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  PhD Studentship in Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI of the spine

   Division of Surgery & Interventional Science

  Dr Anna Di Laura  Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A 3-year PhD Studentship is available at the UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, within the Research Department of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science based at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) and in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic London (CCL).

The successful candidate will join the exciting area of bioengineering research to help innovate orthopaedic technology of disease prevention, diagnosis, management and monitoring. The student will register for a PhD at UCL rated the top university in the UK for research strength, onsite at the largest orthopaedic hospital in the UK, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and regularly visit Cleveland Clinic London, ranking among the top hospitals in the world.

The funding covers an annual tax-free stipend (around £20,000 p.a.) and tuition fees at the UK rate. The stipends awarded to PhD students are tax free and incur no income tax or national insurance contributions. The amount received increases each year over the duration.

There is an opportunity to add a 1 day/week technician employment (£5k/year) to join a group of orthopaedic surgical technologists to further support the student, if willing to do so. Income tax, etc, will be payable on this employment.

About the role

The PhD project is titled, "Quantitative Magnetic Resonance Imaging MRI of the spine" and the student will investigate the impact of dose of physical exercise on the spinal muscles of physically inactive and active individuals understand muscle composition and health.

Overarching aim of the PhD: To better understand the impact of dose of physical exercise on the spinal muscles of physically inactive individuals to prevent, arrest and reverse damage.

Topics for Scientific Research

  1. To better understand the health status of the spinal muscles of inactive individuals of different age groups
  2. Development and optimisation of software solutions for the analysis of spinal muscle morphology and composition.
  3. The establishment of imaging biomarkers of muscle health.
  4. Application of software solutions to study the spinal muscles of sedentary individuals and patients in comparison with active individuals.

The thesis will consist of at least four well-developed chapters, in addition to chapters discussing a detailed literature review, introduction and discussion. The student will be expected to publish peer-reviewed papers for each chapter of the thesis.

The student will be expected to complete this PhD with: (1) a track-record of peer-reviewed publications, (2) an expertise in the science of physical exercise and medical imaging computational analysis methods and, (3) ability to interact with engineers and surgeons at all levels.

The studentship offers a strong foundation for building an academic career. Our previous students gained employment in the medical devices industry, science media, science writing and medical editorship.

About you

The applicant should have good IT and programming skills. An engineering background such as biomedical engineering (MSc, MEng), computer science, software engineering is essential.

The individual will be expected to respond to tight deadlines. Good analytical and verbal reasoning skills and experience in academic presentation are essential.

Main Duties and Responsibilities

  1. Study design, data collection and analysis
  2. Attend UCL courses and training (eg., in research study design, good clinical practice, medical statistics, time management, paper writing).
  3. Literature research
  4. Manuscript writing for submission to peer-reviewed journals)
  5. Attend weekly research meetings
  6. Other duties as required by the supervisor for the delivery of the role


The studentship covers only the fees for UK students. Additional fees may be required for students applying who do not fulfil the criteria for UCL home students. Please check the UCL website for full criteria at:

The English language level for this programme is standard, please see the following link for more information: UCL's English Language Requirement page.

Application process

To apply for the vacancy please email your CV, full transcript and a personal statement letter to: Your statement letter should explain your interest in the project, previous research experience (including examples of previous project work) and why you would be a suitable candidate for this post. Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

What we offer

As well as the exciting opportunities this role presents, we also offer some great benefits some of which are below:

  • 41 Days holiday (27 days annual leave 8 bank holiday and 6 closure days)
  • Additional 5 days’ annual leave purchase scheme
  • Defined benefit career average revalued earnings pension scheme (CARE)
  • Cycle to work scheme and season ticket loan
  • Immigration loan
  • Relocation scheme for certain posts
  • On-Site nursery
  • On-site gym
  • Enhanced maternity, paternity and adoption pay
  • Employee assistance programme: Staff Support Service
  • Discounted medical insurance

Visit to find out more.

Our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

As London's Global University, we know diversity fosters creativity and innovation, and we want our community to represent the diversity of the world's talent. We are committed to equality of opportunity, to being fair and inclusive, and to being a place where we all belong.

We therefore particularly encourage applications from candidates who are likely to be underrepresented in UCL's workforce.

These include people from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds; disabled people; LGBTQ+ people; and for our Grade 9 and 10 roles, women.

You can read more about our commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion here:

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