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Photoacoustic optimisation of structured light for biomedical imaging

   School of Computer Science

   Thursday, July 28, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

A PhD studentship is available in the Birmingham Photoacoustic Imaging Group. This is a new interdisciplinary research group based in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences (Medicine) and School of Computer Science (Engineering), and closely linked with UCL’s Department of Medical Physics. The group focusses on developing and applying an emerging medical imaging technique called Photoacoustic Imaging [1]. In this technique, light and ultrasound are combined to allow imaging blood vessels and other structures deep in biological tissues [1]. The aim of the PhD is to develop methods for controlling structured light that could increase the penetration depth and resolution of photoacoustic imaging. The research could also impact upon other biomedical optics techniques such as fluorescence microscopy.

Background and aims: Emerging techniques offer the prospect of focussing light deep inside strongly scattering materials like biological tissues. Achieving this goal could revolutionise biomedical optics by allowing high-resolution optical imaging and therapy at unprecedented depths in the body - picture a whole-body microscope! The fundamental idea is to optimally structure light (tune its phase and amplitude) incident on tissue so as to produce a high intensity focus at a target location inside the tissue [2]. To realise this, an optimisation of the structured light can be driven by evaluating the strength of a feedback signal measuring the light intensity at the target location. For focussing light in tissue, a promising candidate feedback signal is provided by photoacoustics - ultrasound waves generated by the light, which can be detected at the tissue surface. These waves already underpin photoacoustic imaging. In principle, using them to guide the structuring of light for focusing is feasible, and a number of compelling lab demonstrations have been made. However, significant challenges remain in pushing the technique to enable its practical application. This PhD project will aim to address these challenges, with specific aims including:

- Developing new light structuring systems comprising optical, ultrasonic and electronic components (e.g. spatial light modulators, lasers and ultrasound detectors).

- Developing methods including hardware control software, optimisation algorithms and data processing schemes.

- Doing experiments including practical and simulated photoacoustic light structuring studies involving test objects and tissue samples.

- Contributing to scientific talks, meetings, discussions and other activities.

The project will suit someone wishing to undertake a PhD developing practical experimental optical, ultrasonic or photoacoustic systems and studying imaging techniques, optics, ultrasonics, computational imaging and optimisation methods to impact biology and medicine. The PhD student will be hosted by Computer Science and will work across colleges, occupy labs with the group, and be encouraged to interact with our wider network.

Funding notes:

Informal enquiries are strongly encouraged: please send a CV and covering letter to . Your letter should explain your relevant experience, why you wish to apply, why you are a suitable candidate, and your future goals. After the closing date, selected applicants will be interviewed to determine if they will be recommended for the studentship.

Applicants should have a first degree in Physics, Engineering, Computing or a related subject at 2:1 level or above (or equivalent). Existing knowledge in one or more areas of optics, lasers, ultrasonics, electronics, programming, signal processing, optimisation algorithms and imaging is desirable. Also desirable is prior experience of research (e.g. a master’s project). Essential criteria are an ability and willingness to: manage your own time; self-direct; build and sustain knowledge of scientific literature. Also essential are enthusiasm, self-motivation, dedication to excellent science and strong communication skills.

We want our PhD student cohorts to reflect our diverse society. UoB is therefore committed to widening the diversity of our PhD student cohorts. UoB studentships are open to all and we particularly welcome applications from under-represented groups, including, but not limited to BAME, disabled and neuro-diverse candidates. We also welcome applications for part-time study.

Eligibility: First or Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree and/or postgraduate degree with Distinction (or an international equivalent). We also consider applicants from diverse backgrounds that have provided them with equally rich relevant experience and knowledge. Full-time and part-time study modes are available. If your first language is not English and you have not studied in an English-speaking country, you will have to provide an English language qualification.

Funding Notes

The position offered is for three and a half years of full-time study. The value of the award is a stipend; of £16,602 pa and tuition fees: of £4,596 pa. Awards are usually incremented on 1 October each following year.


[1] J. A. Guggenheim et al., “Photoacoustic imaging of human lymph nodes with endogenous lipid and hemoglobin contrast,” J. Biomed. Opt., vol. 20, no. 5, p. 050504, 2015, doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.20.5.050504. https://www.spiedigitallibrary.org/journals/journal-of-biomedical-optics/volume-20/issue-5/050504/Photoacoustic-imaging-of-human-lymph-nodes-with-endogenous-lipid-and/10.1117/1.JBO.20.5.050504.full?SSO=1

[2] J. A. J. Bewick, P. R. T. Munro, S. R. Arridge, and J. A. Guggenheim, “Scalable full-wave simulation of coherent light propagation through biological tissue,” Proceedings of the 2021 IEEE Photonics Conference (IPC). pp. 6–7. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/9592927

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