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Rapid, Silent MRI for Cardiopulmonary Assessment in Newborns and Infants

   Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease

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  Dr Neil Stewart, Prof JM Wild  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Sheffield United Kingdom Biomedical Engineering Medical Physics Radiology

About the Project

There is an unmet medical need for robust, safe methods to image the lung structure and function in infants – as a result, our understanding of lung diseases in this age group remains poor and there is a significant healthcare burden.

State-of-the-art multi-nuclear MRI methods have the potential to change the way lung disease is assessed and managed in infants. In particular, ultra-short and zero-echo time based 1H MRI have enabled the acquisition of structural images of the lungs with comparable quality to CT, yet without the use of harmful radiation. In complement, hyperpolarised (HP) xenon-129 gas (129Xe), a safe, inhaled MRI contrast agent that has unparalleled sensitivity to multiple facets of lung function – including lung ventilation and microstructure – is now emerging as a clinical tool to study a range of lung diseases. These complementary 1H-129Xe MRI methods offer a means for safe, non-invasive imaging of structure-function relationships in the pulmonary and cardiovascular system in adults and school-aged children, but have yet to be optimised for application in infants.

In this PhD project, methods and technology will be developed to tackle the main barriers to clinical translation of 1H and 129Xe MRI in infants, specifically: (i) the innate slow speed of MRI acquisitions that leads to motion-corrupted images or the necessity for breath-holding during image acquisition; (ii) the high acoustic noise footprint of MRI that can unsettle the subject; (iii) the lack of validated quantitative MRI biomarkers of infant pulmonary and cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, the successful PhD student will undertake research in the following themes:

- Magnetic resonance physics simulations and rapid, silent MR pulse sequence design

- MR pulse programming on GE Healthcare scanners (C language)

- Development of quantitative image analysis pipelines (Matlab, Python etc.)

- Design and construction of custom MR hardware to facilitate infant MRI on whole-body MRI scanners

- Development of deep learning methods for lung image reconstruction and quantitative analysis

- Investigation of imaging phenotypes of lung and cardiovascular disorders in infants

This PhD project will be undertaken at the POLARIS (Pulmonary, Lung and Respiratory Imaging Sheffield) research laboratories. The student will have access to our 4 MRI scanners (at both clinically-used field strengths of 1.5T and 3T, including a newly-installed PET-MRI system), state-of-the-art hyperpolarisation and radiofrequency hardware laboratories, and the University of Sheffield high performance computing clusters.

Upon completion of this PhD, the student will have a deep understanding of:

- Magnetic resonance physics

- Magnetic resonance pulse sequence programming

- Image reconstruction and analysis algorithms

- MR hardware development

- Deep learning

- Lung and cardiovascular disorders in infants


This studentship will be 42 months in duration and include home fee and stipend at UKRI rate. EU/Overseas candidates are welcome to apply, however they would be required to fund the fee difference. 

Entry Requirements:

Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree or significant research experience. 

How to apply:

Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Science as the department. Please also state your first and second choice project by entering the project tiles in the 'Research Topic' box on your application. 


Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Dr Neil Stewart [Email Address Removed]