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Searching Structural and Mechanical Indices for Clinical Tissue Diagnosis: Multiscale Experimental Characterisation and/or Computational Modelling of Biological Soft Tissue

   School of Engineering & Physical Sciences

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  Dr Yuhang Chen, Prof RL Reuben, Prof D P Hand  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

About this project

There is ample evidence that structural and mechanical properties of human and animal tissue greatly depend on their microstructures. This can be further complicated due to the heterogeneity across the length scales of tissue structural hierarchy. Importantly, the hierarchical microstructures in tissue often evolve subject to patho-physiological conditions, leading to significant changes to the tissue physical properties such as visco-elasticity and hyper-elasticity. Such changes in physical properties, if characterised and monitored properly, could be used as indices for clinical diagnosis.

This PhD project will investigate the mechanical behaviours of biological soft tissues. Specifically, the structural heterogeneity and nonlinear hyper-visco-elastic mechanics will be quantified, in the context of their evolutions subject to pathological conditions, e.g. in cancer. Working with our clinical collaborators from NHS Lothian (Department of Urology, Unit of Colorectal Surgery and Department of Pathology), the project will focus on a number of clinically-relevant applications including prostate and colorectal tissues and cancers, where the correlations between microstructural and mechanical indices are explored for diagnostic purposes. It is expected that a combination of experimental and computational methods will be employed in this project, although the focus may depend on the candidate’s research strength and interest. Experimentally, mechanical characterisation of soft tissue such as uniaxial, biaxial and indentation tests at various lengths scales, supported by histology, microscopy and image processing analysis. Computationally, examples include finite-element microstructural analysis of soft tissue using models reconstructed from histology and microscopy images.

The PhD candidate will join a multidisciplinary group, the Tissue Mechanics Group (https://tissuemech.hw.ac.uk/), at Heriot-Watt University. S/he will work with a group of mechanical engineers, physicists, clinical researchers from Heriot-Watt University, University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian, with support from other PhD students and postdocs working on relevant and complementary projects. This PhD project will also be associated with, and supported by, our recently funded EPSRC project EP/V047612/1 ''Mechanically-intelligent'' Intra-operative Tissue Assessment for Robot-Assisted Surgery (MIRAS).


All applicants should have or expect to have a 1st class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in mechanical engineering, solid mechanics, materials engineering, biomedical engineering, applied physics or other related disciplines. The ideal candidate should be highly-motivated and have good written and oral communication skills as well as genuine interest in research and publishing your work. Previous experience, e.g. through a relevant undergraduate project, in experimental/computational mechanical characterisation of engineering or biological materials is desired but not essential. The project will require both individual and group work therefore effective operation in both environments is highly desired.

How to apply:

Formal applications must be made through the Heriot-Watt on-line application system: https://www.hw.ac.uk/study/apply/uk/postgraduate.htm. You will need to select ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’ in ‘Mechanical Engineering’ and insert the primary supervisor’s name in the project details. This information will help us in receiving your application.

Informal Enquiries:

Should you wish to discuss with the supervisor team before applying, please send your CV to [Email Address Removed] for an informal discussion. Please note that we will review the applications as they are received until the position is filled.

Funding Notes

Funding is available for UK or EU students who have settled or pre-settled status in the UK, and may also be available for international students. Successful candidate will be offered a 3 or 3.5 years fully-funded PhD scholarship at an average stipend rate of £15,000 per year.. The expected start date will be in summer or autumn 2022.
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