Project code



School of Mechanical and Design Engineering

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Mechanical and Design Engineering  and will be supervised by Dr Ya Huang and Dr Andrea Bucchi.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Development of a musculoskeletal model in OpenSim of lab based dynamic sitting mimicking mechanical shocks experienced by crew of fast marine crafts. The experimental data was collected with RNLI lifeboat crew body dimension, mass property, and estimated muscle dimensions.
  • Correlating hydrodynamic loads from simulation with biomechanic loads derived from the inverse dynamics computation of the musculoskeletal pipeline using six typical wave encounters extracted from collected data of sea trials. 
  • Evaluating calibration methods of multiple contact models of crew and contact interfaces.

The project intents to develop a analytical mapping algorithm to correlate biomechanic loads derived from an open-source  musculoskeletal modelling tool (Open-Sim) with hydrodynamic loads experienced by the craft. In heavy seas each ‘wave slam’ induces a high-acceleration event exposing occupants to mechanical shocks and whole-body vibration of extreme magnitudes. Storms are expected to become more common and severe due to climate change. To preserve the maritime industry, offshore wind farms and rescue services, boats will need to adapt.

The repeated impulsive load is a health threat to the musculoskeletal system. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch in the UK has considered the dynamic loading and distorted postures major contributors to spinal injuries. Employers have a duty of care to ensure that crews are protected yet have an operational pressure to operate as often as possible. Nevertheless, there is no musculoskeletal model that is valid for dynamic postures of crew, passengers and marine casualties; nor is there a model valid for wave slam loading conditions.

The School of Mechanical and Design Engineering has collaborated with the RNLI engineering team to establish the fundamental loading patterns of typical slam encounters on its fleet of lifeboats. Laboratory based dynamic sitting experiments conducted by experienced lifeboat coxswains has provided insights of the main biomechanical loads under similar shock conditions at Portsmouth. The project will start with analysing the experimental results and implement an inverse dynamic model using the OpenSim musculoskeletal modelling package. The newly developed analyser will make a significant contribution to the wider biomechanics communities for outdoor mobile systems and the marine industry. 

The algorithm developed will form a critical part of the seakeeping and shock-mitigating navigational decisions that are key to the future surface vessels for safer operations for personnel and casualties. The project is aligned with the University’s vision to build global and national partnership through the boundary-breaking themes of future transportation and intelligent systems. 

The student is expected to collaborate with project partners from areas of computing, hydrodynamic modelling, biomechanics and industrial partners in the maritime industry. Furthermore, the student is expected to attend multiple events such as conferences, project meetings, and workshops.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

You should hold an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or non-UK equivalent) in Engineering, Mechanics, Mathematics, Physics or a similar discipline. Experience in programming, biomechanics, numeric modelling and signal processing is desirable.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Ya Huang ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.


When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Mechanical and Design Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake.

When applying please quote project code: SMDE5211021.