Funding

Funded PhD Project (UK and EU students only)

Project code

ENGN4820119

Faculty

School of Energy and Electronic Engineering

Start dates

Closing date

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in February 2019.

The PhD will be based in the School of Energy and Electronic Engineering and will be supervised by Professor Peter Kyberd.

The bursary is available to UK and EU students only and covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant in line with the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018/19) for three years. The Faculty of Technology may fund project costs/consumables up to £1,500 p.a.

On this project, you will:

  • ​Develop experimental protocol
  • Develop apparatus
  • Gain ethical approval for experiments with healthy volunteers
  • Recruit volunteers
  • Conduct experiments with volunteers
  • Analyse data
  • Gain ethical approval for experiments with prosthesis users
  • Recruit volunteer users
  • Conduct experiments with users
  • Analyse data
  • Write up and present results

The mechanical design of prosthetic hands has greatly improved in the last decade, but the level of control of those hands has not developed as quickly. Compared to the amount and types of feedback experienced by a person with a natural hand, powered prosthetic hands have very limited feedback, usually only visual.

Internal feedback to the nerves of the user is still difficult and will be expensive for the foreseeable future  but non-invasive feedback to the skin is a more practical and immediately achievable aim.

When other forms of feedback, such as force, are applied to prosthetic limbs they tend not to improve the functional performance of the operator. This could be because the feedback is not of the right form or perhaps fed to the user in the wrong way. This project aims to investigate why feedback forms are not usable, and to find ways to improve the performance by adopting the correct approach.

The successful candidate will study the use of feedback to enhance prosthetic grasping. You'll begin by creating tests and using unimpaired volunteers explore the limits of different feedback modalities – from vibration to force, heat to pressure, and the different senses being reproduced (force, touch, motion, proprioception and temperature).

The tests will include sensory substitution, where one external sense is replaced by another fed back (for example, force for vibration). The tests will involve both Virtual Reality as well as physical simulation of grasping and manipulation, and will explore which sense is useful, under which circumstances.

When the tests have sufficiently improved our understanding of the problem  and identified the most effective solutions  the tests will be adapted so they can be applied to users of prosthetic limbs in the lab. As a stretch goal, the systems may be further adapted for use in the field by a selected few prosthesis wearers.

Entry requirements

  • You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) in Engineering, Bioengineering, Applied Psychology or a related subject, or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject, and a desire to excel as a researcher together with disciplined work habits.
  • Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered.
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

You must be familiar with programing techniques and prepared to learn to work with electromechanical hardware, when appropriate. You’ll have significant interaction with volunteer subjects (general population and prosthesis users), must be able to apply for ethical permission and recruit volunteers.

In particular, we’d welcome candidates with:

  • programming skills
  • good interpersonal skills
  • an engineering or psychology degree
  • mathematical knowledge
  • interest in biomedical engineering
  • flexible approach

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Peter Kyberd (Peter.Kyberd@port.ac.uk) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code. For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact Linda Janes (linda.janes@port.ac.uk).

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Energy and Electronic Engineering’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

Please note: be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code ENGN4820119 when applying.