Select the project titles below for brief summaries of each. To learn more, please contact the supervisors associated with the project in which you are interested, noting that the deadline to apply is 09 April 2017.

The Application dropdown on the PhD Studentships (2017-18) webpage details eligibility and how to apply. For any general queries not covered on these webpages, please contact

Summaries of PhD Projects

Novel neuroprotective treatments and mechanisms of injury in blast traumatic brain injury

Supervised by Dr Robert Dickinson with Professor David Sharp and Dr Mazdak Ghajari
Programme code: A3Z1DA

The prevalence of blast-TBI in recent returning veteran populations has prompted research efforts into understanding blast TBI pathophysiology. Within the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies (RBL CBIS) at Imperial College we have developed a novel rodent model of blast-TBI that demonstrates injury patterns in the same brain areas where injury is observed in human blast-TBI patients.  The aim of this project is use the model we have developed to evaluate the potential of novel therapeutic interventions that could be given to blast TBI patients after injury to limit or prevent injury progression and the resulting neurocognitive impairments.

Understanding blast-induced damage of auditory cortex in animal models at the level of neuronal circuits using EEG

Supervised by Dr Andrei Kozlov with Dr Robert Dickinson and Dr Tobias Reichenbach  
Programme code: BHZ1

Military personnel are frequently exposed to explosive blast. The ear and the auditory system are extremely sensitive to the effects of the high amplitude blast-overpressure wave. A significant proportion of military personnel exposed to blast suffer from acute and long-term hearing loss and other debilitating symptoms such a tinnitus and auditory processing disorder (APD).  This project aims to identify common signatures in EEG signals of blast-injury in the auditory cortex in both animals and humans. This will allow the development of animal models more faithfully reproducing the human conditions, and will provide insight into the shared pathophysiology.

Developing a specific magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) marker of blast trauma brain injury

Supervised by Professor David Sharp with Dr Mazdak Ghajari, Dr Peter Hellyer and Dr Stuart Harrisson
Programme code: A3Z1DM

Soldiers exposed to explosions suffer a range of brain injuries. An important focus for research is to develop ways to diagnose the effects of blast injury more specifically, as this will guide the prediction of clinical outcome and guide treatment.Advanced MRI methods such as diffusion MRI are very sensitive to subtle effects that can be missed using standard neuroimaging approaches. However, many of the imaging changes are non-specific for the different effects of blast TBI. Primary blast waves are known to produce damage at tissue interfaces. This potentially provides a specific marker of blast exposure. We have recently shown in a model of bTBI that exposure to an isolated primary blast wave produces damage to the fluid/brain interface in the ependyma, which lines the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filled ventricles. This project aims to extend this recent work by specifically investigating the hypothesis that damage at CSF/brain interface assessed using advanced MRI is a specific marker of blast TBI.

Optimising an offloading orthosis for severe foot and ankle injuries

Supervised by Dr Spyros Masouros with Dr Arul Ramasamy
Programme code: BHZ1

 The “deck-slap” foot has been a signature injury in recent conflicts for mounted troops. Work primarily led by our research group has shown that injuries at the foot and ankle, and especially at the calcaneus and the tibial plafond, are associated with very poor outcomes. The overall aim of this project is to improve the functional outcome provided by foot & ankle orthoses, such as the intrepid dynamic exoskeletal orthosis (IDEO) brace, after battlefield foot & ankle trauma. We propose to develop engineering tools and run a cohort study in order to inform an evidence-based improved orthosis tailored to user need and functionality.

Understanding socket pressure and activity and how this is influenced by daily function and prosthetic fit

Supervised by Professor Alison McGregor with Dr Ravi Vaidyanathan
Programme code: A3Z1DA

Major limb amputation affects up to six-thousand people a year in England alone, with recent conflicts such as Afghanistan and Iraq contributing often complex residual limbs to the amputee populace. Poor fitting sockets can cause immense amounts of discomfort for a prosthetic user, which discourages use of the prosthetic limb and can lead to reliance on a wheelchair. A current PhD has seen the start of the evolution of a smart socket to assess pressure distribution within an amputee socket. This project will seek to establish the utility of this device in relation to socket and prosthetic fit, quantification of pressure fluctuations during functional tasks and its ability to provide biofeedback to both the amputee and their rehabilitation team. The long term aim is to provide a prosthetic fitting tool and a metrics to assess stump health and wellbeing.

Understanding spinal loading and posture in amputees

Supervised by Professor Alison McGregor with Professor Anthony Bull
Programme code: A3Z1DA

The UK has 62,000 amputees, with approximately 6,000 new amputations performed annually. However, recent military conflicts have created a new generation of traumatic amputees including a complex mix of unilateral, bilateral lower extremity (trans-femoral, through-knee and trans-tibial), and upper limb amputees. Low back pain is highly prevalent in amputees, and it is associated with degenerative changes in the spine. The aims of this project are to understand the problem of lower back pain in amputees in those with and without associated spinal trauma, quantify spinal posture, motion and loading during daily activities in order to develop recommendations on spinal health for amputees.

The development and deployment of time-resolved pressure sensors in biological environments

Supervised by Dr Bill Proud with Dr Mansoor Khan
Programme code: F3ZP

There are a number of on-going CBIS projects which aim to study the effects of blast loading on specific organs or tissues. Such studies often use a scaling factor or transmission factor to relate external pressure to the pressures seen within a sample. This project will focus on the development of several different, miniaturised probes to be deployed within the biological sample under study. As such it will provide time resolved data on the material response, without requiring severe disruption of the sample. The use of such probes will be key to the detailed understanding of the dynamic response of often complex structures.

Modelling primary blast injury responses in vitro

Supervised by Dr Claire Higgins
Programme code: BHZ1

The extent of injury is often a clinical determinant for Heterotopic Ossification (HO), suggesting that high energy trauma may exacerbate osteoblast development. HO does not always occur at the site of injury, but can be proximal to the wound, indicating that both local and systemic factors attribute to HO. Work to date in our lab has investigated the direct effect of the blast wave on mesenchymal cells, it is clear from the literature however that the systemic response to blast has a key role in HO. In this research project, we wish to evaluate that response, assessing the systemic factors which are elevated after traumatic injury and their role in the promotion of inappropriate ossification in vitro. This study will produce a Boolean network which describes the cellular response to a systemic inflammatory response with the hopes of proposing therapeutic targets to prevent the response.

Along with these pre-determined projects, the Centre welcomes proposals for open projects that have a clear link with the prospective supervisor’s research area, which can include the following:

  • computational and experimental biomechanics
  • tissue mechanics and material characterisation of soft tissues
  • cellular and molecular bioengineering
  • sensory neuroscience
  • physical injury models and characterisation of mitigation systems
  • shock physics and effects of blast in injury severity

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