PhD student projects

Find out about the work of our PhD students and their supervisors.

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    A virtual assistant for promoting independent recovery and wellness

    Nikhil RejiStudent: Nikhil Reji
    Supervisory team: Dr Paolo Paoletti, Dr Kris D’Aout, Dr Ganesh Bavikatte

    Ageing is often associate with loss of muscle mass and function, leading to decreased independence and increased risk of injury (e.g. falls). Neurological conditions and physical injuries make this problem even worse. In this project the student will create a platform to allow (semi-)independent rehabilitation and promote active lifestyles in older people. Such a platform will consist of low-cost hardware (RGB and potentially depth cameras) and software that can track the movement of the subject in the camera field of view, check that the activity is done following clinical guidelines and assess the quality of movement.

    Helping hand: A soft assistive device for upper-limb rehabilitation and assisted living

    Student: Sam Hills
    Supervisory team: Dr Paolo PaolettiDr James Gardiner, Dr Sebastiano Fichera, Dr Ganesh Bavikatte

    Ageing is often associated with losses in muscle mass and function, leading to decreased independence and increased risk of injury. The effects of this loss of muscle performance can be partially mitigated by physical activity (e.g. exercise and physiotherapy) and assistive devices. However, the length of therapy provided by NHS is limited due to budget constraints and current assistive devices are often expensive, difficult to design and not user friendly. This project will utilise new advances in soft-robotic technology to design an upper-limb assistive device that overcomes many of the limitations of traditional devices and aids in the rehabilitation and independent living of older people.

    Development of electrospun fibre membranes to support pluripotent stem cell differentiation and delivery of trabecular meshwork cells

    Devon CrouchPhD student: Devon Crouch
    PhD supervisors: Dr Lucy Bosworth, Dr Carl Sheridan and Dr Raechelle D'Sa

    Positioned in the anterior chamber of the eye, the trabecular meshwork drains aqueous humour through its multi-tiered, highly porous structure into the vascular system.  Trabecular meshwork cells are responsible for maintaining the tissue, but ageing and disease reduces its cellularity, resulting in tissue degeneration and blockage of the pores, which leads to fluid build-up and an increase in intra-ocular pressure. This results in glaucoma, the primary cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

    This project aims to develop an electrospun substrate able to support trabecular meshwork cell phenotype and act as a delivery vehicle to repopulate and regenerate the diseased trabecular meshwork.

    Exploring socio-economic and geographic variation in care pathways and their resulting health and economic outcomes for older populations

    James WatsonPhD Student: James Watson
    Supervisors: Dr Fran Darlington-Pollock, Dr Clarissa Giebel, Dr Mark Green, Dr Asan Akpan

    Increasing health and social inequalities have resulted in an even greater need for effective targeting and uptake of services.  This is emphasised even more amongst our most vulnerable populations, such as older people.  An ageing population means a greater number of older people in need of, and potentially accessing, care.  This project aims to identify variations in care pathways for older adults, with a particular emphasis on how these pathways vary across different geographic and socioeconomic groups.  The primary output will be a predictive algorithm using machine learning techniques, with the aim of predicting the best route through care for individuals; both for optimal, personalised care for the patient and cost-effectiveness for the health and social care system.

    The Design and Development of Bone Assist Devices to Aid and Enhance Bone Tissue Regeneration.

    Student: Joe Barnes
    Supervisors:  Dr Jude CurranDr Raechelle D’Sa and Dr James Henstock
    Commercial support from Fusion Implant

    The prevalence of osteoporosis is increasing with an ageing population and there is a direct clinical need to tackle the issue of poor bone regeneration associated with the disease that directly affects recovery from fragility fractures. These issues are especially relevant in the treatment of fracture sites located at the outer extremities and radius, and poor repair at these sites can lead to enhanced pain, decreased mobility and a reduction in the quality of life. To address this issue, we propose to develop a biodegradable multilayer electrospun membrane for treatments of bone defects via Guided Bone Regeneration (GBR), which will minimize bacterial infection via the production of an antifouling/antimicrobial layer (AL) and support osteogenesis with the incorporation a surface engineered biologically functional layer (FL).

    Degradable microneedle arrays for user-directed nanomedicine delivery for the treatment of glaucoma

    PhD Student: Elliot Croft
    Supervisors: Dr Helen Cauldbeck and Tom McDonald

    Gaia Lugano

    This project involves the design and development of drug containing microneedle arrays (MNs) for the treatment of glaucoma; the leading cause of global irreversible blindness, which increases in prevalence with advancing age. Due to MNs sub-micron size they provide a minimally invasive, user directed, sustained drug administration route. MNs will be designed and developed using polymers from FDA approved drug therapies and their chemical and mechanical properties optimised for administration. Comparisons between the efficacy of traditional glaucoma treatments (eye drops) and MNs containing therapeutics will be assessed using radiometric analysis and an ex vivo corneal model.


    Plasma activated liquids for the high-level disinfection of flexible endoscopes

    Naomi NorthagePhD Student: Naomi Northage
    Supervisors: Dr James Walsh and Dr Mal Horsburgh

    The use of flexible endoscopic devices has become a major feature of modern clinical practice, both for diagnostic applications and surgical interventions. The nature of these devices makes them difficult to clean and disinfect effectively, with over 50% of normally functioning scopes showing evidence of some biofilm formation. This project seeks to develop an innovative new disinfection technology for endoscope reprocessing using non-equilibrium gas plasma. Working with clinical and industrial partners, a plasma device will be developed to eradicate biofilm contamination from within the narrow lumens typical of endoscopic devices.

    Bioengineering a model of the outer blood retinal barrier to test treatments for diabetic retinopathy

    PhD student: Gaia Lugano
    Supervisors: Dr Victoria KearnsDr Hannah Levis and Dr Tom McDonald

    This project aims to engineer a diabetic model of part of the eye and use it to study nanomedicines. Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease and growing problem in the older population. Diabetic eye diseases can lead to sight loss, significantly reducing the quality of life of those affected. Nanomedicines have significant potential to treat diabetic eye diseases. Clinically-relevant models of the diabetic retina will help accelerate the design and translation of new treatments. Gaia will work across the Departments of Eye and Vision Science and Chemistry, developing a wide range of bioengineering and chemistry skills. She will also benefit from clinical supervision and patient interaction, and collaborate with an industrial partner to gain additional technical and commercial skills.


    Antimicrobial coatings for the prevention of catheter associated infections

    Graeme PittPhD student: Graeme Pitt
    Supervisors: Dr Raechelle D’Sa and Dr Jo Fothergill

    Catheter associated urinary tract infections (CA-UTIs) are amongst the most common nosocomial infections and the primary cause of a complication of indwelling urinary catheters.  UTIs are the most commonly diagnosed infections in older adults and account for over a third of all nursing home-associated infections.  Once an infection occurs, the current treatment regime involves the use of antibiotics which is problematic given the rise multidrug resistance pathogens.  The aim of this studentship is to develop novel antimicrobial coatings without the use of antibiotics for prevention and treatment of CA-UTIs. 

    Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Modelling for the Optimisation of Complex Clinical Scenario in Elderly Individuals

    PhD student: Sandra Granana Castillo
    Supervisors: Dr Marco Siccardi and Professor Rachel Bearon

    The efficacy and toxicity of drugs can be complicated by a broad variety of factors including patient characteristics such as age and co-morbidities. Older individuals are prone to multi-morbidities, hence polypharmacy and consequently have higher probability of drug–drug interactions (DDIs). DDI can jeopardise the clinical management of therapies and complicate the prescription of treatments. Adverse drug reactions caused by DDIs can represent more than 20% of all reported side effects. The aim of this project is to utilise advanced experimental and mathematical tools for the simulation of clinical scenario, supporting the prediction of DDI and relative risks in elderly patients.

    Risk communication with people in later life

    Student: Elfriede Derrer-Merk

    Supervisory team: Professor Kate BennettProfessor Scott Ferson and Dr Adam Manis

    Older people face many challenges throughout their lifetime. People who overcome challenges can be termed resilient. Some of the challenges faced by older people involve uncertainties, for example in health, social circumstance, cognitive status. This project will identify the uncertainties of most concern to older people. The role those uncertainties may, or may not have, on resilience outcomes will be investigated.  If uncertainty does impact on resilience, then I will aim to develop a proof of concept for an intervention and or communication tool to manage uncertainty and promote resilience. The findings will be communicated widely to older people, practitioners and policy makers.