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University of Nottingham/National Rehabilitation Centre PhD Studentship (2022)

Physics

Location:  UK Other
Closing Date:  Friday 03 March 2023
Reference:  SCI2153

Opportunities to work with quantum enabled human brain imaging

The University of Nottingham in partnership with the National Rehabilitaiton Centre seeks to appoint a PhD student working on applications of quantum enabled magnetoencephalography (MEG) in rehabilitation.

MEG measures magnetic fields generated by current flow through neuronal assemblies in the brain. In this way, it offers a unique picture of human brain function, able to track the dynamics of brain networks in real time, as they form and dissolve to support cognition. MEG represents the only way to track human brain activity with millisecond temporal precision and millimetre spatial accuracy. 

Conventional MEG scanners are large cumbersome devices, weighing approximately half a tonne. The sensors used to detect the magnetic fields must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures (-269 degrees). Consequently, sensor arrays are fixed in space; this means systems give poor brain coverage (especially in children) and patients must stay very still for long periods during a scan. In addition, scanners are prohibitively expensive for mainstream use. The University of Nottingham’s new “quantum enabled” MEG scanner employs novel sensors which do not require cryogenic cooling. The current prototype device comprises 50 of these sensors mounted in a hat. The system therefore adapts to any head shape/size and moves with the patient – enabling free movement during a scan. The system also offers higher sensitivity and vastly improved spatial precision at much lower cost.

The available studentship is a partnership between the University of Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy (where the MEG system is based) and the newly established national rehabilitation centre (https://www.thednrc.org.uk/). Here, the student will work with medical physicists and clinicians to deploy our MEG system in patients recovering from traumatic brain injury. The process of rehabilitation depends critically on brain plasticity (a process of circuit remapping in which neurons that survive the injury are somehow recruited to assume new responsibilities to take over the role of neurons that died). Our new system represents the most sensitive way to monitor this process. By scanning patients’ multiple times over the course of their recovery we will map the neural substrates that underlie plasticity, and therefore rehabilitation. This will allow MEG-based biomarkers of recovery to be developed, forging a path for testing future intervention in which longitudinal MEG assessment will track efficacy of intervention and inform patient management decisions.

The successful candidate should be able to demonstrate, 1) high level computer programming skills 2) experience of working either in a rehabilitation setting, or with people with neurological problems (clinical experience) and 3) good grasp of fundamental mathematics/physics.

Successful applicants will be registered in The School of Physics and based between the School of Physics and the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham. They will be expected to spend a proportion of their time in clinical rehabilitation settings.

Funding

Each studentship comes with a yearly stipend at current RCUK rates (£17,668) plus Home/EU tuition fees (£4596). Full time (3 years) or part time study (up to 6 years, pro rata funding) is possible. Applicants would also be encouraged to maintain clinical activity.

Applying for the PhDs

Applicants should have a 2.1 or higher Honours degree in a relevant discipline, a good knowledge of healthcare and an interest in applied, healthcare improvement research; 

Applicants with a Masters degree are especially welcomed to apply; 

Home/EU candidates only due to funding restrictions;

To apply, applicants should send the following information to Patricia.Dziunka@nottingham.ac.uk 

  • A personal statement (maximum 1000 words) demonstrating how your experience to date prepares you to undertake this PhD [this would depend on the criteria having been made explicit in the advert]
  • A current CV (2 pages maximum);
  • 2 full references – not contact details (references can be sent separately, directly to Patricia.Dziunka@nottingham.ac.uk, if wished);
  • PDF Copies of your degree certificates and transcripts, and if appropriate, professional registration details;
  • Evidence of English Language proficiency (IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any element, or equivalent) if your first language is not English;

For more information or informal enquiries, please contact Prof. Matt Brookes: matthew.brookes@nottingham.ac.uk 

Please quote ref: University of Nottingham/ National Rehabilitation Centre PhD Studentship (2022)

Closing date: 23.59pm (BST) on 3rd March 2023. Applications received after this time will not be considered. Applications not including any of the above information will not be shortlisted.  

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interviews, which will be held in Nottingham or via MS Teams on the 23rd March 2023. 

The fellowship would commence 1st July 2023.

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