PhD Studentship Biomechanical Assessment of Head-Neck Mobility in Patients with Motor Neurone Disease

Supervisor: Dr Claudia Mazzà

We have a vacancy for a bright, enthusiastic and self-motivated PhD student to join the INSIGNEO Institute for In Silico Medicine at the University of Sheffield, working in collaboration with the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITRAN) and Devices for Dignity (D4D).

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is an adult onset neurodegenerative disorder characterised by degeneration of motor neurones in the cerebral cortex, brainstem and spinal cord. It results in progressive muscular weakness, wasting and paralysis which typically causes death within 3-5 years of onset. Many people with MND develop weak neck muscles, leading to pain and restricted movement, as well as problems with swallowing, breathing and communication.

Innovative head collars have been proposed to alleviate these problems, but their effects on a patient’s movement ability still need to be assessed to favour their clinical adoption. The purpose of this PhD will be to develop a method for the quantitative and subject specific assement of head-neck mobility, sensitive enough to couple with the rapid and typically unforeseeable progression of MND.

The advanced measurement protocol, signal processing techniques and musculoskeletal models that will be devised in this project will not only allow the objective validation of an intervention that is expected to have a significant impact on enhancing the patient’s quality of life, but also provide an indication of future progress in the design of neck collars for patients with NMD.

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As part of INSIGNEO, the Integrated Musculo Skeletal Biomechanics (IMSB) group aims to investigate the biomechanical function of the musculoskeletal system for the diagnosis and treatment of neuromusculoskeletal disorders. The group includes a unique mix of expertise, ranging from cellular to whole body level. Within the ISMB group, the student will work under the supervision of Dr Claudia Mazzà, in collaboration with Prof. Wendy Tindale from D4D and Dr Christopher McDermott from SITRAN.

Candidate Profile

Candidates must hold a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, bioengineering or a related discipline. Prior experience with movement analysis and signal processing is required. Experience with wearable devices is preferred, but can also be learned as required.

Candidates should be creative and have the ability to carry out independent research and interact within an international research team and with patients. We are interested in individuals with excellent communication skills, who are able to work in an interdisciplinary team and contribute to the visibility of our group in the international scientific community. The ability to interact with other disciplines is essential.

Further Information

This studentship is funded by the University of Sheffield and is available immediately. A tax-free stipend of £15,000 per annum is available for three years, plus tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. Applicants from outside the UK or EU will only be considered if they are able to pay the difference between student fees at the home and overseas rate themselves.

For further information and an informal discussion please email Dr Claudia Mazzà:

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To apply, please use the on-line PhD application form by clicking on the Apply button below. Please include your CV and two references and indicate on your form that you are replying to this advert.

Application Deadline: 20 September 2013

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