PhD Studentship Modelling human skull growth and the effect of craniosynostosis

Applications are invited for a fully funded 3 year PhD studentship to work on an exciting multidisciplinary project to model the growth of the human skull and investigate the effects of abnormalities in that growth process. The position is based within the Medical and Biological Engineering Research Group at the University of Hull, and is in collaboration with the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford and Craniofacial Unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital Oxford. Together the team provide world-leading expertise in bone and skull modelling, the biology and genetics of craniosynostosis and surgical management of the condition.


The human skull consists of many bones that are joined together along their edges by dense soft tissues called sutures. Once the brain and skull have reached their full adult size, the sutures fuse together to create a single bony structure. Premature closure of the sutures (craniosynostosis) occurs in 1 in 2500 births and may result in functional abnormalities of craniofacial system unless there is surgical intervention. However, even after intervention, some children redevelop raised intracranial pressure requiring further surgical procedure.

The aim of this research project is to understand how the biomechanical forces (especially from the growing brain) interact with the soft tissue structures and individual bone plates to shape the skulls of infants, and to understand how craniosynostosis affects normal development. The long term goal of the work is to provide advice to surgeons on when to operate and how best to manage the condition from a biomechanical point of view to ensure the best possible outcome for the child. In particular, this PhD studentship will focus on the following aspects: (1) modelling skull growth in normal and craniosynostotic human skulls; (2) development of an experimental laboratory model of human skull growth; and (3) demonstration of the application to patient-specific models to show how the work could assist in surgical management of craniosynostosis to minimise the need for reoperation. 

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Person Specification

Applicants should have at least a 2.1 honours degree (or predicted) in an appropriate Engineering discipline with experience in finite element analysis. Previous experience in experimental techniques, use of ANSYS finite element analysis software, image processing, and geometric morphometric methods would be an advantage.

Financial Support

This full-time PhD Scholarship will include fees at the ‘home/EU’ student rate and maintenance (£14,013 in 2013/14, subject to final confirmation) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress. Non ‘home/EU’ students may apply with the maintenance award being transferred towards the difference in their tuition fee.

Applications and enquiries
Applications should be made via the University’s online application system:

Closing date 12th July, with interviews held on 23rd July 2013 and successful applicants being informed of the award by 26th July 2013. The studentship will start late September 2013.

PhD students at the University of Hull also follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.

The project supervisors are Dr Mehran Moazen and Prof Michael Fagan.  See: 

For further information please contact Dr M Moazen. (Email:; tel: 01482 466760, School of Engineering, University of Hull).

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