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Faculty of Engineering

PhD Studentship - UK/EU

EPSRC DTP: Sensing and Actuation Technologies for Soft Surgical Robots
School of Mechanical Engineering

New medical devices have enabled many of the most significant developments in modern medicine, including minimally invasive surgery (MIS) and endoscopy. Complex intra-abdominal surgeries can now be performed through a number of small (1 - 4cm) incisions, while endoscopes make it possible to perform diagnostic imaging, biopsies and simple interventions in areas like the digestive system and urinary tract without breaking the skin. The massive reduction in trauma associated with this minimally invasive approach leads to significant benefits including reduced risk of post-operative complications and shorter recovery time. However, there remain many technical challenges that could be solved by innovative devices. One area with potential for truly groundbreaking advances is intracorporeal robotics. Small, semi-autonomous mobile devices could enter the body through an incision or natural orifice before moving to a site of interest to perform tasks ranging from simple imaging and diagnostics to complex interventions.

To facilitate next-generation MIS through the advancement of soft-robotic sensing and actuation technologies.

Studentship Details
There are two closely interrelated PhD studentships available, with one focussing on actuation and the other on sensing. Indeed, two key challenges which must be addressed to enable next-generation medical robotics are the development of actuation and sensing technologies which are small, biocompatible and inherently atraumatic. These paired PhDs will address these issues by exploring, developing and evaluating novel and fundamental engineering science in the domains of actuation and sensing. This is a rich and fertile field of research that will leverage the advanced manufacturing capabilities of the new EPSRC National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems at Leeds to develop enabling technologies for current and future medical robotics research at Leeds and worldwide.
Both PhDs will begin with a thorough review of the current state-of-the-art in bioinspired and biocompatible sensing and actuation systems and their associated manufacturing techniques. The research emphasis will be on developing novel design and fabrication techniques for soft-robotic actuators and sensors. This will integrate the design, modelling, manufacture and evaluation of these systems. Ultimately these will be developed toward a clinical demonstrator system to showcase the future potential of the underlying engineering science.

These EPSRC DTP studentships will be for 3.5 years and are available to candidates from the UK and EU. The studentship will cover UK/EU fees at the rate of £3,975 and maintenance of £13,863.

UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been establish for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.

Number Available: 2

Research Environment
The successful candidates will join the vibrant Surgical Technologies research group based in the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds, a department that consistently receives excellent ratings for its research in all government assessments. There will be scope for extensive interdisciplinary collaboration with scientists and engineers in other Schools and Faculties and with clinicians at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

These PhDs will be co-supervised by a multidisciplinary team (Prof. Anne Neville, Dr. Pete Culmer, Dr. Jordan Boyle and Prof. David Jayne) who between them have extensive experience across a range of relevant disciplines.

Please make initial enquiries to Dr Peter Culmer ( or Dr Jordan Boyle (

Entry requirements
The successful candidate will have an honours degree (minimum 2:1) in an Engineering or Physical Sciences discipline from a good University. Additional experience (e.g. an MSc or industrial experience) and/or a first class degree are desirable but not essential. An inquisitive, creative mind and the initiative to work independently are essential attributes.

Application deadline: 19 September 2014

How to apply
Formal applications for research degree study should be made on-line through the university's website.  Please state clearly on the funding section of the application form that you wish to be considered for scholarship ‘Sensing and Actuation Technologies for Soft Surgical Robots’. In the research information section please state the names Dr P Culmer and Dr J Boyle.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e:, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.