Biomechanics in Hip Structural Pathology and Associated Risk of Fracture - Engineering - EPSRC DTP funded PhD Studentship Ref: 2963

About the award

This project is one of a number funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Doctoral Training Partnership to commence in September 2018. This project is in direct competition with others for funding; the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding.

The studentships will provide funding for a stipend which is currently £14,553 per annum for 2017-2018. It will provide research costs and UK/EU tuition fees at Research Council UK rates for 42 months (3.5 years) for full-time students, pro rata for part-time students.

Please note that of the total number of projects within the competition, up to 15 studentships will be filled.

Dr. Junning Chen
Professor Christopher Smith
Professor Rizhi Wang

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Project Description
This project investigates microstructural changes in abnormal hip joint morphology by using microCT and inverse engineering, to provide biomechanical insights on clinical diagnosis, femur fracture risk and patient-specific treatment planning.

Over the last decade, an increasing effort has been dedicated in diagnosis and management of abnormal bone morphology at the hip joint, such as femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), due to its severe consequences including hip pain, restricted range of motion, degenerative arthritis and increasing fracture risk.

The NHS Foundation Trust estimated 30% for the general prevalence of FAI in U.K., and Warwick Hospital’s survey suggested 55-78% in the elder population. In 2010, more than 2,400 invasive surgeries were conducted in England on FAI, costing from £6,000 to £11,000 in each case, without counting other conservative treatments or emergency associated with femur fracture. A recent study suggested that the economic cost for clinically significant FAI treatment and long-term care exceeded rotator cuff tear and knee ligament rupture, and close to knee osteoarthritis (£1.34 billion in 2010). In the meantime, there is a rising trend of FAI in young patients, with 90% prevalence in particular groups, such as soccer players and athletes. However, there is very little information on pathological difference for this young group to the elder, and there is no effective preventive measure implemented.

Despite the clinical and economic significance, several questions remain to be answered, 1) what is the 3-dimensional microstructural change in FAI behind morphological abnormality; 2) how such changes can be associated with standard clinical assessments, such as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA); 3) how the biomechanics of the femur is affected, such as its integrity and associated fracture risk; and 4) how to provide predictive prognosis after surgical treatment in FAI patients for the secondary fracture risk assessment.

This project aims to quantitatively analyse the microstructure variation in 17 cadaver femurs (elder population) scanned by high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (hr-pQCT) and assess their biomechanical differences by subject-specific finite element modelling. The research outcomes will 1) in biomechanics, reveal the influences of FAI on hip integrity and risk of fracture; 2) in biomedical physics, provide fundamental understanding of tissue responses to mechanical stimulus at different stages of this pathological condition; 3) in clinical practise, develop a patient-specific framework for a) associating existing assessment methods for early diagnosis and b) customized surgical planning and in-silico testing platform for post-surgical fracture risk assessment.

The student will be required to perform
-image segmentation on pre-acquired hr-pQCT images
-structural analysis of cortical and trabecular bone conditions
-correlation to clinical assessments (performed by the collaborating orthopaedic surgeons in Canada)
-reverse engineering modelling based on segmented image sets
-finite element analysis for alternated load distribution patterns and high risk regions of fracture
-and potentially in-silico surgical simulation and analysis based on such a subject-specific platform.
The student will be encouraged to travel to University of British Columbia, Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre in Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, and top international conferences to present the research outcome.

A successful candidate should have
-Outstanding inter-personal and communication skills to work in an interdisciplinary team and international collaborators;
-Sufficient knowledge of finite element analysis;
-Experience in using Computer-aided design packages.

Experience in clinical image segmentation, 3D printing and Instron testing will be desired but not necessary.

This studentship will be awarded based on a competitive basis for a minimum of 3.5 years.

Entry Requirements
You should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or equivalent, in mechanical or material engineering. Experience in medical image segmentation and finite element analysis is desirable.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

The majority of the studentships are available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK and are classed as UK/EU for tuition fee purposes.  If you have not resided in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship, you are not eligible for a maintenance allowance so you would need an alternative source of funding for living costs. To be eligible for fees-only funding you must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU.  For information on EPSRC residency criteria click here.

Applicants who are classed as International for tuition fee purposes are NOT eligible for funding. International students interested in studying at the University of Exeter should search our funding database for alternative options.


Application deadline:10th January 2018
Value:3.5 year studentship: UK/EU tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Research Council rate. Current rate of £14,553 per year.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Doctoral

How to apply

You will be required to upload the following documents:
•       CV
•       Letter of application outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to
        undertake the project.
•       Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.  This should be an interim
        transcript if you are still studying.
•       If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your current
        proficiency in English.  For further details of the University’s English language requirements please see

The closing date for applications is midnight (GMT) on Wednesday 10 January 2018.  Interviews will be held at the University of Exeter in late February 2018.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email:
Project-specific queries should be directed to the supervisor.

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to:

• the selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
• administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme.

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent.