UCL EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Integrated Imaging in Healthcare


Multimodal application of optical ultrasound imaging

Now Closed

multimodal application

28 July 2020

Now Closed - Deadline: 7th June 2020

Primary Supervisor: Dr Erwin J Alles

A 4-year PhD studentship is available in the Multimodal Interventional Sensing and Imaging (MISI) group in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering at UCL. This studentship is led by Dr. Erwin Alles and Prof. Paul Beard and is highly multi-disciplinary with expertise including optics, multimodal medical imaging, micro- and nano-fabrication and medical device integration. We have a vibrant laboratory atmosphere and close links to clinical and industrial collaborators, with both national and international academic collaborations. As a part of our group you will have access to world-leading expertise and equipment, including those available through the Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences (WEISS). The aim of the PhD project will be to investigate and develop novel optical ultrasound imaging probes designed for multimodal interventional imaging (further details below). Standard EPSRC eligibility criteria apply, please see the EPSRC website for further details. The successful candidate will join the UCL CDT in Intelligent, Integrated Imaging in Healthcare (i4health) and benefit from the activities and events organised by this centre.

Project Description
Minimally invasive interventional surgery offers great benefits in terms of patient recovery and scarring, complication rates, and overall costs. The success of such procedures critically depends on accurate and detailed visualisation of the area of interest; interventional surgery is hence often performed under advanced image guidance, such as X-ray CT or ultrasound. However, no single imaging modality offers sufficiently high resolution, penetration, and soft tissue contrast to capture the whole picture. As such, multimodal interventional imaging, where two or more imaging modalities are combined, is the subject of intense study.

Recently, all-optical ultrasound imaging has been demonstrated as a viable alternative to conventional electronic transducer technology. With this modality, ultrasound is both generated and detected using laser light and fibre-optics. As such, broad bandwidths, excellent soft tissue contrast, and miniature imaging probes can be achieved. All-optical ultrasound is thus ideally suited to interventional imaging, where space is constrained, and high-resolution images are required. In addition, using optical fibres, all-optical ultrasound imaging probes can be made immune to electromagnetic interference, thus paving the way for use in conjunction with, for instance, MRI or CT.

The aims of this PhD studentship are two-fold. First, you will design and manufacture advanced all-optical ultrasound imaging probes comprising many discrete optical ultrasound sources. In parallel, you will develop data acquisition scripts to enable real-time, video-rate 2D imaging. Second, you will use these imaging probes to perform multimodal imaging within MRI and/or CT scanners to confirm the compatibility of the imaging probes with these imaging modalities. Using a combination of imaging phantoms, pre-clinical models and human volunteer studies, you will assess the performance of the all-optical ultrasound imaging probes and quantify their interference with concurrent imaging modalities.

This is a collaborative project between the Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering department at UCL, the Wellcome/EPSRC centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences (WEISS) at UCL, and clinical collaborators at, among others, Great Ormond Street Hospital and UCLH. Each organisation hosts a range of internationally-leading research groups covering a broad range of activities, which provides a highly stimulating and multidisciplinary environment for learning and scientific research. The host department at UCL holds an Athena Swan Bronze Award, which recognises and celebrates good practice and commitment to advancing women's careers in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research. The award reflects UCL’s commitment to the advancement and promotion of diversity and equality.

Applicants must have, or expect to obtain, a UK first class or 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent international qualifications or experience) in an appropriate technical subject. The studentship would suit applicants with a background in engineering or biomedical engineering. However, applicants with degrees in physics or mathematics who are interested in developing cross-disciplinary skills are also encouraged to apply.

Applicants must have a clear interest in interventional imaging, device fabrication, and clinical translation. The applicant would be expected to have the following essential skills:

  • Well-developed experimental skills and familiarity with working safely and cleanly in a laboratory; a working knowledge of ultrasound imaging
  • a sufficient level of mathematical and numerical skills; experience in computer programming for signal analysis and data processing (e.g. in MATLAB or similar) capable of creative and critical thinking
  • in possession of excellent writing and oral communication skills
  • capable of self-management and good working habits
  • used to taking initiative
  • capable of working both independently and collaboratively

The following skills are desirable but not essential:

  • A working knowledge of optics and/or fibre-optics
  • experience with writing software for hardware control (such as LabVIEW or Arduino programming)
  • experience with rapid prototyping techniques such as CAD, 3D printing or laser cutting
  • a working knowledge of alternative imaging modalities, such as MRI or X-ray CT.

To Apply
To make an application, please send a CV, cover letter, and at least two references to Dr Erwin Alles (e.alles@ucl.ac.uk). Your letter should explain how you meet the required EPSRC eligibility criteria, detail your relevant experience, why you wish to apply for this position, why you believe you are a suitable candidate, and your long-term research and professional goals.