EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Medical Imaging

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Medical Physics and Biomedical Eng


Medical imaging has transformed clinical medicine in the last 40 years. Diagnostic imaging provides the means to probe the structure and function of the human body without having to cut open the body to see disease or injury. Imaging is sensitive to changes associated with the early stages of cancer allowing detection of disease at a sufficient early stage to have a major impact on long-term survival. Combining imaging with therapy delivery and surgery enables 3D imaging to be used for guidance, i.e. minimising harm to surrounding tissue and increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome. The UK has consistently been at the forefront of many of these developments. Despite these advances we still do not know the most basic mechanisms and aetiology of many of the most disabling and dangerous diseases. Cancer survival remains stubbornly low for many of the most common cancers such as lung, head and neck, liver, pancreas. Some of the most distressing neurological disorders such as the dementias, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and some of the more common brain cancers, still have woefully poor long term cure rates. Imaging is the primary means of diagnosis and for studying disease progression and response to treatment. To fully achieve its potential imaging needs to be coupled with computational modelling of biological function and its relationship to tissue structure at multiple scales. The advent of powerful computing has opened up exciting opportunities to better understand disease initiation and progression and to guide and assess the effectiveness of therapies. Meanwhile novel imaging methods, such as photoacoustics, and combinations of technologies such as simultaneous PET and MRI, have created entirely new ways of looking at healthy function and disturbances to normal function associated with early and late disease progression. It is becoming increasingly clear that a multi-parameter, multi-scale and multi-sensor approach combining advanced sensor design with advanced computational methods in image formation and biological systems modelling is the way forward.

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Medical Imaging will provide comprehensive and integrative doctoral training in imaging sciences and methods. The programme has a strong focus on new image acquisition technologies, novel data analysis methods and integration with computational modelling. This will be a 4-year PhD programme designed to prepare students for successful careers in academia, industry and the healthcare sector. It comprises an MRes year in which the student will gain core competencies in this rapidly developing field, plus the skills to innovate both with imaging devices and with computational methods. During the PhD (years 2 to 4) the student will undertake an in-depth study of an aspect of medical imaging and its application to healthcare and will seek innovative solutions to challenging problems. Most projects will be strongly multi-disciplinary with a principle supervisor being a computer scientist, physicist, mathematician or engineer, a second supervisor from a clinical or life science background, and an industrial supervisor when required. Each project will lie in the EPSRC's remit.

The Centre will comprise 72 students at its peak after 4 years and will be obtaining dedicated space and facilities. The participating departments are strongly supportive of this initiative and will encourage new academic appointees to actively participate in its delivery. The Centre will fill a significant skills gap that has been identified and our graduates will have a major impact in academic research in his area, industrial developments including attracting inward investment and driving forward start-ups, and in advocacy of this important and expanding area of medical engineering.

Planned Impact

The primary impact of our programme will be on the students we enrol. Our highly talented cohorts of students will be provided with the skills to lead academic research in this area, to lead industrial development and to make a significant impact as advocates of the science and engineering of their discipline. For too long, although the UK has provided extremely talented scientists, these have too often lacked the breadth and depth of engineering skills to be as competitive in the international market place as graduates from other centres in mainland Europe and North America. Nor have they been equipped with the same skills of advocacy of their science and engineering. This has led to a significant skills gap in both academia and in industry in the UK in this important area with an over reliance on attracting talented scientists and engineers from overseas. This programme will at least partially rectify this skills gap. The combination of the highest academic standards of research with excellent in depth training in core skills will mean that our cohorts of students will be in great demand and will have a significant impact within our discipline. There is already evidence that this is happening with our existing cohorts of students through conference podiums in the most prestigious venues in our field, conference prizes and high impact publications both in engineering and clinical journals.

While we expect that many of our students will find positions internationally, many of these will return and together with those that stay will provide the expertise to build academic research in this important cross-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary area and encourage inward investment from multinational medical engineering and pharmaceutical industries. Our graduates will provide the drive, determination and enthusiasm to build UK industry in this important area via start-ups and spin-outs. The training in entrepreneurship coupled with the vibrant environment we are developing within Engineering at UCL is specifically designed to encourage this activity. The students we train will provide role models for those that follow, overturning the myth that a career in this area is poorly rewarded. Our ambition is to create the next generation of entrepreneurs in Medical Imaging. We will nurture an Entrepreneurship spirit within our CDT and support the creation of spin-offs. We will aim at supporting the creation of at least 5 spin outs from our CDT cohorts over the next 8 years.

Our students will also have a major impact in the development of science and engineering within our major stakeholder, the NHS, via the NIHR, and with other healthcare providers.



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