Biomechanics, Biomedical Engineering and Human Movement Sciences
PhD/MPhil/MSc by research

  • Part-time study available
  • Distance Learning
  • International Students can apply

Key Information

Start Dates: October, January, April and July
Duration:

MSc by Research (One year full-time or two years part-time) 

Master of Philosophy (MPhil; one year full-time or two years part-time) 

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD; three years full-time, distance learning or five years part-time)

Subject Overview

Foot and Ankle Research

Led by Professor Chris Nester, this research area provides an opportunity for you to learn about the relationship between foot structures (bones, ligaments, muscles/tendons) and foot biomechanical function during walking, running or other sports activity. You can also learn how feet are affected by injury (e.g. Achilles sports injury), disease (e.g. diabetes or arthritis) or the changes that occur due to aging. This degree can also enable you to research how insole, footwear or physical therapy interventions affect the foot and ankle. This can include development of novel footwear/insole devices.

More information about Foot and Ankle Research

Gait Biomechanics

This research group is led by Professor Richard Baker and focuses on addressing the understanding of walking and the description and measurement of walking. Around 10% of all adults experience some difficulties walking. We believe that many of these people can be enabled to walk more easily through a better understanding of how clinical interventions can improve walking and that this in turn must be based on a better understanding of why we walk the way we do and improved techniques for describing and measuring the way individuals walk (clinical gait analysis).

More information about Gait Biomechanics

Knee Biomechanics and Injury

Led by Dr. Richard Jones the principal aim of this research area is to undertake investigative clinical biomechanics research in healthy and pathological populations to gain an increased understanding into the movement of the knee joint. There is a multi-disciplinary approach combining healthcare professions with orthopedic surgeons to biomechanists. This would therefore develop a range of research into conditions such as osteoarthritis, anterior cruciate ligament injury, patellofemoral pain syndrome and major injuries and surgery to the knee joint.

More information about Knee Biomechanics and Injury

Functional Electrical Stimulation and other Rehabilitation Technologies

Led by Dr. Laurence Kenney and Professor David Howard (School of Computing, Science and Engineering) within this research area we are focusing on the biomechanical aspects of the design and development of new functional electrical stimulation (FES) prosthetic and orthotic technologies, as well as their evaluation using wearable sensors.

More information about Functional Electrical Stimulation and other Rehabilitation Technologies

In the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 more than 80% of the School’s research was ranked as of ‘international quality’. Within the UK and Europe we are in the top 5% of research groups based in academic departments related to podiatry, physiotherapy, prosthetics, orthotics, occupational therapy, sports science and sports rehabilitation.

You will also be able to do this PhD by distance learning with an October or April start date. 

Related Courses

MSc Advancing Physiotherapy

MSc Sports Injury Rehabilitation

MSc Trauma and Orthopaedics

PGCert Lower Limb Health, Disease and Rehabilitation

Entry Requirements

1st class or upper second class undergraduate degree
Masters degree is preferred but not essential. However, applicants without a Masters degree should provide evidence of previous research methods training.

APEL – We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English requirement for non-UK/ EU students
Overall IELTS score of at least 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any one element.

We offer four entry points – October, January, April and July. Applications can be submitted at any point within the year.

Applicant Profile

You should have a first degree that provides a foundation in the principles of mechanics and scientific practice. This could include an Engineering, or Physics degree but also Sports Science and other applied science degrees. Evidence of ability to study and critically appraise literature independently is essential and candidates with a Masters qualification are preferred. Experience of experimental research involving human participants is also preferable but is not essential.

As a student embarking on a postgraduate research degree you will be assigned a supervisory team, to help guide and mentor you throughout your time at the University. However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning and will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need and be proactive in your approach to study.

All students will be required to attend for an interview.

International Students - Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

International Students are required by the Home Office and/or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate before they begin studying their course. You may need to obtain an ATAS Certificate before you come to the UK in order for you to comply with Home Office regulations. Please refer to your offer conditions.

You can find out if your programme requires an ATAS by checking the FCO website at https://www.gov.uk/academic-technology-approval-scheme with your JACS code which will be on your offer letter should you choose to make an application. If you cannot find it please contact International Conversion team at application@salford.ac.uk. If you have any queries relating directly to ATAS please contact the ATAS team on Salford-ATAS@salford.ac.uk.

You can apply for your ATAS Certificate via this link: https://www.atas.fco.gov.uk/

Current Student Research

Research Topics

Michael McGrath – 2nd year PhD student

Project: Appropriately complex models of human walking

The modeling of human gait is a concept that has applications in a wide range of fields such as prosthetics, robotics and rehabilitation. Theoretical models of human walking tend to fall into one of two categories; simple, dynamic approximations or multiple degrees-of-freedom, computer generated, complex ones. My project starts with the simple models and increases the complexity incrementally. This methodology is used to determine if there is an optimum trade-off between the complexity of the model and accuracy of result. In addition to this, it highlights the effect each subsequent change causes, which could prove useful in improving the understanding of the determinants of gait.

Daniel Parker – 3rd year PhD student

Project: Soft Tissue Response Imaging Device to assess the Properties of the Sole of the Foot.

The soft tissue at the heel and ball of the foot is a highly adapted shock absorber which allows for both impact (heel strike) and continuous loading (standing). The tissue has multiple layers which generally consist of a boundary (skin), a dense positioning layer (microtubules), a region of highly compressible fat pockets (macrotubules) and a rigid interface (tendon/bone). To assess this complex tissue we have developed STRIDE (Soft tissue Response Imaging Device) which is capable or simulating the tissue loading experienced in gait, whilst collecting data for tissue compression (ultrasound) and tissue load (load cell). From this data we are able to derive tissue properties for an individual. We aim to collect data for 50 individuals, of different ages, who have no pathology so we may form a base line allowing us to see how tissue properties change with age. The knowledge gained from this work will allow us to better understand the natural changes which occur within the tissue, and it will inform the development of mechanisms (therapy/treatment) or interventions (orthotics/shoes) which may compensate for these changes. 

Mingxu Sun – 3rd year PhD student

Project: State-machine control of upper limb functional electrical stimulation systems

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is the use of electrical pulses to activate paralysed or weak muscles in such a way as to support the performance of functional tasks. Over recent years there has been growing interest in the use of FES to support intensive practice of upper limb functional tasks in people with stroke, as a means of encouraging motor recovery. However, there remain major control challenges to delivering the appropriate stimulation to the right muscle(s) at the right time. In my PhD, which is closely aligned with an ongoing NIHR-funded project “An advanced FES rehabilitation tool for upper limb therapy after stroke” I am investigating methods for setting up state machine (sequential) controllers, particularly focusing on how best to exploit signals from arm-worn inertial sensors. We hope that the resulting work will feed into future devices.

GTA Student Profiles

Jon Radcliffe – 3rd year PhD student and GTA

Project: The use of Psychology within Strength and Conditioning: Applied use and perceived effectiveness 

The GTA scheme is a fantastic opportunity for early career researchers or anyone with an interest in higher education teaching. I think of the GTA scheme as an apprenticeship in lecturing and with the mentoring and supervision received provides a vital experience for anyone with a drive to be involved in teaching at university.

The GTA scheme is run similar to a studentship in which your PhD tuition fees are covered and you receive a bursary in return for a teaching responsibility equating 6 hours per week. This responsibility does however factor in the preparation time, so in real terms it is possible that contact time may be much less. My teaching is centred on conducting seminars and lectures and supervising various lab based projects at undergraduate level within sport psychology modules as well as light administration duties.

The GTA runs alongside my PhD research which is exploring the perceptions of Psychology within Strength and Conditioning. This involves a range of techniques including questionnaire design and validation. Semi-structured interview, and reflecting the multidisciplinary approach to strength and conditioning, I am using 3D technique analysis to examining the effects of various instruction on weight lifting performance. Therefore, in addition to the teaching skills, I will be completing the GTA scheme with a range of advanced skills applicable to various strands of research.

I feel extremely privileged to have teaching responsibility. With the mentoring and training provided, including the PG Certificate in Academic Practice (a professional HE teaching qualification), and the encouragement from the students, teaching is the most rewarding aspect of being at the university.

Training and Skills

All postgraduate research students are expected to attend the College’s research methods seminars during your first year of study, covering subjects such as conducting a literature review, methods of data collection, research governance and ethics, and analysis, presentation, interpretation and rigour in qualitative research.

In addition, the University offers all postgraduate research students an extensive range of free training activities to help you develop your research and transferable skills. The Salford Postgraduate Research Training Programme (SPoRT) has been designed to equip researchers both for your university studies and for your future careers whether in academia, elsewhere in the public sector, or in industry and the private sector.

Assessment Links

As a postgraduate research student at the University of Salford, you are required to meet a number of milestones in order to re-register for each year of study. These 'progression points' are an important aid for both you and your supervisory team and it is essential that you complete them on time.

Learning Agreement:  this is completed by you and your supervisor collaboratively in the first 3 months of your research programme. It encourages both of you to develop a thorough and consistent understanding of your individual and shared roles and responsibilities in your research partnership.

Annual Progress Report: this report is completed by your supervisor at the end of each year of study, and reports on your achievements in the past year, the likelihood that you will submit on time, confirmation of the Learning Agreement and relevant training undertaken.

Self Evaluation Report: this is completed by you at the end of each year of study. It asks you to comment on your academic progress, supervisory arrangements, research environment, research training, and relevant training undertaken. 

Interim Assessment: this is an assessment of your progress by a panel. It takes place towards the end of your first year, and is designed to ensure you have reached a threshold of academic performance, by assessing your general progress. The assessment comprises a written report, presentation and oral examination by a Panel. You must successfully complete it in order to register for your second year.

Internal Evaluation: this will take place towards the end of the second year and successful completion is required in order to continue onto your third year of study. You will be expected to show strong progress in your PhD study reflected in the submission of a substantial piece of work, generally at least 4 chapters of your thesis.

Research Profile

Research Excellence

The School of Health Sciences currently has more than 80 postgraduate research students and offers a multicultural environment. As well as the UK, we have students from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Denmark, South Africa, China, Malaysia and France. We also have visiting students with us throughout the year (often for short study placements of 2-6 months).

The School also collaboratively with expert researchers within the School of Computing, Science and Engineering

Each of the School’s research areas is lead by an experienced researcher, often a Professor, whose expertise has international recognition. All our research leaders publish their research in peer reviewed internationally recognised journals and are they regularly invited to speak at international conferences. They lead on a wide range of established collaborations with UK, international academic and industry partners.

The research areas for Biomechanics, Biomedical Engineering and Human Movement Sciences are:

  • Foot and Ankle Research
  • Gait Biomechanics
  • Knee Biomechanics and Injury
  • Functional Electrical Stimulation and Rehabilitation Technology

Staff Profiles

Professor Chris Nester

Professor Chris Nester is a Podiatrist by first degree and is now Associate Head Research & Innovation, School of Health Sciences. Chris has led a number of international foot and ankle biomechanics research projects, with colleagues in the USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia and across Europe. He collaborates with colleagues in Shanghai on the design of a dynamic cadaver foot model. He has published over 60 journals papers and delivered numerous invited lectures internationally. Chris was co-founder of the International Foot and Ankle Community (www.i-fab.org) – the aim of which is to facilitate improved interfacing between researchers and search users in industry and clinical practice. Chris has secured over £4million in research funds in the last decade. He recently led a £1.75 Million foot health care research and education partnership with owners of a major international foot health care brand, and is part of the EU funded SSHOES project, which hopes to advance the biomechanical basis of footwear design for people with diabetes.

http://www.seek.salford.ac.uk/profiles/NESTER762.jsp

Professor Richard Baker

Richard took up the world's first chair in Clinical Gait Analysis in February 2010 after spending the last nine years at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. His first degree was in physics from Cambridge and his PhD in biomechanics from Dundee. He spent 7 years managing the Gait Analysis Service at the Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast before moving to a similar role in Melbourne. Between 2005 and 2009 he was the Director of the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Clinical Gait Analysis and Gait Rehabilitation (the Gait CCRE) at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne. He still holds honorary appointments with the MCRI, the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University.

Richard is best known for his work in the methodology of Clinical Gait Analysis and is frequently invited to give keynote presentation to international conferences. He delivered the Bauman Lecture at the first joint meeting of the European Society for Movement Analysis in Adults and Children and the Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society. He has published over 60 articles in the leading peer review journals in the field.

http://www.seek.salford.ac.uk/profiles/RJBaker.jsp

Dr. Richard Jones

Richard is a Senior Lecturer in clinical biomechanics and founded the Clinical Gait Analysis Service at the University of Salford. He leads the Knee Biomechanics and Injury Research Programme in the School of Health Sciences and has experience of clinical movement analysis in a wide range of neurological and orthopaedic conditions, primarily focusing on lower limb osteoarthritis. He is a co-applicant on a £2 million programme grant from Arthritis Research UK to further develop an understanding of conservative treatments in knee osteoarthritis.
http://www.seek.salford.ac.uk/profiles/RJONES.jsp

Dr. Laurence Kenney

Dr Laurence Kenney is a Reader in Rehabilitation Technologies. He has been awarded over £2 million in external grant funding from a range of external funding bodies (NIHR, European Union, EPSRC & Stroke Association). He co-leads the programme of work in Functional electrical stimulation and other rehabilitation technologies with Professor David Howard.

Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, Laurence has led many rehabilitation device-focused projects. His particular interests are the biomechanical aspects of the design and evaluation of prosthetics and functional electrical stimulation devices. His interests in evaluation focus on the use of wearable sensing systems, including inertial sensors and most recently, in collaboration with Dr Adam Galpin and others, wearable gaze tracking systems. During a period working in the Netherlands he was closely involved in research that led to the commercialization of an implantable stimulator for patients with drop foot (see http://www.finetech-medical.co.uk/Products/STIMuSTEPDroppedFootSystem/tabid/82/language/en-US/Default.aspx). He served as an Associate Editor for Prosthetics and Orthotics International from 2008-2011, is a member of the North West Stroke Research Network Steering Group and Chaired the inaugural conference of the UK and Ireland Chapter of the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society (http://usir.salford.ac.uk/9258/).

Professor David Howard – School of Computing, Science & Engineering

Professor Howard is a mechanical engineer with research interests in biomedical engineering, biomechanics, and human movement. His research funding over the last 5 years has been £2.6 million and he has 150 publications, 50 in refereed journals. Together with his close collaborator, Dr Kenney, Professor Howard has led many medical device projects 5 NIHR i4i, 4 European Union and 3 others. They were instrumental in developing novel implanted and electrode-array functional-electrical-stimulation systems, which have been CE-marked and are being exploited. With other colleagues, Professor Howard has led many projects on the biomechanics of human movement 3 EPSRC, 6 MOD, 1 Royal Society.

Dr Sibylle Thies

Dr. Sibylle Thies is a biomedical engineer (biomechanics) with research interests in gait instability and falls risk, with a particular focus on real world applications. Following a PhD at the University of Michigan (USA) she joined the University of Salford in 2005. Since then she led the biomechanics work of the EPSRC I’DGO-TOO project that aimed to improve urban design for older people (www.idgo.ac.uk) and has also been closely involved with a number of other projects in the area of assistive device evaluation.

Employability

Career Prospects

Students leaving the School with a postgraduate research degree are well placed to lead and manage research and development activities in a number of areas. This includes health and social care organisations (e.g. NHS, charities), medical device or therapy industries (e.g. footwear), and industries related to measurement or diagnostic technologies. Globally, a postgraduate research qualification is usually a prerequisite for an academic career and several of our alumni are now senior academics.

Previous students have taken their research expertise and knowledge into health care practice, innovating in clinical services and helping to advance knowledge and practice in their professional discipline. Others have gone forward to academic positions or found industry positions. We encourage the maintenance of links between graduating research students and their host research group and supervisor. This means the University can become part of the developing professional network that students take forward into their future careers.

Alumni Profiles

Matty Major

PhD: The influence of the mechanical properties of trans-tibial prostheses on amputee performance

Now working as Post-doctoral Fellow, Northwestern University, USA (http://www.nupoc.northwestern.edu/index.html)

My PhD studies at the University of Salford involved an investigation into the effects of below-knee prosthesis mechanical behaviour on biomechanical performance of the amputee user. This interdisciplinary study involved collaborative work between Bioengineers and clinicians, and aimed to address the more fundamental questions of how the gait of individuals with below-knee amputation are influenced by changes in mechanical properties of the prosthesis. I was able to utilise my background as a Mechanical Engineer to design and fabricate a novel prosthetic device to explore this biomechanical relationship. The experience and education I obtained in both scientific discovery and clinical applications of Bioengineering research afforded me the necessary skills to develop a successful career in academic research. As a postdoctoral researcher, I am especially grateful for the mentoring I received during this process, which I currently use as a model for how I mentor my students. As this project introduced a variety of new research questions, my intention is to continue pursuing an academic career in the United States through obtaining a faculty position at a research-intensive institution. My focus will be on the biomechanics of gait pathology with emphasis on rehabilitation and assistive devices. I have developed a keen appreciation of how Bioengineering research can impact individuals directly and I am excited to be actively participating in this dynamic and engaging process.

Steven Walmsley

PhD: Development of the Salford Rheumatoid Arthritis Foot Evaluation Instrument: A Sequential Exploratory Mixed-Methods Design

I originally qualified as a podiatrist at the University in Salford in 2007. During my time as an undergraduate, I particularly enjoyed the research elements of the course and decided that I would like to pursue a career as a researcher and academic in podiatry. I approached a number of my lecturers about potential opportunities available at the university and was urged to apply for one of the Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) posts that are advertised at the university every year. I was fortunate enough to be successful, commenced the post in 2007 and completed my PhD in 2011.

The field of research of my PhD was patient-reported outcome measurement. The project involved devising and implementing a mixed methods approach for the development and validation of a patient self-report questionnaire for the rheumatoid foot. As well as enabling me to develop valuable research skills, under excellent supervision, the teaching element of the GTA helped me to acquire considerable undergraduate and post-graduate teaching experience at the same time.

Both the PhD and teaching experience associated with the GTA proved instrumental in helping me acquire my first academic post as a podiatry lecturer and researcher at the University of Western Sydney, which I commenced in June 2012.

Industry Links

The research groups in the School of Health Sciences and the School of Computing, Science and Engineering have extensive industry connections and collaborations. These includes companies in the motion capture (e.g Vicon, Qualisys), rehabilitation technologies, Blatchford, Odstock Medical Ltd (UK), INESCOP (Spain)), but also retail industries (e.g. Scholl - Reckitt Benkiser). These are available to enhance the research activities of postgraduate students, to improve the quality and application of research, and to form lasting partnerships between students, academics and the external partners concerned. The need for industrial collaboration and selection of suitable partners can be discussed directly with research programme leaders and supervisors. Some students may wish to suggest potential new partners based on their existing professional collaborations and networks.

By way of example, the University has several research projects related to the evaluation of footwear and related medical devices. In some cases industry funding is available to support a postgraduate student, or ongoing research activities (by University staff) can be used to facilitate the work of a new post graduate research student (such as the sharing of data, or formation of new research ideas). In all cases supervisors will advise and manage the relationship with industry partners.

Facilities

Human Performance Laboratory

Our purpose-built lab is one of the best in the country, with an extensive range of biomechanical/ physiological equipment, SUCCESS fitness testing and strength and conditioning suite.
For more information on our human performance laboratory

Prosthetics and Orthotics Laboratory

The College is home to clinic rooms and a custom-designed workshop used for prosthetics and orthotics. The workshop includes a well-equipped machine room with CADCAM facilities and plaster room.
For more information on our prosthetics and orthotics facilities

Podiatry Clinic

Under the supervision of fully trained academic staff our students use state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to provide a wide range of treatments. Our podiatry clinic can help with foot problems in children, nail surgery for an ingrowing toe nail, biomechanical issues, foot-related sports injuries and can even modify or create bespoke orthoses.
For more information on our podiatry clinic

Gait Analysis Clinic

The Gait Analysis Service is based in the Clinical Gait Analysis and Research Facility and uses state of the art biomechanical equipment to gather detailed data on movement patterns in many movement disorders. The laboratory accepts referrals from the NHS and private health care organisations.
The gait analysis service also supports the care of children with cerebral palsy by enabling assessment of their gait to input to their care pathways. In addition, we offer gait and human movement assessment related to amputees, neuromuscular disorders (such as stroke) and a range of orthopaedics disorders.
For more information on our gait analysis clinic