Biomedical Engineering is the application of expertise in engineering and computing to solve challenging problems in health, medicine and related disciplines. At Salford this includes work on: functional electrical stimulation (FES) of muscles for those with partial paralysis; medical measurements and intelligent data analysis; rehabilitation robotics; advanced prosthetics; and the mathematical modelling and simulation of neuro-musculo-skeletal systems. Examples of research projects carried out by the group include:
All of this work involves collaboration between academic colleagues in Engineering and in Health Sciences. Therefore you will benefit from a supervision team with multi-disciplinary expertise drawn from two of the university’s colleges.
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.
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.
All students will be required to attend for an interview.
We offer four entry points – October, January, April and July. Applications can be submitted at any point within the year.
You should have a first degree that provides a strong foundation in the principles of mechanics and/or control engineering (e.g. a first degree in Engineering or Physics). Evidence of the ability to study and critically appraise literature independently is essential and candidates with a Masters level qualification are preferred. Significant experience of computer programming would be very useful. 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 and student who are not EU, EEA or UK nationals 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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/
Project – 3D predictive simulation of human gait
Computer simulation of walking or running, based on measured motion data, is a well-established research technique for estimating the forces acting on the body’s joints and muscles. Conversely, prediction of walking or running motions (known as gait prediction) is a relatively new and challenging area of research, which has not yet found widespread application because of its high computational cost.
In gait prediction, the mechanics of human locomotion are described in a mathematical way using Newton-Euler based equations of motion. The coordination of the body’s motions by the central nervous system (CNS) is not modelled explicitly. Instead an optimisation approach is used to determine the gait motions that minimise an objective function that is believed to correspond to that of the CNS (e.g. minimise energy consumption).
Gait prediction has many potential applications including the investigation of: motor control objectives in gait; the impact of musculoskeletal structure and injury on movement coordination; predicting patient responses to surgical interventions; the effect of assistive devices on locomotion performance (e.g. lower limb prostheses).
In my study, using MATLAB, a 14-segment (26 DOF) inverse dynamics model of the human body is being combined with optimisation methods to predictively simulate human gait.
Project – Control of electrically stimulated muscles
Functional electrical stimulation (FES) uses a train of electrical pulses to activate paralysed or semi-paralysed 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 enable intensive practice of functional hand and arm 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 muscles at the right time.
In my PhD I am investigating methods for setting up state machine (sequential) controllers, particularly focusing on how best to exploit signals from arm-worn inertial sensors. This work is closely aligned with an ongoing Department of Health (NIHR) funded project – “An advanced FES rehabilitation tool for upper limb therapy after stroke”. I hope that the results of my work will lead to improved clinical systems.
Project – Modelling of electrically stimulated muscles
In my project I am looking at how muscles should be modelled for the virtual prototyping of control systems for functional electrical stimulation (FES) of paralysed muscles. Previously researchers have tended to treat the muscle as if it behaves like a single motor-unit. I am looking at extending previous muscle models by using a multi-motor-unit approach. In this way, my models take account of the fact that different motor-units are recruited and de-recruited under different conditions (e.g. different lengths at recruitment). Furthermore, I am also aiming to establish the most appropriate level of modelling complexity for the virtual prototyping of FES controllers.
Project – Energy efficient prostheses for lower limb amputees
In my work I am studying ways in which hydraulic technologies can be used to improve the energy efficiency of lower limb prostheses. I am focusing on hydraulic designs because of their unique advantages for the prosthetics application. As they typically operate at pressures of 200 to 400 bar, hydraulic systems have very high power densities and are therefore well suited to miniaturisation, an important requirement in prosthetics. Short term energy storage is another important requirement for which hydraulic accumulators are well suited. I am comparing alternative hydraulic design concepts through a combination of virtual prototyping and simulation studies.
Postgraduate research students are able to attend research methods seminars covering subjects such as: conducting a literature review; data collection, analysis, presentation and interpretation; research governance and ethics. Equally important is the informal support provided by other researchers working in the same research group and sharing the same offices and laboratories.
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 you for both your university studies, and for your future careers whether in academia, elsewhere in the public sector, or in industry and the private sector.
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.
Our biomedical engineering expertise includes:
The group’s total research income has been ~£5million from government (UK and EU), industry and charities.
Professor Howard is a mechanical engineer with research interests in biomedical engineering, biomechanics, and human movement. His research income since joining the University has been £5.2 million and he has ~150 publications, 50 in refereed journals. Together with his close collaborator, Dr Kenney, Professor Howard has led 13 medical device projects sponsored by EPSRC, NIHR i4i, European Union, DTI, charities and industry. 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 and 1 Royal Society).
Dr Laurence Kenney is a Reader in Rehabilitation Technologies. He has been awarded over ~£2.7 million in external grant funding from a range of external funding bodies NIHR, European Union, EPSRC and 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 commercialisation of an implantable stimulator for patients with drop foot. 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.
Dr. Sibylle Thies is a biomedical engineer with research interests in gait biomechanics, 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.
Biomedical engineering students leaving the university with a postgraduate research degree are well placed to lead and manage research and development activities in medical engineering and rehabilitation technologies. Furthermore, their expertise could be applied in other industries including, control engineering, mechatronic systems, design engineering, and measurement 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 innovative engineering careers, helping to advance knowledge and practice in their professional discipline. This has included positions in both academia and industry. 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.
UK non-academic collaborators include: Hope Hospital in Salford; Salisbury District Hospital; Sheffield NHS Trust; Leeds General Hospital; Grampian NHS trust; National Clinical FES Centre; FineTech Medical; Odstock Medical; Blatchford Ltd; ETB Ltd.
UK academic collaborators include the Universities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, UCL and Kings College.
International collaborations have included five European Union (EU) Framework projects with around 80 different partners. We also have strong academic links with China and the US, particularly with Iowa State University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Jilin University.
Please note that these are not comprehensive lists.
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.
The university’s prosthetics and orthotics teaching facilities, including 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.
Start Dates: October, January, April and July
Duration: MSc by Research
One year full-time
Two years part-time
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
One year full-time
Two years part-time
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Three years full-time
Five years part-time