The MR Physics Group in the FMRIB Centre has available a funded studentship tenable for three years to start in October 2013. The studentship is funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust and will cover the University and College fees at the Home/EU rate, as well as providing a stipend at the current RCUK rates (approx. £13,600 p.a., subject to confirmation). The project will be undertaken principally on the FMRIB Centre's new 7 Tesla human MRI scanner (one of only two such systems in the UK), and will be co-supervised by Prof. Peter Jezzard and Dr Karla Miller. Information on the FMRIB Centre MR Physics Group can be found at http://www.fmrib.ox.ac.uk/physics. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Prof. Jezzard (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr Miller (email@example.com) in advance of a formal application, in order to discuss potential projects.
Formal applications should be made via the University's central on-line application site (http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/postgraduate_courses/apply). There are two main gathered fields for applications to the Medical Sciences Division (January 4th 2013 and March 8th 2013). Interested students are strongly encouraged to apply by the January 4th date, as this is the main funding competition, and applications will only be considered for the March 8th date if the studentship has not been filled. The relevant course code is "DPhil in Clinical Neurosciences, 001835".
Eligibility: The ideal candidate would be someone with an outstanding background in an appropriate undergraduate degree (e.g. physics, engineering, biomedical engineering, medical physics) and will require someone with computational code experience or a willingness to learn. A minimum of a 2(i) (or equivalent) is required for graduate entry to Oxford. Also note that minimum standards for English language apply to candidates from non English-speaking countries (for details see here). Although the studentship is open to any nationality, it is limited to providing funds that would cover the Home/EU fee rate at the University of Oxford. Therefore any applicants who do not qualify for Home/EU fee rates would need to secure separate funding to cover the fee difference between the Home/EU rate and the Overseas rate (approx. £13,000 per year difference).
Projects: The specific project will be tailored to the skills of the successful applicant, but examples of projects that are available include:
- Vascular imaging at ultra high field: Ultra high field strength scanners offer unprecedented opportunities to study the cerebral vessels, both arteries and veins. We are keen to develop novel methods and optimised protocols to study both the vessel lumen (blood itself) and vessel wall pathology (nulled blood signal) in both the large and small vessels of the brain. This would be done in collaboration with clinical colleagues in order that patients with cerebrovascular disease and small vessel disease may be studied.
- High resolution diffusion imaging: One of the most significant benefits at 7 Tesla is the ability to obtain images with high spatial resolution. Diffusion imaging, which enables one to trace the brain's structural connections, faces a number of technical challenges before these benefits can be obtained. This project would aim to develop methods for high-resolution diffusion imaging covering as much brain volume as possible, and aim to produce data with spatial detail that far exceeds current techniques. Potential applications of this work within the FMRIB centre include Parkinson's disease, pain research and basic neuroscience.
- Microstructural imaging: It has long been known that microscopic properties of the brain's vasculature are reflected in MRI techniques that are sensitized to magnetic susceptibility. The advent of ultra-high-field MRI, however, has revealed a wealth of further information about the white matter, which forms connections in the brain. These new susceptibility-based signals may provide a signature for changes in white matter "microstructure" relating to (healthy) plasticity or neurodegenerative disease. This project would combine microstructural modelling, experimental work and novel technique development to explore this new area of research.
- Functional imaging of the spine: The majority of fMRI studies to date have been performed in the brain. However, there is great interest in measuring fMRI signal changes in the spine, which forms an important part of the central nervous system. One reason for the paucity of spine studies is that the signal changes are smaller, and there are various technical difficulties caused by motion of the spine during breathing, and pulsatility of cerebrospinal fluid. This project would aim to implement a robust methodology for obtaining 7 Tesla spine fMRI data, eventually collaborating with neuroscientists in the Centre to apply these methods.
- Static and radio-frequency field optimisation: As part of a collaboration with Siemens Healthcare, the 7 Tesla human scanner that has just been installed in the FMRIB Centre includes the capability to transmit simultaneously using up to 8 independently controllable RF (B1) channels (standard MRI scanners have only one). Also, it has the capability to independently drive multiple electrical coils to achieve static (B0) field homogeneity, and to include a time varying profile to each channel to account for eddy currents induced in the magnet structures. This allows both dynamic B1 and dynamic B0 "shimming" to be accomplished, thus overcoming some of the key obstacles to achieving acceptable image quality at 7 Tesla. This project will implement and optimise these methods.