The Precision Imaging Beacon at the University of Nottingham has a mission to transform medical diagnosis and personalised treatment through world-leading advances in imaging.
The Beacon brings together a range of disciplines covering clinical sciences, psychology and the physics and computational aspects of imaging. It combines cutting edge-technology in imaging, big data analytics, biophysical modelling and advanced clinical trial design to realise solutions for complex diagnostic and treatment needs in precision medicine. We focus on the most difficult to treat conditions, such as mental health and chronic diseases.
The PhD programme for the Beacon, which is facilitated by the Haydn Green Foundation’s support for training in Translational Biomedical Imaging, is now open for recruitment of students who will start their studies in September 2020. These are fully-funded, three-and-a-half-year PhD studentships, focusing on multi-disciplinary projects within the scope of the Beacon’s clinical translational activities and with potential industry engagement.
Brain and mental health Imaging
Our aim is to pioneer a precision medicine approach to mental health and neurological disorders with a focus on understanding the mechanisms that govern and allow restoration of functionally effective brain networks. We build on Nottingham’s internationally recognized strength in novel multimodal brain imaging (structural, functional and metabolic MRI and MEG) in mental health, hearing, brain development and neurodegenerative disorders, and develop sophisticated neuromodulation techniques to alter brain plasticity. The uniqueness of our approach, is further augmented by access to next generation scanners and the formation of an effective transdisciplinary network of experts spanning the complete translational pathway that will enable cutting-edge mechanistic studies into the neurobiological basis of effective network modulation.
We also use multimodal imaging and model-derived brain network characteristics to pioneer a
novel nosological approach, in which brain biotypes replace classical diagnostic categories, allowing the prediction of response profiles to different treatment types. We aim to use multimodal imaging to individualise therapies including non-invasive brain stimulation and pharmacological neuromodulatory therapies that produce beneficial plastic changes within targeted brain networks.
Computational imaging and mathematical modelling
Imaging in precision medicine requires effective extraction and synthesis of relevant information from multimodal scans in comparison with complex prior knowledge. We have created a trans-disciplinary network of internationally leading experts to develop innovative methodology in modelling, advanced image processing, and predictive frameworks. This includes the use of tissue-based models at an affordable scale employing data-assimilation and uncertainty quantification.
We aim to develop novel image processing methods that learn features from next generation scanners to enhance the quality of standard clinical acquisitions. To make use of the wealth of clinical imaging data, we look to characterise individual variability using “fingerprinting”. We aim to develop normative frameworks that summarise multi-modal fingerprints to quantify an individual’s health / disease status. This will provide an ensemble of new tools that inform clinical trials and subsequent care using accumulated prior findings enabling a paradigm shift in image analysis.
Next generation biomedical scanners
We aim to develop the next generation of imaging systems that will underpin future research in, and applications of, imaging in precision medicine both in Nottingham and internationally. These developments will significantly extend the diagnostic power of MRI and magnetoencephalography(MEG). The UoN pioneered the UK’s first 3 T and 7 T MRI scanners, and we will now work with industrial partners and funding bodies to establish a next generation ultra-high-field MRI scanner and a mid-field clinical system with cutting-edge gradient capability at Nottingham providing the UoN with flagship imaging systems for the next decade.
These systems will offer unprecedented resolution and novel contrasts that we will exploit in addressing unmet diagnostic challenges in precision medicine. Building on our involvement in the UK Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology, we are constructing and applying a new type of MEG system, based on optical detection of the weak neuromagnetic fields produced outside the skull. This system allows the detailed investigation of brain function on a millisecond time scale and for the first time made possible measurements in moving subjects.
Physiological and metabolic imaging
This theme builds upon our track record in MR methods development, delivering novel measures of key physiological and metabolic parameters, and applying these in experimental medicine studies.
We focus on non-invasive imaging markers of common disease mechanisms and treatment targets that can be studied across tissues and diseases, such as inflammation, fibrosis, impaired blood flow and energy metabolism.
We will create a unique platform for the dynamic and comprehensive assessment of human whole-body physiology and metabolism in clinical populations. Innovation and methods optimisation is driven and shaped by the clinical needs with emphasis on histological and mechanistic validation and robustness. The step change will come from significant increase in using these imaging markers for efficacy and mechanistic evaluation of complex therapeutic interventions, new agents and early phase of drug development of significant interest to the pharmaceutical industry.
Mairi Houlgreave (Year two)
I applied to the Beacon in Precision Medicine PhD programme due to my interest in both structural and functional connectomics and the plastic changes involved in neurological disorders. The projects on offer from the Beacon are interdisciplinary which means that my research will benefit from the guidance of supervisors with different skills and perspectives.
Sarah Sulaiman (Year two)
I am honored to be a PhD student of the University of Nottingham’s Beacon of Excellence. The Precision Imaging Beacon has a leading role in bioimaging world-wide and offers innovative approaches towards chronic diseases and personalised care.
The Beacon community offers the facilities and the experience to support the up-to-date application of MRI techniques and therefore my research. I am confident that working in this environment and interacting with all the researchers of this community will be a very aspiring and beneficial experience.
How to apply
Students will be co-supervised by two or more academics from disciplines spanning the research activity of the Beacon.
The PI graduate training programme consists of a modular training in image acquisition, analysis, anatomy and biomarker validation.
To apply for a place on the programme, please identify a research theme and a project from list above (in the New year). You will need to:
1. join the open day on 9 January or contact a potential supervisor. If you wish to join the open day, please e-mail PI-Beacon@nottingham.ac.uk
2. apply online here by 17 January
3. on submission send an email to PI-Beacon@nottingham.ac.uk stating your preferred project, application ref number and enclose a CV
- for administrative purposes, please ensure that you apply to the correct lead school (as advised by the primary supervisor)
- in the personal statement section indicate that you are applying to the 'Beacon in Precision Imaging PhD programme'
- Applicants for the Precision Imaging PhD programme are expected to have a first or a 2:1 degree in a project-relevant discipline
- Fully-funded studentships are only available for UK and EU students
- International students can only apply if their tuition fees are covered by other sources