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Funded PhD Opportunity

Developing a screening method for detection of strabismus in school children

Subject: Engineering


More commonly known as a ‘squint’, strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes, preventing the ability to focus both upon a single point, thus interfering with binocular sight. Since its identification, it has become a commonly identified ophthalmic condition affecting between 2 – 5% of children of pre-school age, and approximately 5% of children overall. The condition can lead to a range of subsequent conditions, the most common of which being amblyopia (lazy eye), if the misalignment is left untreated. Intermittent diplopia (double vision) may also present in cases of acute strabismus, causing the image from the affected, deviating eye to become blurred. In the case of a well-established squint, most commonly found in children, the image from the deviating eye is supressed by the brain so as to produce a single-vision image.

Due to the difficulty in achieving binocular vision, one’s ability to focus on near objects is significantly impacted, with the likelihood of asthenopia (eye strain) becoming greatly increased. It is generally accepted that due to the elastic nature of the developing nervous system of a child, diagnosis and treatment at an early stage of life will result in a greater likelihood of curing both strabismus and amblyopia. Currently, a person with suspected strabismus must be assessed by an optician or in a specialist ophthalmology department. In severe cases, strabismus can usually be easily identified by the obvious misalignment of the eyes, however in minor cases the symptoms may not present as obviously.

Therefore, it may prove beneficial to incorporate a method of detection into routine screening of pre-school and primary school children, enabling detection of strabismus with approximate values outlining the probability and severity of the condition where detected. This would enable an operator with minimal training to assess a group of people with relative ease and speed, referring individuals deemed to be displaying potential symptoms. As the cells responsible for pupil constriction are not sensitive to wavelengths of light in the visibile spectrum, infrared imaging techniques are routinely used in ocular examination procedures. A possible detection method has been devised and possible hardware identified based upon this principle.

The candidate will be involved in development of concepts, as well as experimental procedures and establishment of training models. The work will span biomedical, electronic and computing disciplines, encompassing the translation of ideas to development board and onto a working prototype.

The aim of the project is to replicate the manual occlusion method using an automated electronic approach, whilst greatly improving accuracy and thus the probability of diagnosis.

Further investigation is required to establish the feasibility of the hardware approach, with an opportunity for applying the principles on which it relies to the development of a mobile application. It is expected that incorporation of the proposed approach into standardised testing would not only decrease the number of cases potentially being overlooked, but also reduce costs, as an eye care professional would not have to be present to carry out the preliminary screening.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 18 February 2019

Interview Date
March 2019


Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact supervisor

Dr Aaron McConville

Other supervisors


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