Funded PhD Opportunity Using the Eye to Predict risk for Cardiovascular disease- The Living Lab

This opportunity is now closed.

Subjects: Biomedical Sciences and Engineering


This PhD studentship, in partnership with Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, represents an exciting opportunity to work alongside an excellent team of researchers across a number of disciplines including Biomedical Sciences, Cardiology, Computational Vision and Bioengineering. This multidisciplinary PhD will allow the successful candidate to gain a wealth of experience across all these areas of research, enriching their portfolio of science, computation and engineering expertise and most importantly develop novel and innovative medical techniques for predicting cardiovascular risk.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) especially stroke and coronary artery disease are the world’s greatest causes of mortality and morbidity. The pathological process underlying the condition is subclinical until it develops into an overt disease. Over the years, behavioural, medical, genetic and systemic factors have been used as the main predictors of CVD. These predictors are limited in predicting the disease in a quarter of people who experience CVD.

Various approaches have emerged in an attempt to address the gap. A currently emerging approach is the study of the microcirculation. The first sign of the underlying pathology (atherosclerosis) of the disease is manifest in microvessels. We have developed a non-invasive method of studying the microcirculation by viewing the conjunctival microcirculation at the front of the eye. We use a specially adapted cardiac-gated functional slit lamp biomicroscope and image analysis software to examine the conjunctiva and produce quantified measurements of the microvessels.

The successful candidate will assess extensive data generated from ongoing recruitment of subjects to explore and compare conjunctival microvascular parameters of different study populations of cardiology subjects and control groups.

Aim of the study

The aim of the study is to validate conjunctival microcirculation measurements in predicting cardiovascular health

Objective of the study

The overall objective of the study is to develop a diagnostic algorithm for microvasculature for predictive and prognostic indicators of CVD.

Approaches to the study

The successful candidate will conduct research using the following approaches:

- Computational Vision Analysis of acquired video, image and heart sounds files.

- Use of R-R detection algorithms Machine Learning & Classification of biological signals.

- MATLAB, Signal Processing, Big Data manipulation & analysis.

- Assist with patient recruitment, biomarker assessment and engage with all other team members involved in this multidisciplinary research project. .

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)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%
  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area



    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 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.

    Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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My experience has been great and the people that I have worked with have been amazing

Kieran O'Donnell - 3D printing of biological cells for tissue engineering applications

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Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Throughout my PhD I’ve been provided with continuous support and guidance by my supervisors and the staff at the University.I’ve also received many opportunities to further enhance my professional development in the form of teaching experience and presenting my work at conferences which will aid in my pursuit of a career in academia or industry.

William Crowe

Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Friday 24 May 2019


Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
Our coastal and riverside campus focussing on science and health

Contact Supervisor

Professor Tara Moore

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #401386 when applying for this PhD opportunity