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Funded PhD Opportunity

Construction and Validation of a Novel Phenotypic Algorithm for Predicting Prognostic Progression (PPP) in Inherited Retinal Disease

Subject: Biomedical Sciences


Summary

Background:

Our group has previously worked with a cohort of Inherited Retinal Disease (IRD) patients to document clinical signs and functional vision via the Retinitis Pigmentosa Severity Assessment Scale (RPSAS) project. These data are currently being updated and expanded to include all progressive IRDs in the All-Ireland Retinal Degenerations Partnership (AIRDP) Target 5000 project. These longitudinal data have informed the creation of a comprehensive regional dataset which includes the description and imaging of clinical signs, reported symptoms, and measures of visual function at various timepoints. A valuable resource now exists for retrospective analysis to extensively describe the phenotype, typical presentation and progression of each patient using a predefined list of descriptors, enabling scoring proportionate to severity.

Aims:

This project will provide detailed characterisation of disease phenotype and natural history of IRD, and the creation of a novel clinical phenotypic algorithm to produce Prognostic Progression Predictor (PPP) and Severity Scores (SS).

Methods:

Data will be collated for each diagnosis and scaled for disease duration to characterise disease and natural history. The data will be analysed for correlation with inheritance pattern and genotype where available. A phenotypic grading scale and classification tool will be designed based on the presence and severity of identified clinical signs and reduction in visual function. Once corrected for weighting and assessed for reliability and validity, this will form the basis of an algorithm capable of generating a prognostic progression predictor score. A severity score based on deviation from age-matched normal controls will also be constructed.

Benefits:

We hypothesise that outputs from this algorithm will correlate with inheritance pattern and genetic mutation, thereby predicting disease progression over time. These data could also be used to quantify severity of progression relative to natural history, constructing a severity score to serve as an evidence-base and clinical end-point to evaluate potential therapeutic interventions for these devastating conditions.


AccessNI clearance required

Please note, the successful candidate will be required to obtain AccessNI clearance prior to registration due to the nature of the project.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • 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.

  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.
  • Relevant professional qualification and/or a Degree in a Health or Health related area

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    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 fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Kieran O'Donnell

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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Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

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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Profile picture of William Crowe

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 7 February 2020

Interview Date
9 to 20 March 2020


Applying

Apply Online  


Campus

Coleraine campus

Coleraine campus
The feeling of community at our Coleraine campus makes for a warm and welcoming student experience.


Contact supervisor

Professor Roger Anderson


Other supervisors

  • Dr Padraig Mulholland
  • Professor Julie Silvestri, Consultant Ophthalmologist (Belfast HSCT); Professor Jonathan Jackson, Principal Optometrist, Belfast HSCT

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