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Research Opportunities

 

Postdoctoral Research

1. Technologies for better functioning in Autism Spectrum Disorders

2. Stem cell delivery to the myocardium

3. Neuroimaging of Temporal Discrimination in Adult Onset Primary Torsion Dystonia

4. Development of Bioactive Therapeutics Harnessing Stem Cell Mechanobiology

 

PhD Research

1. Mechanisms of Cancer-Related fatigue

2. Analysis of Physiological Signal Changes during Sleep Bruzism before and after the use of an Occlusal Splint

3. Early Predictors of Speech Perception and Performance in Cochlear Implant Users

 

Technologies for better functioning in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Background: ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. Fragile X Syndrome, Prader Willi Syndrome) are lifelong conditions associated with impaired social and adaptive functioning. People with ASD have difficulties engaging in social situations that can lead to isolation, withdrawal and worsening mental health. Additionally even where cognitive abilities are relatively unimpaired people with ASD many have low levels of adaptive ability and are therefore limited in their ability to achieve independent living. Unfortunately also this can be associated with worsening employment prospects, decreased engagement in society and as a consequence, further deterioration in adaptive functioning.
Technological supports for independent living are increasingly providing novel ways to manage disability and promote health and societal engagement. There is now a rich literature on research into normal and abnormal ageing demonstrating the impact of technology supporting healthcare assessment and delivery. However, the application of technologies to support individuals with ASD and other related neurodevelopmental disorders has yet to make such an impact. Here we are aiming to apply technology to better support the acquisition of health related data in people with ASD and to develop technology based interventions to support the development of both core skills, such as basic social cognition, and adaptive skills such as the ability to function in socially demanding situations.
The focus of this project is on the development of gaming based software that may be utilized both for the acquisition of EEG data to support both clinical and research investigation in neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and intellectual disability. There will be a further focus on the implementation of gaming scenarios for the development of skills addressing both core deficits and adaptive functioning. The emphasis will be on the development of scenarios with broad appeal and application such that they may be implemented in naturalistic environments with friends and family members promoting generalization of skills into real-life scenarios. The fellowship will focus on the development of clinical skills, namely the assessment and measurement of the ASD phenotype and associated endophenotypes. Additionally technical skills in the design and implementation of paradigms for EEG and the processing and analysis of EEG data will be acquired. Finally the applicant will learn how to apply technology and EEG methods in the context of a therapeutic application for ASD. The potential fellow may be from a behavioural sciences or computer sciences background.

An ideal environment exists at Trinity College Dublin to provide the holder of this fellowship with the support to undertake this research opportunity. The Autism and Rare Neurodevelopmental Disorder Research Group is part of the Neuropsychiatric Genetics group within the School of Medicine. It includes a multidisciplinary team with extensive expertise on clinical assessment, neuropsychology, neurophysiology, neuroimaging, molecular genetics, bioinformatics and functional biology of autism and developmental disorders. The Trinity Centre for Bioengineering within the School of Medicine and School of Engineering has extensive experience in EEG neuroimaging methods and analysis for clinical applications. The holder of this fellowship will be able to avail of training with Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Group and the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering to complement their expertise.

Further information can be obtained by contacting
Professor Richard Reilly
Trinity Centre for Bioengineering
E: tcbe@tcd.ie

Postdoctoral Fellowship/ Research Scientist
Development of Bioactive Therapeutics Harnessing Stem Cell Mechanobiology

The Tissue Engineering Research Group at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland currently has a research position available in the area of tissue engineering, in particular the development of bioactive therapeutics harnessing stem cell mechanobiology. The researcher will work closely with other members of a multidisciplinary project team including principal investigators, postdoctoral researchers, postgraduate students and clinicians. The position will be associated with the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research (AMBER) Centre.

Briefly, the project will entail elucidating the mechanisms behind the effect of previously identified mechanosensitive signalling factors capable of inducing bone regeneration. Furthermore, novel mechanosensitive signalling factors associated with age will be examined as a means of recapitulating the advanced healing capacity of children. The information generated from these analyses will be used to identify potential therapeutics that can be incorporated in tissue engineered scaffolds via suitable delivery platforms. These bioactive scaffolds will then be tested using an in vivo animal model to validate their potential for clinical applications.
Candidates should have a PhD (or equivalent experience) in tissue engineering, bioengineering or related disciplines, ideally with specific experience in mechanobiology, biomaterials, cell culture techniques, biological assays (e.g. proliferation assays, qPCR, microarrays, flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, etc) and histological techniques. Additional experience in delivery platforms (protein, gene and microRNA) and in vivo models would be considered beneficial.

CVs with the names and addresses of three referees should be submitted to:
Prof. Fergal J. O'Brien, PhD
Dept. of Anatomy, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 123 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
Email: fjobrien@rcsi.ie,   https://research1.rcsi.ie/pi/fjobrien/pi.asp

This 3 year position is funded by a Health Research Board grant and is available from October 2014

 

School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin & Trinity Centre for Bioengineering

PhD Research Position Mechanisms of Cancer-Related Fatigue (CRF)

Fatigue is a subjective experience that affects everybody. In healthy individuals, it can be considered a physiological response to physical or psychological stress. However, in individuals with specific diseases, however, fatigue often represents one of the most significant problems. Fatigue is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms experienced by patients with cancer.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is characterized by feelings of tiredness, weakness, and lack of energy. It is distinct from the “normal” drowsiness experienced by healthy individuals in that it is not relieved by rest or sleep. It occurs both as a consequence of the cancer itself and as a side effect of cancer treatment, although the precise underlying pathophysiology is largely unknown.

CRF may be an early symptom of malignant disease and is reported by as many as 40% of patients at diagnosis. F Fatigue is experienced throughout the entire cancer trajectory. Up to 90% of patients treated with radiation and up to 80% of those treated with chemotherapy experience fatigue. CRF continues for months and even years following completion of treatment in approximately one third of the patients with cancer. The impact of CRF on a patient's quality of life (QoL), particularly in relation to physical functioning and the ability to perform activities of daily living, is both profound and pervasive. In addition, CRF is associated with considerable psychological distress and can impose a significant financial burden by limiting a patient's ability to work. These effects can extend to caregivers and family members, who may also have to reduce their working capacity in order to provide additional care for a patient with CRF.

A better understanding of the mechanism of CRF is important in order to improve diagnosis, develop more targeted therapies, and promote physical well being in cancer patients. In addition, limited research has been conducted regarding CRF in patients receiving palliative care, despite its high frequency and debilitating effects on quality of life in this population.

CRF is multifactorial and most likely involves the dysregulation of several interrelated physiological, biochemical, and psychological systems, thus presenting considerable challenges for patients, clinicians and researchers. The disorder, or combination of disorders, causing CRF may differ among individuals, phases of disease, and types of treatment.

Although the etiology of CRF is poorly understood, a number of mechanisms are proposed, ranging from the central nervous system dysfunction to abnormal muscle metabolism. Research is currently focusing on understanding the interrelationships among various cancer-related symptoms along with the similarities and differences in fatigue experienced in different conditions.

Previous neuroimaging investigations (electroencephalography-electromyography EEG-EMG) into the pathophysiology of cancer related fatigue suggest impaired neuromuscular junction propagation and reduced corticomuscular coupling, particularly at the beta frequency band. The degree of peripheral (muscle) fatigue is often determined by electrical stimulation in which one or more supermaximal-intensity electrical pulses are applied to a muscle or the nerve going into the muscle and measuring the evoked twitch force response.

During voluntary exercise the failure to maintain the required force depends on peripheral fatigue occurring distal to the point of stimulation and on central fatigue resulting from a failure to activate the muscle voluntarily. A direct measure of peripheral fatigue is the change in the evoked twitch force immediately following the fatigue exercise relative to the same twitch force evoked before the fatigue exercise. If the twitch force is significantly smaller after than before the fatigue exercise, it reveals a significant loss of force generating capability of the muscle and indicates serious muscle fatigue 10,11,12.

This PhD research position aims to focus on various cancers and to further extend various clinical, neurophysiological, neuroimaging (EEG) and neuromuscular recording (EMG) methods to determine the central and peripheral characteristics of CRF.

Objectives

  • Develop novel clinical assessment techniques eg functional MRI to investigate CRF.
  • Determine if modern mobile technology eg Smartphones can help assessment
  • Examine the coherence of EEG and EMG signals in cancer related fatigue
  • Determine if mobile techniques such as EEG-EMG can be used at the bedside to investigate cancer related fatigue

Experimentation:

  • Recruitment will take place in the Medical Oncology Out-Patient Clinic in St Vincent’s University Hospital (Ethics approved)
  • Adult subjects cancer screened positive for cancer related fatigue will be recruited
  • Healthy volunteers will be recruited at Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross

The PhD Researcher will be required to:

  • Play a leading role in the analysis of physiological signals, particularly EEG and EMG to determine the etiology of CRF.
  • Operate independently with weekly supervision.
  • Write journal papers for publication on innovative methods on the assessment and etiology of CRF.
  •  Work with clinical colleagues to develop and evaluate new and improved signal processing of assessment, longitudinal monitoring and etiology of CRF.
  • Carry out experimentation in a clinical environments with subjects undergoing treatment for cancer
  • Prepare progress and technical reports on the research project.
  • Work closely with Trinity Centre for Bioengineering research staff to develop and validate systems for the assessment of signal processing into a complete assessment of CRF.

Key Requirements
The candidate must have a clinical background OR an excellent honours degree in Electronic Engineering (or cognate discipline) with signal processing experience and be

  • Able to work autonomously, managing and reporting on their assigned project
  • Able to work as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • Comfortable participating in clinical research including direct patient contact with people who are seriously ill

 

A 3-year scholarship is available, including EU fees and stipend.

For an informal discussion, or to submit an application please contact Professor Richard Reilly (tcbe@tcd.ie) or Professor Declan Walsh (mobrien@olh.ie).

Applicants should submit a supporting statement, a CV, and the details of two recommenders.  Application review begins June 2014 for commencement of research in September 2014. 

 

 

Postdoctoral Researcher (Stem cell delivery to the myocardium)
2 year postdoc position in Trinity Centre for Bioengineering, School of Engineering, Trinity College Dublin,

The TCBE cardiovascular group was recently successful in securing collaborative 7th Framework Programme European Commission funding to develop an integrated materials-therapeutic-medical device approach for regenerating damaged cardiac tissue. We are currently inviting applications for a 2 year Postdoctoral Research fellow to advance the medical device aspect of this programme.
The researcher will be involved with developing a new medical device to deliver novel biomaterials that are impregnated with allogeneic bone marrow derived stem cells. The research strategy is focused on developing a solution that will result in greater retention of therapeutics at the injection site. The researcher will collaborate with a number of European academic and industrial partners for example Cardio3 Biosciences and Boston Scientific are the catheter based medical device partners, while the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland are the grant coordinator and the Fraunhofer Institute will provide biocompatibility testing on the therapeutic system.
TCD Cardiovascular Group Background:
Key research areas of the TCD Cardiovascular medical device group are: Mitral valve disease, developing decellularized tissue components to repair and replace the damaged/diseased cardiovascular system, the delivery of therapeutics via novel catheters.
Role & Responsibilities
The position involves working within the cardiovascular medical device design group within the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering. The candidate will form an integral part of the R&D team. The candidate will be involved in the research and development of an intramyocardial delivery therapeutic delivery catheter, from concept to pre-clinical evaluation.
The tasks will include the design, development and testing of the catheter in laboratory models and pre-clinical models.
Essential requirements:
 Mechanical Engineering degree or Biomedical Engineering degree
 PhD in the Lifesciences area
Skills Required
 Solidworks/CREO proficient
 Knowledge of medical device design procedures
 Strong laboratory practical skills
 Good technical writing skills to ensure documentation of design/development/test activities as required in Engineering Laboratory notebooks.
 Ability to liaise with external vendors to ensure timely delivery of prototypes.

Please submit applications with a CV and covering letter to: Bruce Murphy, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Parsons Building, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2
For more information contact bruce.murphy@tcd.ie Tel: 01 896 8503
Closing Date for applications: 20 July 2014
Start Date: Immediate

 

PhD Research Position in Neural Engineering

Early Predictors of Speech Perception and Performance in Cochlear Implant Users

A cochlear implant (CI) can partially restore hearing in patients with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. However, the large outcome variability in CI users prompts the need for more objective measures of speech perception performance

For a cochlear implant (CI) users to obtain a high level of speech perception the electrical stimulation, controlled via the speech processing strategy, must be adjusted or ‘fitted’ for each individual user.  It is the task of the audiologist to fit the CI so that the user obtains the maximum level of speech perception. However, a number of factors make this a difficult task, which may result in less optimal fitting for that individual user. Currently, the audiologist adjust the speech processing strategy and ask the users if it ‘sounds better’ or carries out a speech perception test. This subjective assessment of speech perception is less than optimal.

Based on the recent findings from our laboratory into electrophysiological (EEG) based analysis of the brain’s response to acoustic stimuli, a method to assess acoustic processing in Cochlear Implant Users has been developed based on neuroimaging (EEG).

This project aims to further develop neural objective measures of speech perception in CI users. Such measures may be employed to optimize or streamline the fitting process and would be particularly useful in a paediatric population. In addition, a neural metric which predicts speech perception outcome before the CI user has fully adjusted to a new speech processing strategy (a process which can take months) would be extremely beneficial to the audiologist. It would allow the audiologist to optimize the speech processing strategy in a timely manner and identify users who may need extra rehabilitation at an early stage.

Measures of neural signals, such as evoked potentials, from structures such as the auditory nerve and brainstem are useful in estimating threshold levels but are unable to predict higher-level outcomes like speech perception. Evidence suggests that cortical evoked potentials may be more suited to estimate speech perception.

The specific objective of this project is to measure cortical response to complex stimuli, which probe a CI user’s spectral and temporal processing capabilities and thus develop a range of metrics, which correlate with speech perception.

A 3-year scholarship is available. More details can be found here.

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School of Dental Science and Trinity Centre for Bioengineering

PhD Research Position in Neural Engineering

Analysis of Physiological Signal Changes during Sleep Bruxism before and after the use of an Occlusal Splint

Sleep bruxism (night-time tooth grinding) is a very common and destructive clinical condition about which relatively little is understood.  It is most commonly managed with occlusal splints but there is a lack of clinical consensus on best practice for their use and very little scientific knowledge of their mechanism of action.  This project aims to combine historical and clinical data in a novel analysis to establish baseline characteristics of bruxers and their response to splint use.

Sleep bruxism affects 8% of the adult population. While it is known to be associated with transient lightening of the sleep state, the underlying aetological trigger is not well understood.  In severe cases, or cases that are poorly managed over time, bruxism can cause considerable damage to teeth and restorations.   For instance, veneers fail 7 times more quickly in bruxers compared to non-bruxers and implant restorations have 68% more technical complications. Occlusal splints are the international standard of care for bruxism patients. The mechanism of action of splints is as yet unclear and little is known about the determinants of a favourable treatment response.  It has been reported that there is some variability in patients’ response to this treatment modality but no physiological basis for this inconsistency has been established.  In addition, there are no detailed data available on how the splint response progresses over the first three months of use. As a result, there is a lack of consensus amongst clinicians about the appropriate duration of use of splints for bruxism patients.  Addressing these two areas would provide greater scientific insight on a possible mechanism of action of splints and greater clinical clarity on best practice for early splint use.

This research project will examine the early response of bruxers to splint provision using retrospective and prospective approaches. A unique database of sleep studies that recorded the effect of splints on bruxism patients will be accessed from a specialized sleep centre in Canada. Detailed analysis of multiple physiological variables recorded in these sleep studies will be carried out to elucidate whether this could suggest a mechanism of action for splints. A prospective study will involve patients whose bruxism activity is analysed every night for 3 months, using a combination of devices, including a novel, sensor-containing splint. This will generate a very detailed picture of the variety of responses to splint treatment and help to provide guidance on clinical usage in the early stages of management.

The overall aim of the project is to examine and clarify how bruxism activity is influenced by the provision of a splint. The following objectives will be

  • to examine baseline physiological characteristics of bruxers during sleep, before and after splint use.
  • to evaluate the ability of a novel splint device to measure bruxism during sleep.
  • to monitor the effect of the splint on bruxism over a period of time. The null hypothesis is that an occlusal splint has no effect on sleep bruxism or its associated physiological changes.

A 3-year scholarship is available. More details can be found here

 

Postdoctoral Researcher and Program Manager in Neuroimaging of Temporal Discrimination in Adult Onset Primary Torsion Dystonia

The Neural Engineering Group within the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering invites applications for a Senior Researcher with specific experience in the design and analysis of neuroimaging to join a multidisciplinary team studying the cause of adult onset primary torsion dystonia (AOPTD).

 

Are you interested in pursuing your PhD degree or carrying out post-doctoral research in the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering?

If so, please email tcbe@tcd.ie with the following information

  1. The Research theme you are most interested in (Biomaterials, Regenerative Medicine, Neural Engineering, Muskuloskeletal or Cardiovascular)
  2. A cover letter detailing your background and research interests
  3. Your C.V.
  4. Any papers and publications you were involved in

 

 


Last updated 14 October 2014 by Trinity Centre for Bioengineering (Email).