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PhD Studentship - Understanding ultrasonic cutting of bone

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Tuesday 31 August 2021
Reference:  1334721DA

Supervisory Team:    Prof. Fabrice Pierron, Dr Aleksander Marek

Project description

The range of surgical tools for interventional procedures that dissect or fragment tissue has not changed significantly for millennia. There is huge potential for ultrasonic (US) devices to enable new minimal access surgeries, offering higher precision, much lower force, better preservation of delicate structures, low thermal damage and, importantly, enabling more procedures to be carried out on an outpatient or day surgery basis.

One of the challenges in developing a new generation of ultrasonically powered surgical tools is to understand the effects of ultrasonic vibrations on tissues. Some ultrasonic tools for bone resection already exist on the market like the Misonix bone scalpel but there is poor understanding of the mechanical processes at play in the cutting process.

 As part of a large EPSRC Programme Grant led by Glasgow University and including the Universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds and Southampton, this PhD this PhD will look at understanding the biomechanics of ultrasonic bone cutting through a mixture and experimental and numerical tools. State of the art ultra-high speed imaging recording at up to 5 million frames per second and Digital Image Correlation ( will be used with microscope lenses to quantify the level of deformation of the bone during cutting (see preliminary results here on sawbone). This will be complemented by finite element simulations of the cutting process and a particular attention will be dedicated to the interaction of the cutting with the bone heterogeneity. The excellent X-Ray CT facilities at the University of Southampton will be invaluable to link bone microstructure to deformation maps. To obtain material properties of bone at high strain rates involved in cutting, a new test called ‘Image-Based Ultrasonic Shaking’ (IBUS) developed as part of a prestigious EPSRC Fellowship grant will be used. This data will be complemented by numerical simulations in an attempt to develop realistic US cutting models and validate the experimental data. 

 This is a unique opportunity to join a dynamic and cutting-edge group of researchers in the UK to help tackle a multi-disciplinary problem encompassing biology, ultrasonics, robotics and mechanics of tissues. We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a taste for multidisciplinary research, experiments and numerical simulation. The ideal profile would be a bioengineering degree, or a mechanical engineering degree with some bioengineering contents, but exceptional students with other profiles will be considered. The student will join the ‘PhotoDyn’ team at Southampton, composed of two academics, two post-doctoral researchers and 5 PhD students, all working with deformation imaging and some also studying test development for bone.

 Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

 Closing date: 31 August 2021 

Funding: For UK students, Tuition Fees and a stipend of £15,609 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years. 

How To Apply

Applications should be made online. Select programme type (Research), 2021/22, Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering, next page select “PhD  Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Fabrice Pierron

Applications should include

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts to date

Apply online:

 For further information please contact: 


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