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PhD Studentship: A symbolic-numeric integrative modelling framework for skin biophysics.

Engineering & the Environment

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Wednesday 07 February 2018
Reference:  837517F2

Project Reference: NGCM-106.

Besides the brain, no other organ of the human body plays such a central role in our everyday biological and social life than the skin [1]. It is the first line of defence against the external environment and this vital physical interface controls many types of exchanges between our inner and outer worlds. These exchanges take the form of mechanical, thermal, biological, chemical and electromagnetic processes which typically do not operate in isolation but are rather parts of a very dynamic system featuring complex non-linear feedback mechanisms. Computational modelling of skin biophysics is playing an ever growing role in academic and industrial research (across many sectors from medical and biological sciences, through personal care and medical products to consumer electronics and vehicle safety).

To date, physics-based modelling of the skin has been fragmented due to the absence of a unified computational environment where “plug and play” multiphysics/multiscale finite element formulations (e.g. constitutive models, contact algorithms) could seamlessly be integrated as new theories develop and new experimental data come to life. Another factor hindering the exploitation of new mathematical models is the complexity and time-consuming aspect of implementing new finite element code or modifying legacy code.
For this project it is proposed to use a mature symbolic-numeric environment (AceGen-AceFEM [2]) integrated within the powerful environment of Mathematica® to design a modular modelling platform that will address current shortcomings in skin modelling (or, for that matter, for any types of complex structural material). The framework will exploit robust multi-mode differentiation tools and AceGen symbolic/numeric/stochastic algorithms to optimise code generation. From a single symbolic description of a finite element/any numerical formulation, optimised C, Fortran, Matlab or Mathematica code can be generated (controlled by a simple flag switch). Software interfaces between this developed environment and open source/commercial finite element environments (e.g. FEniCS, FireDrake, Deal II, Abaqus) will be produced to gain access to large scale parallel computing capabilities available at the University of Southampton and to maximise impact of this research.

Although significant efforts will go in the development of the modelling platform, a number of scientific questions/hypotheses about the mechanobiology of skin, particularly in ageing, will be addressed (e.g. the role of cell hydration levels across the viable epidermis on the multiscale mechanics of the epidermis).

[1] Limbert, G. 2014, In Computational Biophysics of the Skin (ed. B. Querleux), pp. 95-131. Singapore, Pan Stanford Publishing Pte. Ltd.

[2] Korelc, J. & Wriggers, P. 2016 Automation of Finite Element Methods. Springer, First edition, 346 pages

We are looking for an applicant with a background in applied mathematics, physics, engineering mechanics, or computer science with strong interest and/or skills in programming and an appetite to independently learn and research across conventional discipline boundaries. An important part of this project is its integration within our existing team working on skin biophysics and material modelling so being a team player is essential.

The stipend is at the standard EPSRC levels. More details on facilities and computing equipment are available

The successful candidate will work in a stimulating research environment, supported by world-leading organisations such as Procter & Gamble, Rolls Royce and the US Air Force and will be encouraged to work with our international academic and industrial collaborators in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore and the USA.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Georges Limbert, Email: Tel: +44 (0) 2380 592381

This project is run through participation in the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Next Generation Computational Modelling ( For details of our 4 Year PhD programme, please see

For a details of available projects click here

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The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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