PhD Development of ‘performance markers’ to establish the quality of lower-limb prosthetic intervention in the real world.

A 36-month fully-funded PhD project, supported by EPSRC and industry partner Paltechnologies ltd, focused on developing a system to investigate and develop ‘performance markers’ to establish the quality of lower-limb prosthetic intervention in the real world.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


10 June 2018


36 months



To be considered for the project, candidates must:

  • Possess an Upper second (2.1) UK BEng Honours or MEng degree in a relevant engineering or physics related subject
  • Have skills and understanding complex rich data analysis and visualisation.
  • Be a UK or eligible EU national and adhere to Research Council (RCUK) eligibility criteria

Expertise in experimental research in signal analysis would also be preferable.

Eligibility for RCUK studentships

  • Research Council (RC) fees and stipend can only be awarded to UK and EU students and not to EEA or International students.
  • EU students are only eligible for RC stipend if they have been resident in the UK for 3 years, including for study purposes, immediately prior to starting their PhD.
  • If an EU student cannot fulfil this condition then they are eligible for a fees only studentship.
  • International students cannot be funded from RC funds unless they are ‘settled’ in the UK. ‘Settled’ means being ordinarily resident in the UK without any immigration restrictions on the length of stay in the UK. To be ‘settled’ a student must either have the Right to Abode or Indefinite leave to remain in the UK or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC law. If the student’s passport describes them as a British citizen they have the Right of Abode.
  • Students with full Refugee status are eligible for fees and stipend.


Project Details

The key objective of many Government agencies, including Health Departments, is to extend independent living and wellbeing in ageing and disabled populations. Driven by the changing demographics of the UK population and the increasing global burden of disability [1], Telehealth and Telecare delivery is currently undergoing an exciting transition across the World. In Scotland, national programs for Tele-health and Tele-care have been integrated to establish the Scottish Centre for Tele-health and Tele-care (SCTT), under the umbrella of NHS24. The SCTT supports the delivery of high quality tele-health and tele-care services, with a focus on developing innovative, scalable technology solutions support the changing health and social care landscape in Scotland.

Worldwide, one individual loses a limb every 30 seconds as a consequence of complications of diabetes alone. [2] The global, and growing, challenge of diabetes is relevant to both developed and developing countries. In addition, the WHO estimate that over the last 65 years, over 110 million landmines have been globally deployed resulting in thousands of individuals injured by limb-loss each year. The social and economic consequences of such traumatic amputations are devastating, and even with determined focus on the prevention of amputation, millions of individuals will need and expect prosthetic care for generations to come. UK figures [2-5] show >4,500 new referrals for prosthetic rehabilitation, with some 53% of these amputations taking place at trans-tibial level (below the knee). Research and development [5,] within this field is still in its infancy, and much work is needed to improve prosthetic designs that deliver optimum patient comfort and function.

This project will incorporate novel, smart sensor and mobile communication solutions within lower-limb prosthetic systems, including their clinical application [6,7]. This proposal will deliver a strategic research project that will establish a sustainable multi-disciplinary research group at Biomedical engineering providing cross-disciplinary opportunities for rapid expansion, development of real need based technology and escalation of research activity to improve quality of life for those living with disabilities.  Key partners in this initiative will initially include Biomedical engineering and industrial partner, Pal technologies ltd.

In contemporary prosthetic practice, there is clinical consensus that the ‘quality’ of the prosthetic intervention is a combination of fit and functionality. However, there is limited evidence as to what determines this quality, and insufficient data exists to indicate definitively, the biomechanical conditions that constitute a high-quality result. An intelligent sensor platform in combination with the appropriate sensors paves the way for research into and the establishment of ‘performance markers’ required to advance understanding of the complex body-device interaction. Performance markers, physiological and biomechanical are crucial because they are objectively measured and evaluated indicators of a response to a therapeutic intervention.


  • ·         To investigate and develop ‘performance markers’ to establish the quality of lower-limb prosthetic intervention in the real world.
  • ·         To develop a rehabilitation training system based on the performance markers.
  • ·         To develop a visualisation app for prosthetic users.


  1. 1.    Review current understanding of quality of lower-limb prosthetics.
  2. 2.   Develop meaningful performance markers. Example; shank position in real time etc.
  3. 3.   Conduct a real world clinical study with an appropriate sample population.
  4. 4.   Synthesise and analyse the complex rich data.
  5. 5.   Develop meaningful data visualisation for end users for therapeutic/and research purposes.



[1] Murray CJL, Lopez AD.1997. Alternative projections of mortality and disability by cause 1990–2020: Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet, Vol. 349, issue  9064, pages 1498-1504, DOI 10.1016/s0140-6736(96)07492-2

[2]  Jeffcoate W, et al. (2005) World Diabetes Day: footing the bill. Lancet, Vol. 365, Issue 9470, 30 April.

[3] Nicolas E; Walsh, Wendy S (2003) Rehabilitation of landmine victims – the ultimate challenge, Bulletin of the WHO 2003, 81(9), pp 665, 670.

[4] Hidden Killers: the global landmine crisis. Washington (DC), US Dept of State, Bureau of Political & Military Affairs, US Printing Office; 1918, p 8, Publication 10575

[5] Prosthetic Services, Amputee Statistical Database for the United Kingdom, 2005/6 report, Information Services Division NHS Scotland, Crown Copyright 2007.

[6]Dumbleton T, Buis AW, McFadyen A, et al. Dynamic interface pressure distributions of two transtibial prosthetic socket concepts. J Rehabil Res Dev 2009;46:405-415.

[7]Measuring the daily stepping activity of people with trans-tibial amputation using the ActivPAL activity monitor

Buis, A., Dumbleton, T., Murray, K., McHugh, B., McKay, G. & Sexton, S. 1 Jan 2014 In : Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics. 26, 1, p. 43-47 4 p.


Funding Details

Funding is provided for full tuition fees (Home/EU applicants only), along with a generous stipend for the duration of the project.


The primary supervisor will be Dr Arjan Buis senior lecturer/associate professor in Biomedical engineering.  Dr Buis’s research interests include real world marker development for prosthetic interventions and leads the engagement with contributing industry partner, Paltechnologies, ltd.

The secondary supervisor will Mrs Laura Murray, Teaching fellow at BME. Mrs Murray’s expertise is in the clinical prosthetics field and will provide expert decision support.


Eligibility summary

  • Subject Biomedical engineering, Mechanical and aerospace engineering, Physics, Electronic and electrical engineering. Computer and information services.
  • Mode of Study Full Time