Projects 2017/2018 Entry


Research projects are offered in the science and technology of sensing and measurement, across the traditional disciplines of Physics, Engineering, Chemistry and life sciences and across all domains of sensing and measurement: including electrical, optical and electromagnetic, radiation, gravity and acceleration, chemical and biochemical; for both imaging and single pixel-measurements.

Please see below for a list of the projects available at The University of Edinburgh and The University of Glasgow:

*  Indicates company sponsorship. All projects include the possibility of a summer internship with a company.


University of Edinburgh Projects


E_SM1_*:Porous metal-organic framework (MOF) materials for chemical sensing: from structural chemistry to device fabrication

First Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Moggach (School of Chemistry, Edinburgh)
Second Supervisor:  Prof. Anita Jones (School of Chemistry, Edinburgh)/ Dr. Adam Stokes (school of Engineering, Edinburgh)

Metal-organic frameworks, commonly referred to as MOFs, are porous materials which have been investigated for a variety of potential applications, such as gas capture and storage, catalysis and sensing. By using a combination of in-situ X-ray diffraction and optical spectroscopy, we plan to exploit the unique analyte-responsive properties of porous MOFs for applications in chemical sensing. The most promising materials will be incorporated into microfluidic optical sensing devices to develop intelligent and integrated sensing systems. This project spans from materials synthesis and characterisation through to integrated device fabrication.

Notes: This project is part of an ongoing collaboration between Dr Ross Forgan (Glasgow) and Dr Stephen Moggach (Edinburgh), and a new collaboration with Prof. Anita Jones (Edinburgh) and Dr Adam Stokes (Edinburgh). This is a truly multidisciplinary project, with expertise in synthetic chemistry, diffraction and optical measurements, and device fabrication.  We therefore have the ability to create state-of-the art porous materials, test their properties and incorporate them into intelligent integrated sensing systems within this project.

E_RH4_: * High performance 3D Imaging System using advanced CMOS SPADs

First Supervisor: Professor Robert Henderson, School of Engineering
Second Supervisor:  Prof Ian Underwood, School of Engineering

The CMOS Sensors Group within the IMNS at UEDIN has, in collaboration with STMicro, developed CMOS SPAD technology, CMOS SPAD devices and, frequently in collaboration with others, application–specific CMOS SPAD arrays and deployed and characterised them in systems. We have identified short- to medium-range 3D Imaging using CMOS SPADs as a promising yet relatively unexplored application. In this project we plan, in collaboration (possibly with STMicro as a technology collaborator) with a company (yet to be finalised as we are talking to several with different applications in mind) to develop a short- to medium-range 3D Imaging System (3D-IS) for a specific application. The 3D-IS system will use some of the world’s most advanced CMOS SPAD devices recently or soon to be available within the CMOS Sensors Group thus ensuring state of the art performance.

E_JOJ_1 : * Magnetic sensing of molecular materials with tuneable liquid crystal lasers

First Supervisor: Dr. J. Olof Johansson (School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh)
Second Supervisor: Dr. Philip J.W. Hands 
(School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh)

Magnetic materials have completely changed how we have accessed and made use of information during the last century. A continued development of new magnetic materials and new ways of controlling them is urgently needed so that we can make the most of large data sets, which will improve many aspects of our lives such as health care, government, logistics and will reduce global energy consumption. We will explore ways to use new types of laser sources in order to study and manipulate the magnetisation of thin films of novel molecular materials. By producing layers of differently coloured films, we will be able to use the unique colour of each layer as a fingerprint to record the magnetisation in each layer. This is an exciting approach to develop the fundamental understanding of how magnetic materials interact with light.  






E_PJWH_2 : * Chemical sensing with lasing microfluidic droplets of chiral nematic liquid crystals

First Supervisor: Dr Philip J. W. Hands, School of Engineering
Second Supervisors: Dr. Oliver Henrich (School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh)

Liquid crystals are a fascinating phase of matter, consisting of molecules that self-organise into complex 3D micro- and nano-structures, whilst retaining their liquid form. The chemical and physical interactions at the interfaces between liquid crystals and their surrounding medium (e.g. air, glass, water) have enormous influence upon liquid crystal alignment and their macroscopic optical properties, and can therefore be used for sensing of chemical and biological species.

In this project, we will emulsify liquid crystals into microdroplets within an immiscible fluid, thus maximising their sensing surface area. To transduce their response to a measurable signal, we make our droplets from dye-doped chiral nematic liquid crystals, which have the ability to emit tuneable laser light when suitably optically excited.  When test analytes are introduced into the medium surrounding the droplets, the lasing properties will therefore be strongly affected.  The critical nature of the many properties of laser emission (e.g. intensity, efficiency, wavelength, threshold, linewidth, etc.) is anticipated to provide a unique fingerprint for both quantitative and qualitative chemical and biological sensing.

The project will be experimental in nature, working in the School of Engineering primarily with microfluidics, lasers and microscopy. However, it will also involve collaboration with theorists at the School of Physics and Astronomy, who will be providing simulation data to help understand the sensing behaviour of these lasing microdroplets.

E_PJWH_3 : * Wireless, wearable pressure sensors for sports equipment and medical compression clothing
First Supervisor: Dr Philip J. W. Hands, School of Engineering
Second Supervisors: Prof. Marc P.Y. Desmulliez  (Heriot Watt)

Gradient compression garments are widely used in medicine (for embolism prevention and burns recovery) and in sports clothing, but their efficacy has not been rigorously scrutinised. This lack of information is due partly to the absence of a suitable pressure sensing system, capable of reliably mapping the low pressures exerted by such clothing, whilst being practical enough (i.e. low-cost, flexible, small, with minimal wiring) to be used in clinical or sporting environment.

In this collaborative project between Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities, and in partnership with sports equipment manufacturers, the student will develop wearable and wireless pressure sensors, consisting of flexible micro-fabricated passive resonant electrical components. The project will also include the development of a hand-held wireless reader system for remote multiplexed data acquisition of many distributed sensors.  Collaborative opportunities also exist with textiles experts to integrate sensors into clothing and equipment.

This applications-focussed interdisciplinary project is at the interface of physics, chemistry, materials and electronics/electrical engineering.  The student will work in a variety of environments, including microfabrication cleanrooms and electronics labs, and will collaborate closely with both industrial and academic colleagues.


(Images below):

E_TA_1: * A Wearable Low Power Radio Frequency Head Imaging Device for Medical Diagnostics and Monitoring

First Supervisor: Prof. Tughrul Arslan (School of Engineering University of Edinburgh)
Second Supervisor: Dr. Jiabin Jia/ Dr. Adam Stokes (School of Engineering University of Edinburgh)

In this research, the development of a wearable device with a new Radio Frequency based sensor will be investigated for future biomedical imaging applications. The proposed wearable device aims to provide constant monitoring of people’s health condition via wireless connection. This device could be worn by patients with stroke and other health condition history as well as people involved in high risk sports. By identifying those diseases/conditions earlier, proper treatments could be provided. Several material and fabrication technologies will be explored such as 3-D printing and conductive inkjet printing technologies in addition to commonly used photolithography technique. The sensor design would have to meet several requirements such as ultra-wideband characteristic, flexibility and low power and area so that it could be integrated into the proposed wearable device. Effective characterisation techniques will be investigated based on reflection coefficient and transmission coefficient measurements.

E_AM_2:*Using hydrogels to produce microelectrode sensors

The project will focus on a fundamental understanding and systematic development of hydrogels on electrodes, with the goal of forming enhanced biosensors. The project will encompass synthesis of gelling materials, the formation of gels on microfabricated electrochemical arrays, characterisation by electrochemical, optical imaging and rheological methods, and the formation of enhanced biosensor systems. The student will work both in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and acquire multidisciplinary skills and training including electrochemistry, hydrogel formation and characterisation, rheological and imaging methods microfabrication and biosensor production and characterisation.

First supervisor: Prof Andy Mount, School of Chemistry
Second supervisors: Prof Dave Adams
E_JT_2 : * Skin-surface Sensing System for Real-time Health Monitoring

First Supervisor: Dr. Jonathan Terry (School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh)
Second Supervisor: Prof. Andrew Mount  
(School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh)

There has been considerable activity in recent years to develop non-invasive wearable diagnostic, fitness and lifestyle monitoring technology. While physical measurements, such as heart rate monitoring, have proven successful the next step to biochemical measurement of body analytics has proven to be more difficult. This project aims to develop wearable skin-surface technology mounted in a band or self-adhesive patch that enables continuous monitoring of a range of body analytes.  The research will be undertaken in collaboration with nanosensing device manufacturer, Nanoflex Ltd. ( using the highly sensitive nanoelectrode sensors they have developed in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.


E_RC_1 :*Micro-sensors for adaptive acoustic transduction
First Supervisor: Professor Rebecca Cheung, School of Engineering
Second Supervisor:Dr. Enrico Mastropaolo, School of Engineering,  Dr Michael Newton, School of Music

The research project involves the development and implementation of an adaptable microelectromechanical (MEM) acoustic transducer inspired by the behaviour of the human ear.  The detection of the acoustic signal and its conversion into the electrical domain can be performed with resonant gate transistors (RGTs). The active cochlear mechanism of the human ear could be replicated by integrating an array of RGTs with a feedback control system to operate as a selective real-time adaptive multichannel microphone. The potential outcome of this project will have tremendous impact on the fundamental understanding of sound interpretation as well as improvements in hearing aid technology.


University of Glasgow Projects

G_HW_1 : * CASE Studentship in Interferometry techniques for the ESA L3 mission that will probe the Gravitational Universe
First Supervisor: Dr Harry Ward, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow
Second Supervisor:   Dr Ewan Fitzsimons, UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh

This research studentship, aiming to develop technology for space-based detection of gravitational waves, is for collaborative research between UK-ATC (National centre for astronomical technology), the Institute for Gravitational Research at the University of Glasgow and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Sensing and Measurement.

LISA – the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna – will be the European Space Agency’s third Large-class mission in its Cosmic Vision program and will become the world’s first ever space-based gravitational wave observatory. High sensitivity displacement measurement by optical laser interferometry lies at the very heart of the LISA mission, performed with a resolution of ~10 picometres over multi-gigametre baselines between separate spacecraft. These requirements are challenging, but through a mixture of ground and space-based tests the field is already far advanced in demonstrating their feasibility. In particular, the University of Glasgow (UGL) optical bench (OB) operating in the precursor technology demonstrator mission, LISA Pathfinder, has shown outstanding displacement metrology performance, that is well below that required for the intra-spacecraft measurements in LISA.

The UK Space Agency recently completed a competitive evaluation of proposed nationally funded contributions to L3. This resulted in agreement in principle to fund the optical bench subsystems, capitalising on the Glasgow success in the LISA Pathfinder mission. However the optical bench subsystem for L3 is a major undertaking, with significant increase in technical complexity compared with the OB developed for LISA Pathfinder, but a major increase also in number of payload items to be built. In light of the need for significant up-scaling of capacity, UGL and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UK-ATC) in Edinburgh have agreed to form a teaming arrangement, with in the short to medium term, scientific oversight and underpinning technology developments remaining primarily the province of UGL, with OB design and simulation, and ultimately building, testing and delivery of flight hardware being the prime responsibility of UK-ATC.

The research project will focus on developing various techniques which are essential for the development of the overall LISA optical system. Key topics include: development of analysis methods to determine the impact of stray light on the science measurement; investigations into the design and development of ultra-stable laser beam fibre couplers, and other optical systems, suitable for LISA; and development of alignment and displacement sensors and techniques which are capable of achieving the ultra-high precision required for the build and operation of the LISA optical metrology system.
The project is available for an early start.


G_JW_1 : * CASE studentship in Quantitative Thermal Conduction Measurement and Imaging at 200nm scale
First Supervisor: Prof. John Weaver, School of Engineering
Second Supervisor: Dr Phil Dobson, School of Engineering
The performance of modern electronic and optical components is dominated by thermal effects. Modern devices make extensive use of nanostructuring to obtain greatly enhanced optical and electronic properties, but this structuring comes at a significant cost since it reduces the ability of the materials used to conduct away heat. Thermal conduction at the nanoscale is significantly different to that observed at macroscopic distances, being subject to acoustic boundary reflection effects, ballistic conduction, phonon-wavelength dependent scattering and quantized thermal conduction. Since the physics of nanoscale thermal transport is so profoundly different it is necessary to develop new techniques for its measurement.
Nanoscale thermal measurements are often made using “Scanning Thermal Microscopy”, a technique related to Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) in which a thermal sensor is combined with a MEMS AFM sensor to give high resolution measurements of topography and temperature at the same time. This project is concerned with the development and validation of techniques to quantify thermal conduction at the nanoscale using custom AFM probes which have two tips, separated by a few hundred nanometres. The two tips will act as heaters and thermometers, allowing a measurement of the temperature rise from the flow of a known thermal power: Classically this would constitute a measurement of thermal conductivity. Technical objectives are the development of a measurement methodology, determination of the range of validity of the measurement and quantification of errors in measurement with reference to the characteristics of known bulk materials. The project will involve nanofabrication of the advanced sensors in the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre combined with the development of the associated instrumentation and measurement techniques.
This project id CASE PhD studentship which offers the opportunity to work with world-leading centres of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available and in lithography at the smallest length scales. The project will involve working for a substantial time both in Glasgow and with Dr Alexandre Cuenat of the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, on a project of intense scientific and industrial importance.
The project is a collaborative research studentship between NPL and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Integrative Sensing and Measurement.
The EPSRC Industrial CASE scheme is described at
The scheme allows for a 4 year PhD, with an enhanced stipend compared to a normal PhD. Funding to cover the costs of travelling to and from the company and any accommodation or subsistence costs for the student while on placement will be provided. The project would be suitable for a student having a First or upper second class honours degree in the areas of physics or electronic engineering, good practical skills and an interest in the industrial application of scientific research.
G_AH_2:*Computational imaging of the retina

First Supervisor: Professor Andrew Harvey, School of Physics and Astronomy
Second Supervisor: Dr G Carles University of Glasgow

This project will develop and apply new techniques for retinal imaging using emerging techniques in computational imaging to design a retinal camera able to beat some fundamental limits that apply to classical designs, aiming at achieving unprecedented combinations of resolution, field-of-view and image quality. The proposed innovations will challenge more than a century of momentum of the principles of retinal imaging, recoding images of up to 25Mpx with a field-of-view of up to 200 degrees in the human eye, covering a retinal area ten times higher than common fundus cameras can achieve, and currently only possible with bulky and expensive laser scanning devices.




G_ARH_1 : * CASE studentship in computational imaging for next generation imaging systems

First Supervisor: Professor Andrew Harvey, School of Physics and Astronomy
Second Supervisor: Dr Ik Siong Heng, School of Physics and Astronomy




The last decade has witnessed a revolution in imaging made possible by the development of high-performance electronic detectors and computer processing. The optics within commercial imaging systems have changed little however, but this is about to change. By combining modern optical design and manufacturing with computational image recovery a new class of imaging systems is being developed that enable imaging with capabilities that have not previously been possible; such as imaging with extreme depth of field, the ability to detect range through a single aperture or to form diffraction-limited, wide field-of-view images with very simple optics. The Imaging Concept Group is at the forefront of these developments.
The PhD student will research new concepts and capabilities in Computational Imaging in collaboration with other PhD students and postdocs within the Imaging Concepts Group. S/he will collaborate with Optical Designers and Systems Engineers at Qioptiq, St Asaph to develop demonstration systems for possible manufacture by Qioptiq. This will involve inventing, developing and applying new concepts in image science, rigorous optical design of systems, development and application of image-recovery algorithms followed by experimental assessment and testing. The student will spend periods working with Optical Designers and Systems Engineers at Qioptiq in St Asaph. The ideal applicant will have experimental and mathematical-modelling skills combined with an enthusiasm for developing a deep physical and mathematical understanding of optical imaging systems.
2016 G23 - Andy Harvey 2
The Imaging Concepts Group consists of about 20 researchers (PhD/EngD students, postdocs, visiting scholars and academics) conducting leading-edge research in advanced imaging techniques and their commercial and biomedical applications.  Research is conducted in newly refurbished laboratories with seven optical tables and ~£1.5M of state-of-the-art optical instrumentation and equipment. Additional information can be found at ICG info and an overview of recent ICG research in computational imaging.
2016 G23 - Andy Harvey 3
Applicants should have a good first degree of equivalent  in a Physical Science or Engineering.
G_GH_2_:* Field testing a MEMS gravimeter

First Supervisor: Prof. Giles Hammond, School of Physics and Astronomy
Second Supervisor: Prof Douglas J Paul, School of Engineering

Over the last 3.5 years researchers at the University of Glasgow (School of Physics & Astronomy and School of Electrical & Nanoscale Engineering) have been developing a MEMS gravimeter. The device has already shown sufficient sensitivity and stability to make a first measurement of the earth tides; changes in the local acceleration of gravity caused by the elastic deformation of the earth, originating from the tidal potential of the moon and sun.

This project will perform field trials of the MEMS gravimeter and comparison tests with commercial instruments. Particular areas of research will focus on thermal control of the miniaturised package via a Peltier heater/cooler and robustness testing (field trials/shake tests) to determine the cumulative failure statistics of the device and techniques to improve robustness (e.g. development of limit stops and locking mechanisms).



G_PS_1_:*Advanced In-hand 3D Sensing for Dexterous Robotic Manipulation

 First Supervisor: Dr Paul Siebert University of Glasgow
Second Supervisor: Professor Andy Harvey/Gerardo Aragon-Camarasa (CS)

The Shadow Robot Company and the School of Computing Science within the University of Glasgow are collaborating through an Innovate UK project to develop advanced 3D sensing methods to support dexterous robotic manipulation using Shadow’s advanced robot hand. This collaboration will develop a testbed to allow various types of 3D sensor to be validated using a sensing-processing pipeline that implements a robotic hand-eye manipulation task. A PhD project to extend this collaboration by investigating more advanced optics-based 3D sensing methods combined with state-of-the-art computer vision algorithms and Deep Learning techniques is proposed. The aim of this project is to develop a compact, robust and low-power 3D sensor suitable for being integrated within the robot hand itself in order to guide its operation when performing grasps or exploring a scene to search for objects.

G_PS_2 :* An Optics-based Retina Sensor for Robotics and Egocentric Imaging Applications

First Supervisor: Dr Paul Siebert University of Glasgow
Second Supervisor: Professor Andy Harvey/John Williamson (CS)

Low cost, self-contained, visual sensing is a fundamental requirement for robotics and wearable vision applications. This PhD project is attempting to implement a model of human retinal processing by exploiting zero-power optical processing followed by with digital image transformations which feed Deep Learning neural networks capable of recognising objects or computing image flow or depth information used for guiding/controlling robotic manipulation systems. The benefit of this approach is that it’s ~x100 potential efficiency would allow a compact, integrated advanced robot vision sensor to be implemented on a low-cost smartphone platform or low-power embedded image processing computer.  The project is supported by an internship with the ARM Ltd.



G_JC_1 : * Low cost multiplexed DNA Diagnostic Sensors for Infectious Diseases.

First Supervisor: Prof J Cooper ( School of Engineering, University of Glasgow)
Second Supervisor: Dr. Julien Reboud (School of Engineering, University of Glasgow)

Nearly 260m people are infected with schistosomiasis, with >90% of infections found in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide ~3.2b people are at risk of malaria, many also in Sub-Saharan Africa. Both diseases are endemic in the same rural locations and there is difficulty in differentiating symptoms and informing correct diagnosis and treatment. Incorrect diagnosis is known to lead to unnecessary dispensation of drugs leading to increased probability of drug resistance. The rapid, low cost, field based genus specific diagnosis of both diseases within local rural communities, is key to ensure that appropriate administration of the correct drug(s) is carried out and continues until treatment is complete.




G_JC_2 : * New Medical Diagnostic Devices using Mobile Phones

First Supervisor: Prof J Cooper ( School of Engineering, University of Glasgow)
Second Supervisor: Dr. Julien Reboud/ Dr. Manlio Tassieri (School of Engineering, University of Glasgow)

Point-of-care medical testing enables patients to obtain diagnostic results that inform clinical treatment, without visiting a specialist healthcare. Within the developed world this includes “bathroom testing” (eg pregnacy or sexual health) or home management of diseases (eg diabetes). In low and medium income countries (LMIC), the paradigm enables infectious disease testing “in-the-field” in rural areas where there is no specialized access to healthcare professionals. In either case the outcome is the same, namely new technology enabling timely and informed treatment and delivering healthcare benefits without direct access to clinical facilities.

Since their invention in 1973, mobile phones have become ubiquitous with >4.6b unique users (78% of subscriptions are in LMICs). Modern smartphones have ~14 built-in sensors including proximity, pressure, gyroscope as well as heart rate (used for the delivery of healthcare through m-health).   They now also offer an attractive platform for point-of-care medical diagnostics – providing a rechargeable battery, a high resolution camera for imaging, a CPU for processing data and a means of transmitting results (to enable “decision-support” from experts or expert systems).


G_HH_1 : * CMOS-Based Magnetic Resonance Biomedical Sensors

First Supervisor: Dr. Hadi Heidari  ( School of Engineering, University of Glasgow)
Second Supervisor: Prof. David Cumming (School of Engineering, University of Glasgow)

In recent years, growing interest in preventing cardiovascular diseases (CVD) using the dietary fatty acid intake has been paid a lot of attention. In western industrialized countries, the current indications for lipid intake have raised the question of the nature of fatty acid effects on human health. This project will initiate a new multidisciplinary investigation into cardiovascular system and quantitative etermination and analysis of fatty acid chain composition and magnetic resonance spectroscopy using electronic design of CMOS chips.


Image second from top (fibroblasts) © iStock