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Six Marie Skłodowska-Curie Early Stage Researcher Positions

SPINNER (SPINe: Numerical and Experimental Repair strategies) is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) European Industrial Doctorate (EID) aimed at improving treatments for spine disorders.

SPINNER is recruiting a group of six Bioengineering early stage researchers (ESRs) to be in a position to design the next generation of repair materials and techniques for spine surgery. The project brings together partners from the biomaterials, implantable devices, and computational modelling industries with orthopaedic clinicians and academic experts in cell, tissue and organ scale biomaterials and medical device testing. All projects will be fully grounded in practical industrial and clinical requirements, where the number of patients requiring complex spine surgery is rapidly expanding, and the biomedical engineering industry needs suitably trained, innovators to produce economic solutions to support healthy ageing for the people of Europe.

SPINNER is an academic/ clinical/ industrial partnership and the ESRs will be expected to interact with several partners during their three years of research. The partners are:

For more information, please visit www.spinner-eid.eu.
The ESRs will be recruited for 36 months and be enrolled onto a PhD programme at one of the academic partner institutions. They will expect to spend at least 18 months at a non-academic partner institution.

Early Stage Researcher (ESR) Projects

ESR1: Osteoinductive injectable/ mouldable bone graft substitute for spine repair

Start Date: 01-September-2018
Host institution: University of Sheffield, UK
This ESR will join Insigneo the institute for in silico medicine and will be affiliated with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Industrial Secondment: Finceramica, Italy

Objectives: Development of multisubstituted hydroxyapatite (SrMgHA) to manufacture orthopaedic cements and putties for enhanced bone regeneration in spinal fusion.

Required Skills: This ESR should have or be close to obtaining an Undergraduate degree in Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Chemistry or a related discipline. Basic knowledge of biomaterials, regenerative medicine, processing of ceramic nanoparticles, chemical/physical characterisation of biomaterials, statistical methods and experience of cell culture is desirable. Chemical laboratory experience is required. The ESR should show highly collaborative attitude, excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Acquired skills: This ESR will specialise in hydroxyapatite based regenerative materials. The project will enable the ESR to develop research and technical skills on physico/chemical characterisation of biomaterials (for example, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), morphological evaluation by SEM, ICP spectrometry, enzymatic degradation test, mechanical testing), materials characterisation techniques (for example, mechanical testing and elemental analysis), basic knowledge on in vitro biological testing to assess the capability of the material to drive bone regeneration, and basic knowledge about organ-level biomechanical testing.

Employability: the profile of this ESR will make him/her employable at medical device companies active in the development and production of synthetic bone graft for bone regeneration in orthopaedic, dental or maxillofacial surgery.

Informal enquiries: Gwen Reilly (g.reilly@sheffield.ac.uk) or Elisa Figallo (efigallo@finceramica.it).

Applications for this position will also need to complete the University of Sheffield’s application procedure, which can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y85xyj7r.

ESR2: Development of osteoinductive coatings for spinal implants (fusion cages)

Start Date: 01-September-2018
Host institution: University of Sheffield, UK
This ESR will join Insigneo the institute for in silico medicine and will be affiliated with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Industrial Secondment: Finceramica, Italy

Objectives: To develop an osteoinductive coating for cages used in spinal fusion, through exploring the antibacterial properties of multisubstituted apatite.

Required Skills: This ESR should have or be close to obtaining an Undergraduate degree in Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Chemistry or a related discipline. Basic knowledge of ceramic biomaterials and processing, methodologies for chemical/physical characterisation of biomaterials, statistical methods and experience of cell culture is desirable. Chemical laboratory experience is required. The ESR should show highly collaborative attitude, excellent written and verbal communication skills.

Acquired skills: this ESR will specialise in hydroxyapatite based regenerative materials and devices for orthopaedic application. The ESR will have the opportunity to develop research and technical skills in biological (cell viability) and physico/chemical characterisation of biomaterials (for example, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), morphological evaluation by SEM, ICP spectrometry, enzymatic degradation test, mechanical testing), materials characterisation techniques (for example, mechanical testing and elemental analysis) and basic knowledge of in vitro biological testing. Training will include assessment of mechanical competence at different scales, also in relation to revision of joint replacement. The ESR will acquire project management, communication and analytical skills by working in close collaboration with different steps in product development (production, quality assurance/regulatory, marketing) as described by design control principles.

Employability: the profile of this ESR will make him/her employable at medical device companies developing or commercialising class III products for tissue regeneration particularly in the orthopaedic field.

Informal enquiries: Fred Claeyssens (f.claeyssens@sheffield.ac.uk) or Elisa Figallo (efigallo@finceramica.it).

Applications for this position will also need to complete the University of Sheffield’s application procedure, which can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y85xyj7r.

ESR3: Integration of clinical experience and in vitro biomechanical testing to improve spinal augmentation

Start Date: 01-November-2018
Host institution: University of Bologna, Italy
This ESR will join the PhD program Health and Technology, an interdisciplinary collaboration bridging the medical and the engineering departments of the University of Bologna, and will be affiliated with the Department of Industrial Engineering.
Industrial Secondment: National Center for Spinal Disorders, Hungary

Objectives: To develop understanding of the failure mechanism of augmented spine segments, focusing both on the vertebrae subjected to vertebroplasty, and adjacent ones.

Required Skills: This ESR should have or be close to obtaining (by 31 July 2018) a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Bioengineering, Materials Science, or a related discipline.  Only applicants with a University degree that would allow them to join a PhD program in Italy or in UK can apply, i.e. a University Degree of 3+1 or 3+2 years, or a similar combined degree consisting of a Bachelor followed by a Master corresponding to a total of 4 or more years of legal duration, or a single degree of 4 of more years can apply for admission. Knowledge of biomechanics, orthopaedics and mechanics of materials and structures is essential.  Additionally, experience in mechanical testing, biomaterials, and with clinical environments desirable.

Acquired skills: This ESR will specialise on the problems related to vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty and vertebral augmentation. During the first phase, the ESR will become familiar with the clinical environment, and learn the clinical problems related to vertebroplasty. This will include patients with osteoporotic fractures and metastatic lesions. During the second phase, the ESR will learn (in synergy with ESR3) how to develop dedicated biomechanical testing with a focus on vertebroplastic technique.

Employability: The expertise that this ESR will gain will make him/her employable in industries developing regenerative materials, and in test labs.

Informal enquiries: Luca Cristofolini (luca.cristofolini@unibo.it) or Áron Lazáry (aron.lazary@bhc.hu).

ESR4: Sagittal stability: movement analysis before and patient motion after spinal treatments

Start Date: 01-November-2018
Host institution: University of Bologna, Italy
This ESR will join the PhD program Health and Technology, an interdisciplinary collaboration bridging the medical and the engineering departments of the University of Bologna, and will be affiliated with the Department of Industrial Engineering.
Industrial Secondment: National Center for Spinal Disorders, Hungary
Objectives: To develop a comprehensive approach to spinal balance and more in general to spine biomechanics.

Required Skills: This ESR should have or be close to obtaining  (by 31 July 2018) a degree in Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering, or a related discipline. Only applicants with a University degree that would allow them to join a PhD program in Italy or in UK can apply, i.e. a University Degree of 3+1 or 3+2 years, or a similar combined degree consisting of a Bachelor followed by a Master corresponding to a total of 4 or more years of legal duration, or a single degree of 4 of more years can apply for admission.  Knowledge of biomechanics, orthopaedics and imaging is essential.  Additionally, experience in mechanical testing, numerical modelling, and with clinical environments desirable. anical testing, numerical modelling, and with clinical environments desirable.

Acquired skills: This ESR will gain a comprehensive understanding of the issues related to spinal balance. He/she will get familiar with in vivo methods to assess patients before and after spinal corrections (including imaging and movement analysis), modelling methods to investigate sagittal balance, and in vitro biomechanical tests (in synergy with ESR 3). In the last phase, he/she will familiarise with mechanical testing and experimental stress analysis.

Employability: The profile of this ESR will make him employable by companies manufacturing spine correction devices, but also in clinical centres for movement analysis.

Informal enquiries: Luca Cristofolini (luca.cristofolini@unibo.it) or Áron Lazáry (aron.lazary@bhc.hu).

ESR5: Modelling spinal surgical procedures

Start Date: 01-September-2018
Host Institution: Ansys, France
Academic Institution: University of Sheffield, UK
Objectives: Development of a personalised finite element model of the lumbar spine to simulate spinal repair systems.

Required Skills: This ESR should have or be close to obtaining an Undergraduate degree in Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering or a related discipline. Knowledge of finite element modelling and scripting is essential. Knowledge of medical images and image processing is desirable.

Acquired skills: This ESR will specialise in in silico modelling of the spine. The project will give the ESR the opportunity to acquire high skills in computational modelling, in particular in the modelling of the many different tissues that compose the spine. The ESR will acquire knowledge of the multi-scale anatomy and biomechanics of the spine, and the different orthopaedic interventions available (interspinous implant concepts). In addition, the ESR will get a very complete experience in in vitro testing, and integration of experimental and numerical methods.

Employability: This program will enable the trainee to be employable in any orthopaedic company that requires a good understanding of the biomechanics and the effect of medical devices on the body. In addition, the extensive experience in computational modelling will enable the trainee to work in companies requiring expertise in finite element modelling.

Informal enquiries: Michel Rochette (michel.rochette@ansys.com) or Enrico Dall’Ara (e.dallara@sheffield.ac.uk).

ESR6: Statistical shape modelling and reduced order modelling techniques for patient-specific models

Start Date: 01-September-2018
Host Institution: ADAGOS, France
Academic Institution: University of Sheffield, UK

Objectives: The goal is to design a procedure that creates a patient specific in silico model of the spine. This model shall evolve and adapt depending on the real time action of the clinician during the clinical procedure. At each surgical step, the in silico model will test several scenarios and propose to the clinician the best placement of implants. Each possible scenario of implants configuration and order of their placement can be modelled by finite elements model. When the operation is oriented on an individual patient and not on average spinal column, the approach based on resolution of a complete model becomes too computationally expensive, because multiple configurations have to be tested in order to find the optimal one. As a consequence, this approach cannot be efficiently introduced into medical practice. Recently, the AI solutions have proven to be of great interest for medical applications. The main goal of the future ESR will be the introduction of the reduced order model based on machine learning techniques. Both the real medical data and the results of the finite elements analysis will be used for training of this model.

Required Skills: This ESR should have or be close to obtaining a minimum undergraduate Honours degree (UK 2:1 or better) or MSc (Merit or Distinction) in Engineering, Mathematics, Statistics, Signal Processing, or a related discipline. Knowledge of modelling and simulation is essential. Knowledge of deep learning, artificial intelligent and image processing is desirable.

Acquired skills: The ESR will obtain very strong fundamentals on the deep learning techniques and their applications in biomedical studies, GPU computing.

Employability: The ESR will receive a strong background in deep learning applied to biomechanics and therefore companies requiring modelling expertise in the orthopaedic sector or in the biomedical engineering field, or any other engineering field will be interested in such profile.

Informal enquiries: Kateryna Bashtova (kateryna.bashtova@adagos.com) or Lingzhong Guo (l.guo@sheffield.ac.uk).

Eligibility Criteria

The following eligibility criteria apply for these positions:

  • Mobility: To be eligible for a position, you must not have resided in the same country as the host institution for more than 12 months over the three years leading up to the start date of the position, excluding holidays and (refugee status) asylum application.
  • Early Stage Researcher: An Early Stage Researcher (ESR) shall at the time of recruitment by the host organisation, be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of their research careers and have not been awarded a doctoral degree.

For general informal enquires about the SPINNER project and the six positions please contact: Gwen Reilly (g.reilly@sheffield.ac.uk) or Luca Cristofolini (luca.cristofolini@unibo.it).

Language Requirements

ESR1, ESR2, ESR5 and ESR6 will need to fulfil the Universities of Sheffield’s English language requirements for PhD registration, which are International English Language Test System (IELTS) 6.5 Overall, with a minimum of 6 in each category. The only exception to this is where your previous degree was in a native English speaking country, no more than five years ago.

For more information please see https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/info/englang.

ESR3 and ESR4 do not have an Italian language requirement, the working language of the laboratory is English. Reasonable English is required, which will be assessed at interview.

Benefits

The MSCA programme offers highly competitive and attractive salary and working conditions. The successful candidates will receive a salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for early stage researchers. Exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment [Living Allowance = 3,700 euro/year (correction factor to be applied per country) + Monthly mobility allowance = 600 to 850 euro depending on the family situation]. In addition to their individual scientific projects, all ESRs will benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills courses and active participation in workshops and conferences. The approximate gross salary stated above is subject to employers statutory deductions and the amount varies according to the living costs of the host country.

PhD fees will be covered by the project grant.

Overseas (non-EU) applicants

Overseas applicants are welcome, please indicate if you require the host institution to sponsor your work visa.

Application

Please complete the application form, and upload a one-page application letter and a three-page curriculum vitae as PDF files, where requested within the form. The deadline for applications is Tuesday, 15th May 2018.

Applications for ESR1 and ESR2 will also have to complete the University of Sheffield’s application process, which can be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y85xyj7r.

Please note it is only necessary to apply for ONE single ESR position, only one application per person will be considered during the shortlisting process. If you are interested in a second position, please state this in the form and in your application letter.

European flagThis project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 766012