PhD: Therapy Planning and Monitoring of Tissue Ablation by High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound

University College London – Department of Mechanical Engineering

Vacancy Information

The Department of Mechanical Engineering at UCL has an outstanding international reputation in teaching & research on energy and the environment, marine engineering and naval architecture, and engineering for medical applications, with strong research collaborations with industry and universities in the UK, North America, Asia, and the Far East, and has excellent research and teaching facilities.

This studentship provides an opportunity for a UK/EU candidate to join a 3-year study program in UCL's Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Studentship Description

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is an emerging treatment modality which uses high-amplitude ultrasound to thermally ablate a localised region of tissue. HIFU is the only non-ionising intervention capable of complete non-invasive ablation at depth. While HIFU is currently in the early stages of development and adoption, it has the potential to transform the treatment of a variety of serious medical conditions, including cancers of the liver and kidneys, and uterine fibroids. In order to facilitate the clinical uptake of HIFU, patient specific and efficient numerical modelling schemes are required to plan and optimise the treatment. The aim of project OptimUS (EPSRC grant EP/P012434/1) is to develop a novel mathematical and treatment planning framework for ablating tumours of the abdomen using HIFU. HIFU has the potential to lead to significant improvements in disease outcomes and the quality of life of patients. In addition, the development of HIFU treatment planning methods will lead to more cost-effective cancer treatment protocols, saving the NHS time, resources, and money.

A key component to the successful outcome of devising a HIFU treatment planning platform involves experimental validation of the underlying numerical schemes. For this purpose, experiments on soft tissue and bone phantoms will be carried out and compared with output from the OptimUS treatment planning software. Access to a clinical MR-guided HIFU system at the Royal Marsden Hospital has been secured specifically for this task.

This PhD Studentship offers a unique opportunity to join a team of world-leading investigators and partners from UCL, University of Cambridge, The Institute of Cancer Research, and the Oxford HIFU Unit. All bring unique yet complementary expertise in the fields of mathematics, engineering, physics, medicine, and computing to solve a series of complex challenges. Applicants interested in a career in engineering applications of healthcare technologies are strongly encouraged to apply. Successful completion of this appointment will lead to excellent academic and industrial prospects.

Person Specification

Applicants must have a UK-equivalent first degree in an appropriate engineering discipline (e.g. Mechanical or Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering), or Applied Physics. Proficiency in applied mathematics, Matlab or Python programming experience, and knowledge of measurement techniques are a distinct advantage. Only students with a good First degree, or who are expecting to receive one, and/or an MSc degree with distinction will be considered.


Candidates must be either UK residents, or EU residents who have been living in the UK for 3 years prior to the course commencing. EU residents who have not been living in the UK are eligible for fee only awards; see

For more information please contact Prof. Nader Saffari (

To apply, please send a CV and cover letter by email to Prof. Nader Saffari (