EPSRC National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) Studentship: A Novel Mathematical Semen Analysis Tool for Smartphone Technologies: A Theoretical and Empirical Study.

University of York

This project is a collaboration between the University of York and JSR Genetics.

The current “Computer-Aided Semen Analysis” (CASA) system (developed in the 1980s) used in the livestock industry is a poor predictor of fertility as it only measures head movement, ignoring the flagellum, which is an important, subtle predictor of fertility and sperm health. CASA is an expensive laboratory assessment, and is unavailable to smaller scale livestock producers. Thus, semen samples are assessed with little information about the sperm, resulting in profit loss through unviable sperm usage.

Objectives

To develop a mathematical tool linking the sperm head motion to that of the flagella. This will allow in-depth analysis of the sperm’s internal mechanics, providing a practical indicator of sperm viability. This will be combined with cheap smartphone technologies to recognize swimming patterns of the most “healthy” sperm.

Novelty

We will use mathematical modelling simulations to establish the link between flagellar waves and head motion, making the movement of the entire sperm knowable through the simpler measurement of the head, introducing entirely new fertility parameters (e.g. sperm energy efficiency).

Timeliness

The first CASA for smartphones was launched for humans (but never for livestock) in March 2017, but only measures head movements. This is the first time that smartphone cameras have been advanced enough to perform these analyses.

Experimental and theoretical approach

We will feed high spatiotemporal capture of the flagellum into a virtual mathematical sperm model to perform simulations of the swimming sperm. From these flagellar movements, head trajectories can be predicted. Once the correlation between head trajectories and flagellar movement are established, we can use the developed model to predict flagellar movement from that of the head.

The experimental work will be carried out at the laboratories of JSR Genetics, which will also cover the consumables and provide access to laboratorial facilities and equipment, as well as empirical training and guidance, throughout the project.

Entry Requirements

We expect applicants to have a degree in Maths, Physics, Computer Science, Engineering, or related subjects. No previous experience in experimental work is necessary, but desirable. We hope the applicant will be interested in interdisciplinary approaches, and to work with our industrial partner (JSR genetics).

Funding

This studentship is fully-funded for 4 years and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,533 for 2017-2018); (ii) research costs; and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. The studentship is available to UK and EU students who meet the UK residency requirements. This grant forms part of a larger institutional training grant with limited places for overseas students, so such students are also encouraged to apply. All applicants should note that this studentship is in competition with other eligible projects under the remit of the wider training grant.

Closing date: Thursday 31 August 2017.

Interview date: Monday 4 September 2017.

Start date: October 2017.

Potential applicants can seek further information from Dr Hermes Gadêlha (https://www.york.ac.uk/maths/staff/hermes-gadêlha/).

To apply, please complete the application form by clicking on the relevant “Apply now” link here (https://www.york.ac.uk/maths/postgraduate/pg-research-courses/phd-mphil/), specifying a start date of October 2017 full-time, stating “EPSRC Studentship” as the project title and naming Dr Gadêlha as your potential supervisor.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

Northern England