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Funded PhD position - University of Exeter - Vestibular disorders and standing balance

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  • Funded PhD position - University of Exeter - Vestibular disorders and standing balance

    Project Title: Using the Vsimulator to understand the motion sensitivity and balance function in participants with Meniere’s disease, Medical Science – PhD

    About the Award
    Applications are invited for a 3.5-year fully funded PhD Studentship to commence in September 2021. The studentship will be jointly supervised by Dr Jess Tyrrell, Dr Genevieve Williams and Mr Malcolm Hilton at the University of Exeter.

    Dr Tyrrell specializes in using large scale human datasets to uncover the causal mechanisms leading to adverse health outcomes such as depression or cardiometabolic diseases and works with digital technologies to help improve the understanding of factors involved in Meniere’s disease. Dr Genevieve Williams researches the coordination and control of human movement. Particularly, her research focuses on how the stability and adaptability of the dynamics of movement change as a function of skill level, perturbation, ageing or pathology. Mr Malcolm Hilton is an ear nose and throat consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and is Programme Lead for the Extreme Medicine Masters at the University of Exeter Medical School.

    The principal research aim of this project is to characterise and compare motion sensitivity in individuals with and without compromised vestibular systems. This will be achieved by using the Vsimulator at Exeter Science Park ( to address the following objectives:
    - Determining the minimum frequency at which participants can detect motion of the six-dimensional moving platform;
    - Investigating each plane of motion individually and together;
    - Using multiple methods to capture when participants detect motion, including oral confirmation, motion capture suits and pressure through force plates.

    This interdisciplinary PhD will aim to improve our understanding of motion sensitivity in Meniere’s disease, a vestibular condition characterised by episodic vertigo, tinnitus, aural fullness and hearing loss. The PhD will build on previous work by the supervisory team into Meniere’s (Tyrrell and Hilton) and will use interdisciplinary methods and expertise from sports science (Williams) to a) improve our understanding of motion sensitivity in Meniere’s and b) improve vestibular rehabilitation programs for individuals with Meniere’s by focussing on the key areas of motion sensitivity and imbalance.

    The student will be part of the larger interdisciplinary Human Movement Group at the College of Medicine and Health. The student will develop a unique set of skills in a truly interdisciplinary PhD. Working with experts in engineering, sports science and medical sciences, the student will gain experience in working in large-scale data analysis at the clinical interface. Data analysis has become more and more relevant to clinical research, yet there are still few people who can bridge the gap between the data analysis and the clinical applications. This studentship will equip the successful applicant with exactly those skills, and plenty of experience with complex datasets. The student will benefit from in-house training (e.g. ) and peer support to learn data analysis skills in Stata and R. There is a Health Statistics Group and an R User group. Finally, the student will have the opportunity to participate in numerous discussions and conferences both at Exeter and outside. They will benefit from being in a dynamic team with plenty of opportunities to present and discuss their own work. Towards the end of the studentship, they will be given plenty of support and guidance about their next career stage and support both to complete the thesis on time and to achieve their career goals.

    Please contact Dr Tyrrell informally for more details by email

    Entry requirements
    Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in relevant subject, such as maths, physics, biology, sports science and computer science.

    If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 7.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project. Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

    How to apply
    In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.
    • CV
    • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
    • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
    • Names of two referees familiar with your academic work. You are not required to obtain references yourself. We will request references directly from your referees if you are shortlisted.
    • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

    The closing date for applications is midnight on Friday 30th April 2021. Interviews will be held virtually in the week commencing 17th May 2021

    If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers) +44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers) Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor Dr Tyrrell