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KESS2 East PhD in Mathematics: Data analysis and computational modelling of embryo growth rate and other metrics of success in In-Vitro Fertilization

This funding opportunity has expired.

Key facts

Application deadline 23 August 2019
Start date 1 October 2019
Duration 3 years
Funding body KESS
Level of study Postgraduate research
Award type PhD studentship

This PhD project will tackle two important challenges in In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and it is an exciting academia-industry collaboration of the Cardiff School of Mathematics with the School of Biosciences and with the London Women’s Clinic Wales (LWC).

LWC are also co-funding the project. The two challenges to tackle are:

  1. selecting the best embryo
  2. optimal embryo storage and management.

The first challenge involves data extraction and statistical modelling and the second challenge involves modelling the heat distribution in thawing embryos after their cryopreservation.

Challenge 1: selecting the best embryo

A key factor for success during In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle is choosing the best quality embryo to transfer to the patient, to maximise the chances for a successful pregnancy. Current methods, such as time-lapse imaging, or metabolic profiling, are respectively unproven or difficult to implement.

The aim is to develop a sophisticated, user-friendly image segmentation software tool that will accurately extract multiple features of a thawing embryo’s time-lapse images. This tool is not available currently in the IVF field and it will greatly speed up and eventually automate the extraction of multiple embryo features, while eliminating variable human error. Also, in IVF clinics only single focal frames of embryos are monitored currently; the software tool will extract the full 3D structure of embryos.

Data from hundreds of embryos will be extracted and then be processed with a meta-statistical analysis. A variety of different embryo quality metrics suggested in the IVF field will be assessed, to see which metric of combination of metrics correlates with embryo success.

Challenge 2: modelling the temperature of embryos

The second challenge, which run in parallel with the first depending on the skill of the student, will focus on the handling of thawing embryos and modelling their temperature.

Whenever embryos are transported, or inspected, it is imperative that their temperature is carefully controlled, to avoid damaging them. The inspection stage is the most critical as the embryo is removed from the storage liquid (liquid nitrogen) for observation and then re-immersed. Although this inspection is the most important stage for temperature control there are currently no protocols on how long it would take the embryo to heat beyond the point of damage.

We will thus develop a computational model for the temperature evolution in the embryo, using a heterogeneous three-dimensional heat transfer model. With the model we will predict exact time and conditions at which the embryos become damaged for different storage and observation scenarios in this way paving the way to creating a protocol.

Project aims

You, while being supervised by an interdisciplinary team, will:

  • build a close collaboration with LWC and gain a thorough understanding of processes, procedures and protocols.
  • develop image segmentation skills and heat transfer modelling skills.
  • work with LWC to automatically extract quantitative data from the time-lapse embryo images.
  • employ statistical methods to correlate embryo data with the probability for pregnancy.


Funding details

Tuition fee support Full UK/EU tuition fees
Maintenance stipend The stipend for the studentship is £14,628

Eligibility criteria

Residency UK Research Council eligibility conditions apply
Academic criteria

Applicants for research PhDs will be expected to have one or both of the following:

  • a first degree, normally with class 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject
  • a relevant master's degree qualification or equivalent.

Applicants must:

  • have a home or work address in East Wales region at the time of your application for KESS2 funding and you enrolment for the course of study
  • have the right to live and work in the UK for the duration of the KESS2 support, and the right to take up paid work in the East Wales region on completion of the scholarship
  • be classified as a ‘home’ or ‘EU’ student
  • satisfy the respective admissions criteria.

It is a condition of eligibility for KESS2 funding that you have not applied for, nor are intending to apply for, a doctoral or research master's loan. Please read clause (3) (m) of The Education (Postgraduate Doctoral Degree Loans) (Wales) Regulations 2018 for more information.

East Wales region is comprised of seven local authorities: Cardiff, Flintshire, Monmouthshire, Newport, Powys, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham.

Consideration is automatic on applying for Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics with a start date of 1 October 2019.

Interviews are expected to take place the week starting 9 September 2019.

In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided.

Please add “KESS2 PhD in Mathematics: Data analysis and computational modelling of embryo growth rate and other metrics of success in In-Vitro Fertilization" when asked "Please provide the name of the funding you are applying for".

We reserve the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Funding opportunity provided by:

Eligible research programmes