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Current vacancies

PhD Opportunity: Developing virtual reality for paediatric neurorehabilitation

Closing date: 22 April 2024
Employer: The University of Sheffield (Department of Computer Science)
Location: Sheffield

Apply now

Main Supervisor

Dr Steve Maddock, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, Department of Computer Science  

About the Project

Brain and spinal cord tumours are the second most common types of cancer in children and young people (CYP) after leukaemia, accounting for approximately 1 out of every 4 childhood cancers. Current treatments are often very intensive and usually involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, as well as novel biologically targeted therapies that often go on for months or years. This type of treatment can result in severe physical and psychological long-term side effects. There are currently over 40,000 childhood cancer survivors in the UK, the vast majority of whom have significant long-term health related issues that continue well into adulthood.

Neurorehabilitation is used to improve CYP’s mobility and perceptive functions as well as to provide CYP with various compensatory strategies. The overall goal of neurorehabilitation is to increase CYP’s participation in daily activities and improve their overall quality of life. However, current access to paediatric neurorehabilitation in the NHS is very limited.

Using digital therapeutics, such as virtual reality, may be an engaging and attractive alternative to conventional therapies, and could facilitate neurorehabilitation taking place at home. The use of digital therapeutics in paediatric neurorehabilitation may also improve the delivery of assessments, treatments, and clinical outcomes for children and young people diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumours because of its potential to overcome current limitations of current therapies.

Key aims/objectives:

  • Create a system where CYP’s activity is designed and adapted according to the individual’s abilities and needs following treatment for a brain tumour. For example, to address problems with balance (ataxia) or one-sided weakness in their arm, hand, or leg (hemiparesis).
  • Computer systems with virtual environments will enable the graded difficulty and differentiation of individual tasks, which will lead to better use of cognitive-motor learning strategies.
  • The user and physiotherapist will be able to control and modify the individual (personal) training and track the digital therapeutic score on/offline.
  • The system will be paired with a wearable device to help to establish level of exertion and wider health benefit.

This project will give you the opportunity to work alongside patients, families, clinicians, engineers, computer scientists, and other experts in a pioneering cross-disciplinary programme to develop new digital platforms and technologies that can address unmet needs in child health.

This project is a collaboration between Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, the NIHR Children and Young People MedTech Co-operative, and the Insigneo Institute at the University of Sheffield.

This is a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of innovative developments in the field of paediatric digital healthcare technology and to make change happen for the better.

Entry Requirements

We are seeking applicants who are highly motivated and enthusiastic, possessing a strong academic background in engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, healthcare, human factors, or a related field. Successful applicants should also have prior research experience, as well as strong interdisciplinary and technical skills, along with excellent communication skills. Furthermore, they should demonstrate a passion for making a meaningful contribution to child health.

How to apply

Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box Dr Steve Maddock, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and select the Department of Computer Science as the department.


Pre-application and informal enquiries accompanied by a CV are encouraged to Sarah Black (Insigneo Administrative Manager)


Monday 22 April 2024




Funding is provided for home tuition fees only and a stipend (£18,622) for three years. Overseas tuition fees are not covered.

Funding is provided by the Insigneo Institute, Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and NIHR GOSH Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) as part of their National Paediatric Excellence Initiative. The NIHR GOSH BRC (GOSH BRC) is a partnership between GOSH and the University College London (UCL) GOSH Institute of Child Health (ICH). 

Now it’s in its fourth 5-year term, a BRC National Paediatric Excellence Initiative has been set up between GOSH BRC and the children’s hospitals in Birmingham, Sheffield, and Liverpool. The GOSH BRC’s aim is to transform the health of children, and the adults they will become, by combining cutting-edge research methods with world- leading clinical trial expertise, to accelerate the discovery of new treatments for children with rare and complex conditions.

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