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PhD Studentship (3 years): Human visual perception with helical wave fronts and various optical states

Academic Promotions - College of Engineering & Physical Sciences

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Friday 31 March 2023
Reference:  R230065
Release Date:  Tuesday 07 March 2023

Supervisor: Prof. Igor Meglinski, Professor Stephen Anderson and Professor Gary Misson 

Project Reference: EPS_Meglinski_Human_Vision

Key words: Biophotonics, Polarized light, Biomedical Imaging, Orbital Angular Momentum, perception of polarized light in humans; functional organization of the human brain; amblyopia and age-related macular degeneration 

Applications are invited for a three-year Postgraduate studentship, supported by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, to be undertaken within the Mechanical, Biomedical & Design (MBD), School of Engineering and Technology at Aston University and College of Health & Life Sciences / Centre for Vision and Hearing Research / Optometry & Vision Science Research Group (OVS). 

The position is available to start in April or July 2023, subject to negotiation.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate. Home students will also receive a maintenance allowance of at least £16,062 in 2022/3 (subject to eligibility). Applicants from outside the UK may apply for this studentship but will need to pay the difference between ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ tuition fees, the difference currently being £13,404 per year in 2022/23. International students must confirm that they have applied for, or secured, this additional funding in their application. 

Background to the Project

Background: The retina, the thin light-sensitive film at the back of the eye, is a complex multi-layered nanostructure that converts light into electrical impulses. Transferring through the optic nerve to the brain, these impulses are perceived consciously, creating visual images/pictures. A peculiarity of all vertebrate retinas is that light has to pass through this multi-layered structure before it can activate light sensitive photoreceptors. This inevitably degrades image perception to varying extents. In humans, evolutionary forces have specialized the retina along the line of sight to form a structurally distinct central area called the macula. Unlike the peripheral retina, the cells and layering of the macula allow the best possible daytime vision by minimizing the interfering effect of this multi-layered structure. However, these adaptations come at a cost as they render the macular more susceptible to certain diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. In both of these common diseases, small structural alterations in the macula can have profound effects on vision, impacting on quality of life. Understanding the way polarized light, and especially complex shaped light with Orbital Angular Momentum (OAM), passes through the retina, and the macula in particular, is fundamental to understanding both how humans see and the effects of retinal diseases on vision.

Aims: The current project will explore the applicability of using shaped light with helical wave fronts and OAM for detecting central visual field dysfunctions, including age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, with immediate further transfer for routine day-to-day clinical diagnostic practice. 

Training outcomes: The innovative OAM-based macular screening approach promises to be so specific that it will revolutionize diagnostic procedures currently used in biomedicine, and will provide an opportunity to manage signal propagation in neurons. Patent strategy and market analysis will be determined at the final stage of the project, with the primary goal of commercializing the newly developed technology. In terms of publications outcome, we expect to have papers published annually in high profile, peer-reviewed scientific journals (target journals are Nature, Science and the Proceedings of Royal Society). In additional to Doctoral candidate will participate relevant mini-tutorials, summer schools, short courses and networking events (round-table discussions, poster presentations), organized in frame of top conferences in the field (such as GRC, CLEO and SPIE Photonics Europe, Photonics West, and other), involving experts in the field both from academia and from industry. The use of shaped light with Orbital Angular Momentum in visual psychophysics is very new concept that not yet even described in the scientific publications. This is a pioneering field, and as such the chance of new knowledge is considered to be extremely high.

This Doctoral work will have a cross-disciplinary supervisory team of world experts in Biophotonics, properties of biological tissues, material sciences and opto-acoustic imaging: Prof. I. Meglinski (MBD, Aston, main supervisor), Professor S. Anderson (OVS, Aston, 2nd supervisor) and Professor G. Misson (OVS Aston & Warwick Nuffield Hospital and South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, 3rd supervisor). 

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in relevant areas such as engineering, physics, optics or photonics. Preferred skill requirements include knowledge/experience of optical and/or acoustic imaging, properties of biological tissues and 3D printing technologies. 

We would particularly like to encourage applications from women seeking to progress their academic careers. Aston University is committed to the principles of the Athena SWAN Charter, recognised recently by a prestigious Silver Award to EPS, and we pride ourselves on our vibrant, friendly and supportive working environment and family atmosphere.

Contact information

For formal enquiries about this project contact Professor Igor Meglinski by email:

Submitting an application

As part of the application, you will need to supply:

  • A copy of your current CV
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree; this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English.
  • A research proposal statement*
  • A personal statement
  • Two academic references
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here

Please select “Mechanical Engineering” from the application form options.

*The application must be accompanied by a “research proposal” statement. An original proposal is not required as the initial scope of the project has been defined, candidates should take this opportunity to detail how their knowledge and experience will benefit the project and should also be accompanied by a brief review of relevant research literature.

Please include the supervisor’s name, project title, and project reference in your Personal Statement.

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

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Aston University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all sections of the community.  It promotes equality and diversity in all aspects of its work. We strive to have robust inclusivity strategies in place, including race and sexual orientation, to encourage colleagues to have the confidence and freedom to be themselves in the workplace. For more information, visit:

If you require the job details document or an application form in an alternative format please contact the recruitment team at



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