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Modelling photoplethysysmography (PPG) pulse changes in vascular disease

Eligibility: International graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (international)

Duration: Full time - between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2023

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

To find out more about the project, please contact Prof John Allen or Dr Moe Elgendi.


This PhD research project is part of the collaboration between the Centre for Intelligent Healthcare (CIH) and the Biomedical Health Technology (BMHT) Lab at ETHZ. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to conduct his/her research project both at CIH in Coventry and  at BMHT in Switzerland. By engaging in research in the UK and Switzerland, the programme offers researchers the opportunity to access the state-of-art research facilities and advance their knowledge and expertise in sensors including photoplethysmography (PPG), physiological measurement, bio-signal processing, mathematical modelling and vascular measurements whilst they develop their intercultural skills and international networks and collaborations.

The successful candidate will enrol at Coventry University, UK as their home institution and will spend up to 1.5 years at ETHZ. Our Coventry group is experienced in intelligent healthcare, sensing and physiological measurements / analysis, modelling and vascular measurements. The ETHZ group has rich experiences in advanced signal processing of physiological data and sensors. The complementary expertise of both groups will ensure the successful implementation of this collaborative project.

Project details

Photoplethysmography (PPG, a technique often found in wearable fitness monitors/watches) is a low-cost optical pulse technique that can detect tissue blood volume changes with each heartbeat. It is often used on the skin surface at body measurement sites such as the finger and/or toe pads. PPG waveforms are multi-component and are known to contain valuable physiological information - the pulse can be significantly altered in patients with vascular disease. The changes seen however are not well understood and appear not to be specific to one cardiovascular problem. In this research project we will study the waveforms further and utilise state of the art modelling and data synthesis methods to help explain the features often seen when there is peripheral vascular disease. The work will also inform key sensing/analysis and disease detection know-how to take forward for future wider studies on patients with circulatory diseases.

We are looking for highly motivated candidates ideally with previous experience of digital signal processing, physiological modelling and data synthesis techniques to take forward in the research. The PhD project requires working with sensor, physiological measurement and bio-signal processing researchers at different stages along the development pathway – and will lead to high-quality publications.


Tuition fees, bursary and additional allowances. 


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

  • Throughout the programme the candidates will have a joint supervisory team and work in close collaboration with industry stakeholders in both UK and Switzerland.
  • The successful candidates will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills at the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development at Coventry University
  • The supervisory team offers a substantial track record in successful doctoral supervision and expertise in the thematic areas identified.

Candidate specification

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.  
  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 4 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).

Additional requirements

  • Previous experience of physiological sensor development and electronics, and also digital signal processing;
  • Knowledge of the cardiovascular and circulatory systems;
  • Knowledge of statistical analysis;
  • Knowledge of related software (Matlab, Python, R, SPSS, etc.);
  • Ability to think innovatively and critically analyse data and results;
  • Good written and oral communication skills;
  • A record of presenting papers at conferences and of publishing peer reviewed research papers (desired);
  • Ability to meet deadlines, sometimes under pressure;
  • Ability to work independently and also as part of a local and international multidisciplinary team;
  • Willingness to take on roles to enhance research team activities and profile.

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Prof John Allen (Centre for Intelligent Healthcare, ad5325@coventry.ac.uk) and Dr Moe Elgendi (Biomedical Health Technology (BMHT) Lab at ETHZ, moe.elgendi@hest.ethz.ch).          

All applications require full supporting documentation, CV, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

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