[visionlist] Funded PhD position in "Tactile Biomechanics and Neuroscience: How Do Humans Feel Friction?" at UCD, Ireland (Stephen Redmond)

Stephen Redmond stephen.redmond at ucd.ie
Fri Nov 22 11:10:37 -04 2019

Online position description: https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/jobs/465428

*PhD in Tactile Biomechanics and Neuroscience: How Do Humans Feel Friction?*

*Background:* Prosthetic and robotic hands demonstrate poor dexterity
during object manipulation, often dropping objects. Humans rarely allow
objects to slip because we can sense if an object is slippery and adjust
our grip. In recent years, while we have learned more about the
biomechanics and neuroscience underpinning our ability to sense friction,
there is still much to learn. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given how poorly we
understand human friction sensing, very little research has been directed
at replicating this ability to sense friction or slipperiness in artificial
sensors. This research program has three work packages: *(WP1) To advance
our understanding of how humans sense friction*; (WP2) To demonstrate,
using a number of friction-based tactile sensor prototypes currently under
development by our research group, that friction sensing leads to improved
dexterity in robotic manipulation;
(WP3) To use advanced design, manufacturing, and instrumentation methods to
miniaturise the proposed sensors to a scale similar to a human finger pad.
The outcomes of this research, which would endow artificial hands with the
ability to feel the slipperiness and/or impending loss of grip of a grasped
object, could significantly advance the fields of prosthetics, telesurgery,
and service, agricultural, and manufacturing robotics.

*PhD scope:* The candidate will work on *WP1 of this project, performing
biomechanical and microneurographic studies of the human sense of touch to
discover the mechanisms by which frictional information about the contact
interface between the finger pad and a manipulated object is transduced by
the skin of the finger pad, and subsequently encoded and signalled to the
brain by tactile afferents*. The biomechanical studies will involve video
processing of relative movement between the skin and the object surface,
and this movement (and associated forces) related to friction.
Microneurography, using microelectrodes placed in the median nerve at the
level of the wrist, will be used to record the responses of single tactile
afferents in response to localised biomechanical events, which in turn are
influenced by frictional properties – this demonstrates whether
friction-related biomechanical events (such as localised slips) can be
detected by our mechanoreceptors. Robotic actuators will be used (with
support from additional technical and research staff) to manipulate the
skin of the finger pad. Advance statistical methods, including machine
learning techniques, will be used to decode the ensemble of neural
recordings, highlighting which biomechanical events are important to our
sensation of friction.

*Supervision and research environment:* The candidate will be *supervised
by A/Prof Stephen Redmond* (School of Electrical and Electronic
Engineering: https://www.ucd.ie/eleceng/) *and Prof James Jones* (School of
Medicine: https://www.ucd.ie/medicine/). The *candidate will also spend
time training with one of our international collaborators *to develop
skills in the technique of microneurography. Neurological recordings will
be performed in Dublin under the guidance of Prof Jones, and in
collaboration with Neurology Research Group at St Vincent’s University
Hospital, Dublin. The candidate will interact with the other work packages
or the project. The candidate will also have the opportunity to contribute
to the SFI Insight Centre for Data Analytics (
https://www.insight-centre.org/) based at UCD.

*Funding:* A *stipend of **€**18,500 per annum plus tuition fee is
available for a maximum of four years*. The project is generously funded by
Science Foundation Ireland’s President of Ireland Future Research Leaders
Award, held by A/Prof Redmond, which includes an extensive budget for
laboratory apparatus, consumables, and travel. The tactile sensor design
work packages are also partly supported by US Office of Naval Research
Global funding held by A/Prof Redmond and Dr Heba Khamis at UNSW (Sydney,

*Academic requirements:* The minimum academic qualification is a *first- or
upper-second-class honours degree* (or an equivalent international degree)
in electrical engineering, software engineering, biomedical engineering,
neuroscience, neurophysiology, or a sufficiently related field. *Software
programming skills are essential*.

*Contact:* Please *send the following documents to Stephen Redmond* (
stephen.redmond at ucd.ie):

(1)* Cover letter*;

(2) *Curriculum vitae*;

(3)* All academic transcripts;*

(4) Currently valid *IELTS*, *TOEFL* or other *English language


Stephen Redmond, PhD
- Science Foundation Ireland President of Ireland Future Research Leader,
UCD School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, University College
Dublin, Ireland.
- Funded Investigator, Science Foundation Ireland Insight Centre for Data
- Adjunct Associate Professor, Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
- Co-founder, Contactile.
E: stephen.redmond at ucd.ie
W: https://people.ucd.ie/stephen.redmond
W: https://www.contactile.com
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