Postgraduate Research Programme

INFANT is working to solve challenges and deliver impact in maternal and child health with our partners RCSI, NUIG, TCD, UCD, and DCU.

We are delighted to recruit students to the INFANT SFI Postgraduate Research Student Programme to the areas of artificial intelligence, data science, personalised medicine, systems biology, neuroscience, biomedical engineering and biomarkers within clinical domains of newborn and infant health, fetal monitoring and pregnancy loss.

INFANT is committed to enhancing PhD training and developing highly skilled scientists, engineers and clinician researchers. The Postgraduate Training award will cover fees, stipends, materials/consumables, training costs and travel expenses for the students. A central doctoral training budget has also been awarded and will be used to ensure that all current and future students enrolled in INFANT Postgraduate Programmes benefit from structured postgraduate training.

mother and baby

Research Areas for Postgraduate Students

NFANT is delighted to welcome applications to the following studentships:

Newborn Health: The aim of this PhD work is to measure disruption to brain function using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in infants from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), with the aim of predicting the attentional, behavioural, and cognitive impairments that can emerge in childhood. Given the difficulty of measuring the early development of complex cognition in infants, fMRI can measure the disruption to key brain networks and link this, through longitudinal analysis, to future disability.

Supervisors:    Prof Rhodri Cusack, Trinity College Dublin & Prof Geraldine Boylan, INFANT Centre, UCC


Newborn Health: The aim of the PhD project is to improve training for medical professionals who monitor babies in the NICU through the synthesis of realistic neonatal seizure time series using recurrent conditional generative adversarial networks. Thousands of hours of neonatal health recordings will be used to create a software programme and documentation that will employ AI to simulate realistic sensor data that can be integrated into training simulation tools used by medical staff.

Supervisors:    Prof Tomás Ward, INSIGHT, DCU & Prof Geraldine Boylan, INFANT Centre, UCC


Biomarker Discovery: The aim of this PhD project is to identify a single prognostic biomarker signature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) using computational biology. Exploring the genes, proteins and signalling pathways from the cord blood of 300 babies who went on to be diagnosed with ASD and 300 who did not, using specific software tools for each, in order to identify any abnormalities in the ASD cohort that could be indicative of an infant being diagnosed with ASD. The data will be used as training material for machine learning tools in order to define a single biomarker signature to be used as a predictive test for ASD in neonates.

Supervisors:    Dr Jane English, University College Cork; Dr Lorna Lopez, Trinity College Dublin; ​Dr Catherine Mooney, University College Dublin; Prof Deirdre Murray, INFANT Centre, UCC


Fetal Monitoring: The aim of this PhD is to address a strong clinical need with a challenging engineering/signal processing problem to monitor babies’ health during delivery. The project will address the significant weaknesses of the current fetal monitoring systems, recently highlighted in a 2017 Cochrane review. The project will develop an ECG-based system that has significantly better sensitivity and specificity than existing systems, for the early detection of fetal distress.

Supervisors:    Prof Declan Devane, INFANT Centre, NUI Galway; ​Dr Martin O’Halloran, CURAM, NUI Galway; Prof Geraldine Boylan, INFANT, UCC & Prof Paul Friedman, Mayo Clinic


Pregnancy Loss: The aim of this PhD work is to reduce stillbirth through behaviour change interventions. The project will develop and evaluate an evidence-based behaviour change intervention to raise awareness of, and reduce risk factors, for stillbirth in Ireland. The evidence base and desired behaviours to change will be explored along with the facilitators and barriers to those changes. The feasibility of implementing an intervention will be assessed, along with the processes, costs and effects.

Supervisors:    Dr Keelin O’Donoghue, INFANT Centre, UCC; Prof Molly Byrne, HBCRG, NUI Galway & ​Dr Sarah Meaney, NPEC, UCC


Infant health: The aim of this MSc work is to explore the potential of volatilomics as a tool for neonate health monitoring in the NICU. The study of volatile organic compounds produced by the skin or breath, could represent a non-invasive rapid diagnostic route to gain insight into the health of the neonate. It could allow for monitoring of the skin microbiome as it becomes established, and be a potential tool for screening for certain metabolic and infectious diseases. The project will focus on sampling and analysis methods, working with clinical partners to demonstrate the validity of the approach.

Supervisors:    Dr Aoife Moran, DCU; Prof Tomás Ward, INSIGHT, DCU & Prof Eugene Dempsey, INFANT, UCC


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