Auckland Bioengineering Institute

China Scholarship Council (CSC) scholar projects

This page summarises the research projects available to recipients of China Scholarship Council (CSC) scholarships.

Our project topics cover a wide range of bioengineering research, including mathematical modelling, instrumentation, software development, physiology and medical device development, which have been specifically designed for the research of tomorrow in China.

We welcome applicants with a strong background in engineering, applied mathematics, computer science, or physiology.


Please note: This page summarises the research projects available to recipients of China Scholarship Council (CSC) scholarships only. If you are a domestic student please browse the research projects on our 'Doctoral and masters research projects' page.


To find out more

About postgraduate study at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute:

Please contact our Associate Director Postgraduate, Dr David Long at

General information about the University of Auckland and China Scholarships Council scholarships:

You can find general information such as the University of Auckland application procedure and frequently asked questions about the CSC scholarships in relation to the University of Auckland on the University of Auckland website.

About a specific project:

If you do want more information about a specific project after you have read the information below, please contact the projects's principal supervisor directly.

Endothelial Mechanobiology - Intracellular force transmission and cellular function

Principal Supervisor: Dr David

Endothelial cells are continually exposed to mechanical stimuli. In response to mechanical stimuli, these cells respond by translating them into biochemical signals. The interaction between mechanical stimuli and biochemical signals play an important role in the both health and disease. 

A combination of confocal microscopy, mathematical/computational cell mechanics, statistical modelling, traction force microscopy, and many more are being used to study a wide range of topics - including intracellular force transmission within endothelial cells, the primary cilia, cytoskeleton organization, statistical models of endothelial cells, and many more. 

If you would like to discuss potential opportunities, please contact the principal supervisor.

Project added 16 October 2015.


The Endothelial Glycocalyx 

Principal Supervisor: Dr David

Strategically located at the interface between circulating blood and the endothelium is the endothelial glycocalyx layer (EGL). The EGL is a hydrated gel-like layer of membrane-bound macromolecules that is expressed on the luminal surface of, and regulated by, vascular endothelial cells. It protects the vascular wall from stresses produced by the direct exposure to blood flow. The susceptibility of the vessel wall to disease is attributable to the adaptive capacity of the vascular wall to the local microenvironment.

A combination of confocal microscopy, novel chemical reporters, cell culture models, live-cell imaging, traction-force microscopy, mathematical modelling, and more are being used to study the endothelial glycocalyx. 

If you would like to discuss potential opportunities, please contact the principal supervisor.

Project added 16 October 2015.


Smart rubbery robots

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Iain Anderson -

The Biomimetics lab has secured research funding to support a Master of Engineering student investigating the development of novel types of materials for dielectric elastomer switches (DES). This project has substantial research potential for conversion to a PhD.  

DES are piezo resistive elements that can be combined with artificial muscles to make rubbery robots think: muscles and switches can be arranged to interact and perform simple logical actions. Currently their adoption and use is being held back by poor and unreliable materials that cannot be easily patterned, and that have inconsistent properties.

The lab has secured research funding to work in collaboration with chemical materials experts to develop new switching materials to alleviate these problems. Our collaborator is making the new materials. Our job is to work out how to integrate them into new soft robotic devices.

The candidate should have

  1. A strong BE or BSc.
  2. Good practical skills.
  3. Good communication skills.

Project added: 16 December 2013.


Biomechanics for breast cancer imaging

Principal supervisors: Professor Martyn Nash -, Professor Poul Nielsen

A wide range of topics including biomechanics/contact-mechanics, real-time mechanics solutions, stastistical mechanics modelling, bioinstrumentation, stereoscopic imaging, clinical imaging/analysis (x-ray, MRI, ultrasound), image processing/registration, augmented reality applications, development of commercial software applications and many, many more. Join an established team of grad students and post-docs, and interact with clinical collaborators (e.g. at Auckland Hospital), to contribute to the development of clinical application software.


Cardiac electromechanics modelling

Principal supervisor: Professor Martyn Nash -

Development of models to investigate whole heart (RV+LV) excitation-contraction coupling and mechano-electrical feedback in the human heart. Applications involve investigating mechanisms of heart failure, arrhythmogenesis and therapies (such as cardiac resynchronisation therapy). This work is in collaboration with Professor Sasha Panfilov (Universiteit Gent).


Clinical cardiac electrophysiology and arrhythmias

Principal supervisors: Professor Martyn Nash -, Dr Chris Bradley

Developing signal processing methods to analyse and interpret dense arrays of electrical signals recorded directly from the surface of human hearts during normal rhythm, ventricular fibrillation, long duration ventricular ischaemia (8-12 mins). Work in collaboration with Dr Peter Taggart and a medical team at the University College London, and Dr Richard Clayton (University of Sheffield).


Exchanging models of the Virtual Physiological Human

Principal supervisor: Dr David Nickerson -
Collaborators: Professor Peter Hunter (ABI), Professor Poul Nielsen (ABI), Dr Mike Cooling (ABI), Dr S Randall Thomas (Paris), Dr Jonathan Cooper (Oxford), Professor Jim Bassingthwaighte (Washington), Dr Bernard de Bono (London/ABI), Associate Professor John Gennari (Washington), Professor Dan Cook (Washington).Key technologies: Multiscale model and simulation description, model and data exchange standards, semantic web, ontological annotation, repositories.

The ABI has a strong international reputation for the development of standards for encoding mathematical models of physiology using technologies suitable for the exchange of models between software tools. Recent developments in the annotation of such models and the association of models with experimental data have begun to provide the tools needed to encode larger and more complex models than currently possible. The goal of this project is to leverage these emerging technologies to create "computable model descriptions" which enable the exchange of complete simulation experiments of large, multiscale, physiome-style physiological models. This will significantly enhance the model publication and archival technologies available today and greatly improve the scientific methods used in the application of computational modeling to improving our understanding and treatment of human disease.

Project updated: 21 May 2015.


Modelling the human kidney

Principal supervisor: Dr David Nickerson -
Collaborators: Dr Kirk Hamilton (Otago), Professor Daniel Beard, Assistant Professor Brian Carlson (Michigan), Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter (ABI).

Key technologies: Multiscale modelling, high performance and GPU computation, semantic web, OpenCMISS-Iron, CellML

The Renal Physiome Project at the ABI is focused on developing a biophysically detailed model of the human kidney. We are always on the look-out for talented engineers and scientists to join our motivated team working on this exciting project. Current projects span the modelling spectrum from single proteins through to the whole renal nephron and whole kidney blood flow. Delivery of our research outputs via dynamic and interactive web-based technologies is also an important aspect of our work.

Project updated: 21 May 2015


Laboratory for Animate Technologies

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Mark Sagar -

Imagine a machine that can not only express what is on its mind, but also allows you to glimpse the mental imagery that it dynamically creates in its mind.

The Laboratory for Animate Technologies is is performing the multidisciplinary research and development of interactive autonomously animated systems which will help define the next generation of human computer interaction and facial animation.

The Lab will simulate the lifelike qualities and observable natural reflexes and dynamic behaviours which we experience when we engage with a person, through realtime computational models of Face and Brain interaction.

By combining multi-scale computational models of emotion, perception, learning and memory are combined to drive highly expressive realistic or abstracted computer generated imagery which is able to engage the user on an emotional level.

State-of-the-art computer vision techniques are being developed to track facial expression and behavior,which is combined with other multimodal input to allow the model to sense the world.

Collaborations with researchers working on different areas of brain function gives them an experimental context in which to test their models in action as they interact with other models in a closed loop system.

To gain insight into the complex interplay of the computational models we will use advanced 3D computer graphics to visualize in new and fantastic ways the simulated activity going on behind the scenes showing the dynamically evolving internal states and mental imagery which is giving rise to the expressive behaviours of the face we are interacting with.

Artistic opportunities abound with the fantastic visual and responsive possibilities as the research will provide a nexus for the Arts and the Sciences.

We conduct both pure and applied research with applications ranging from live digital characters for next generation entertainment media and from interactive architecture to healthcare robotics.

Research projects include:

  • Realtime markerless facial expression recognition and tracking
  • Neural system models of Emotion, Cognition, and reflexive behaviour
  • Unsupervised and reinforcement learning using real time spike timing based neural network models
  • Real time 3D computer graphics for realism and visualization
  • Combining different models of computation
  • Computer vision and speech
  • Biomechanical modelling
  • Robot and artificial muscle control
  • Artistic, design or architectural applications using interactive technology and projective realtime graphics


Pelvic floor and childbirth research

Principal supervisors: Professor Poul Nielsen -, Professor Martyn Nash, Dr Jenny Kruger

The ABI has developed a computational model of the pelvic floor muscles and fetal skull in order to simulate the second stage of labour. However the model is constrained at the moment by several factors, one of which is how to model fetal head moulding which commonly occurs during labour. The current childbirth model only includes a fetal skull, which limits the choices of boundary constraints applied to the fetus during the second stage of labour. This project aims to address this by extracting information from ultrasound images of the fetal head and neck, acquired in late pregnancy, using tools such as Matlab, ZINC digitiser and OpenCMISS-Zinc, for segmentation and mesh generation. This would not only enhance the modelling framework but would enable the exploration of different boundary constraints on the fetus, and consequently the ability to simulate the process of fetal head moulding during a vaginal birth. The project will give student the opportunities to collaborate with medical specialists, learn more about medical imaging, and in-depth experience with finite element modelling method. A range of areas including population analysis of fetal skull shape/structure (ultrasound during pregnancy), contact biomechanics, childbirth modelling, fetal head moulding, bioinstrumentation (compliance device) could be explored.


Postgraduate work with the Biomimetics Lab

Principal supervisor: Associate Professor Iain Anderson -

Biomimetics is the imitation of natural systems to solve problems and develop new technology. It is extensively used in the pharmaceutical and robotics industries, where it has produced lucrative advances. The Biomimetics Lab is gaining international recognition for our work in the fields of artificial muscle machines, power generation, sensing and control. The lab is skilled at both modelling and rapid prototyping of devices. We believe that ideas should be proven experimentally, and back this philosophy up by producing demonstration devices that we show off around the world.

We research and develop smart and soft machines that can be used for a wide variety of applications. We are on the lookout for smart students. Some of the work on offer includes:

  • Smart materials with integrated soft logic structures
  • Wearable energy harvesters
  • Biomimetic propulsion and air flow control
  • Built-in sensing and health monitoring of artificial muscles
  • Soft electrical machines

We have a very strong team culture. As a new member of the lab you will receive training and help so that your research project can hit the ground running. We need smart brains to get us to our goals. Please drop by and meet the team.


Research into structural heart disease

Principal supervisor: Professor Bruce Smaill -

Alterations in the structure of cardiac tissue after a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or as a result of hypertension affect the electrical and mechanical performance of the heart and may lead to life-threatening disturbances of heart rhythm and to pump failure.

The Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) leads a major research programme in this area that is funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand and involves staff and graduate students from the ABI, the School of Medical Sciences and Auckland City Hospital, as well as collaborators in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. Projects include:

  1. characterisation of structural and mechanical changes in the heart during the progression to heart failure
  2. a study of disturbances of heart rhythm in the region surrounding a healed myocardial infarction, and
  3. development of flexible computer models of the atrial chambers of the heart that can be used to better understand atrial rhythm disturbances that are commonly observed in heart failure.

The individual projects that constitute this research are linked by three common factors. They each utilize novel measurement and imaging techniques to access data that has not previously been available, they seek to integrate experimental information using sophisticated structure-based computer models and they all address explicit clinical problems. We have funded PhD positions in each of these research areas that would suit students with a wide range of interests and skills.

Project updated on 9 April 2013.


Skin instrumentation, experiments and modelling

Principal supervisors: Professor Poul Nielsen -, Associate Professor Andrew Taberner, Professor Martyn Nash

Imagine a small trampoline, no larger than a $1 coin. We want you to help us to construct a motorised testing device to stretch the trampoline while monitoring and controlling its tension. This project will involve design and construction, and will require the use and control of some new and interesting "squiggle motors." If you're interested in bioinstrumentation, image acquisition, programming and finitel element modelling, then this could be the project for you! This involves instrumentation, modelling, experimentation.


Tracking the heart: image is everything

Principal supervisor: Professor Alistair Young -

In collaboration with Siemens Medical Solutions, a major industrial supplier of MRI scanners, we are developing better ways of evaluating heart disease by automatically tracking heart motion using computer modelling. This project will teach you about biomedical image analysis, non-rigid registration, MRI, and diagnosing heart disease.