Course structure and content 

The Physical Sciences for Health (Sci-Phy-4-Health) programme is an integrated course enabling each student to achieve a MSc and subsequently a PhD award over a period of four years. 

Year 1: Taught modules and mini-projects (180 credits)

Taught modules (6 x 10 credits)

The following six taught modules are designed to equip students with the essential background knowledge and practical skills for their research projects:  


Taught content

The modules cover both theoretical and laboratory/instrumentation-based components. Core material is taught by dedicated KAT staff while detailed applications in various biomedical areas are presented as seminars by the relevant specialists including other academic staff and our industrial partners. Our ethos throughout the program is of individual support starting from the very first year. Thus where specific needs or interests are identified, an individual programme of guided study and tutorial support is offered and monitored through the training needs analysis process. 

work-at-computer-199One further module, which extends into the second year, provides generic transferable skills including research ethics, personal development planning, teamwork, project management and communication. The contents of this module are delivered by the Centre Staff, the University Graduate School and experts from the University Commercialisation and IP teams. To encourage awareness of the public understanding of science, students develop displays and activities showing different aspects of imaging for use in the Birmingham Science Museum, ThinkTank. A press release training session (led by the University Press Office) includes examples of how to develop appropriate journalistic contacts (including using scientific bulletin boards) and a practical session leading to a Sci-Phy press release.

  • Professional and transferable skills (1 x 30 credits)

Mini-projects (2 x 45 credits)

Each student undertakes two different mini-projects to learn core experimental and research skills. Often, students chose one of these projects to continue into their main PhD research topic. All projects will involve physical science and computational/data analysis and are applied to a biomedical challenge.

Each project is supervised by three members of academic staff (one for each of the three areas). One supervisor is the lead supervisor.

  • Practical experience in physical science, computer science and biomedicine
  • Interdisciplinary projects chosen by the students
  • Opportunity to explore different areas of research before choosing a full project

Each of the mini-projects is assessed using a different form of assessment:

  1. A written project report and oral presentation
  2. Preparation of a draft journal paper
  3. A poster and an associated “flash" presentation at a Physical Sciences for Health workshop.



The taught part of the course and mini-projects are followed by a self-selected three-year PhD research project. In order to progress to this full project in the second year of the course students must: 

Pass ALL taught modules (= 50%)

Obtain = 60% across the three mini-projects

Obtain = 60% over the taught and skills modules 

 Years 2 to 4: Research

Like mini-projects, full Thesis PhD research projects are carried out under the supervision of three researchers from the different but complementary disciplines of biomedical imaging. One of the supervisors is the lead supervisor.

  • Supervisors propose outline projects
  • Students may also propose projects with Director approval
  • Students work up their selected outline into a two- or three-page proposal for Sci-Phy approval.

A wide range of research topics are available:

  • New molecular markers and probes
  • Nano-microscopy
  • NMR/MRI/micro-MRI
  • Image analysis
  • Intelligent data analysis and optimisation
  • Motion and dynamics 

To promote interactions and ensure students continue to develop a broad base of expertise, a ‘buddy scheme’ pairs each student with another student from different background and on a different project. Students are also required to participate in CDT-wide imaging workshops and additional training courses (at least one module per year) specific to their chosen research area and chosen from the existing specialised MSc level provision at the University of Birmingham.

All years

The stimulation of novel research is an important part of CDT activity. Seminars and workshops with internal and external academic and industrial speakers, aimed at the continuing education of established academic staff, also enable students to be at the forefront of learning about new technologies and concepts at the interface of imaging and biology. In addition the students actively participate in the Centre seminar programme to present the results of their mini-projects and update others on results in their PhD projects.

CDT students automatically become members of the University Graduate School, which provides a variety of generic courses such as IT skills and presentation skills.