Dr Cheng Qian BA, MSc, PhD

School of Engineering
Research Fellow

Contact details

Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Cheng Qian is a Research Fellow developing virtual reality (VR) projects in defence training, healthcare, and heritage in the Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team.

Cheng’s contribution to VR research, development, and teaching activities has been, and continues to be, on both a national and international level. In July 2017, the HIT team won an award at the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network’s Celebration of Innovation. The award was given to the team in recognition of their innovative research and development into the use of virtual and mixed reality technologies for civilian and military rehabilitation, and for military defence medic training.

Cheng works closely with Professor Bob Stone, Director of the HIT Team, and with undergraduate and postgraduate students. He has been involved in projects with the Queen Elizabeth and Heartlands Hospitals to determine how VR technologies can support healthcare rehabilitation. His VR research is not only benefiting patients recovering from serious operations, his developments have also been used to study personnel well-being in remote, inhospitable locations, such as the Arctic ALERT Canadian Military Base and, more recently at the HiSEAS space research habitat in Hawaii. Currently, he is part of a team developing the simulation-based training content of the HIT team’s Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) trainer, under a contract from the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine.

In the near future, Dr Qian will be playing a pivotal role in the team’s unique digital media technology role, collaborating with the city and town councils of Plymouth, Dartmouth and others, leading to the Mayflower 400 commemorations in 2020.


  • Ph.D. (Research) School of Electronic, Electrical and System Engineering, University of Birmingham, UK, 2015, Thesis: “Determining Principles for the Development of Virtual Environments for Future Clinical Applications”
  • M.Sc. (Taught) in Electronic and System Engineering, University of Birmingham, UK, 2009, Honour Thesis: “Development of a Wearable, Wireless GSR Recording Device for Simulation Studies”
  • B.Eng. in Electronic and Information Engineering, Nanjing University of Posts & Telecommunications, China, 2006, Honour Thesis: “An Investigation into the Possible Security Issues Surrounding the Enterprise Resource Planning System”


Dr Cheng Qian is a Research Fellow of virtual reality (VR) simulator development within the Human Interface Technologies (HIT) Team.

He received a B.Eng. in Electronic and Information Engineering at Nanjing University of Posts & Telecommunications in 2006. He graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2009 with a M.Sc. in Electronic and Computer Engineering, and in 2015 with a Ph.D. in Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

Over the past 6 years, funded by the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM), in collaboration with military and civilian medical personnel within the Intensive Care Unit of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QEHB), Cheng has been reconstructing two scenes of nature based on real-world locations – Wembury Bay and Burrator in South Devon. As the main object of Dr Qian’s Ph.D., this work investigates patient cognitive restoration though improvement of sleep quality, and the minimisation of delirium or the time to transfer patients to mainstream wards.

From 2013 to 2015, Cheng worked with the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham, for the development of VR railway simulations including virtual reconstructions of a central-controlled railway network with surrounding environment for future railway systems. Cheng has also been involved in various virtual heritage projects, most of which are compatible with VR headset and augmented reality technologies, including the virtual reconstruction of “the Wembury Docks That Never Were”, the HMS Amethyst, the HMS A7 submarine, the Royal Navy’s first submarine – Holland 1, the host to the first of 65,000 recorded submariner fatalities – the Maria, the site of former RAF Harrowbeer airfield, 3D models of data converted from high-definition multi-beam sonar surveys of the James Eagan Layne ship wreck, the Mayflower ship for the historic 2020 Mayflower 400 celebrations and 1960's subsea habitat – the GLAUCUS etc.

Since 2015, Cheng has been developing new prototypes of VR simulations for interactive technology-enhanced rehabilitation (respiratory muscle and skeletal muscle) on critical care. The HIT team work together with virtual heritage projects have been showed off during the final stage of the BBC’s Dare to be Digital Roadshow at Birmingham’s Mailbox, featured on BBC Radio 4, and Plymouth Herald. Most recently, Cheng is developing the simulated content of the HIT team’s Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) trainer, under a contract with the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. Currently, the MERT trainer is based on a detailed 3D recreation of a Chinook helicopter. Cheng is helping to develop other virtual platforms including a Royal Marines Mark V Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP), a Royal Marines hovercraft and an Army Mastiff land vehicle. This exercise was the first of a number of similar excursions on military vehicles, enabling the research team to develop appropriate media to increase the “believability” of the MERT simulation.


  • EE4U (Human Factors of Interactive Technologies)
  • Integrated Design Project 2

Postgraduate supervision

  • Co-supervisor for PhD students Pansa Noiskul and Vishant Shingair
  • MSc project co-supervisor for Weixin Ren, “The Virtual Aquarium”
  • Final Year Project for Robert Grainger, the creation of a VR Garden for treating cgronic pain in children. 


  • Development of virtual scenarios to increase the “believability” of the MERT simulation
  • Development of Virtual Natural Environments and activities to determine how virtual technology can support healthcare rehabilitation.
  • Virtual Heritage, including recreating sites and artefacts relating to industrial and maritime archaeology


KNIGHT, J. F., STONE, R. J. & QIAN, C. (2012). Virtual restorative environments: preliminary studies in scene, sound and smell. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 4, 73-91.

STONE, R. J., SMALL, C., KNIGHT, J., QIAN, C. & SHINGARI, V. (2014). Virtual Natural Environments for Restoration and Rehabilitation in Healthcare. Virtual, Augmented Reality and Serious Games for Healthcare 1. Springer.

TANJA-DIJKSTRA, K., PAHL, S., WHITE, M. P., ANDRADE, J., QIAN, C., BRUCE, M., MAY, J. & MOLES, D. R. (2014). Improving dental experiences by using Virtual Reality distraction: a simulation study. PloS one, 9, e91276.

R.J. STONE, C. QIAN, V. SHINGARI AND H. CHARTON (2012) Virtual and Augmented Reality Technologies for Applications in Industrial Heritage: Human-Centred Experiences and Challenges. by Human Interface Technologies Team University of Birmingham, UK. Unpublished, but being used as a baseline paper for the new University of Birmingham Ironbridge International Institute of Cultural Heritage postgraduate online journal Furnace (for the October 2015 edition - Cultural Heritage in a Digital Age).

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