What is the HRB Neonatal Encephalopathy PhD Training Network (NEPTuNE)?

CRDI is a partner in the successful Neonatal Brain Consortium Ireland (NBCI) application to the HRB Collaborative Doctoral Awards in Patient-Focused Research. The HRB Neonatal Encephalopathy PhD Training Network (NEPTuNE) is a major collaborative structured PhD research programme led by Professor Eleanor Molloy (Consultant Neonatologist, Chair and Professor of Paediatrics, TCD and Tallaght Hospital) and co-lead Professor Geraldine Boylan (Professor of Neonatal Physiology and Director of the INFANT Research Centre, UCC).

Ireland is at the forefront of research in neonatal brain injury and has collaborative potential to be an international leader in this area. Researchers in this consortium have internationally recognised multidisciplinary expertise in neonatology, paediatrics, neurodevelopment, family-centred care, clinical trials and methodology, pharmacology, epidemiology, biostatistics, translational research and neuroimaging in neonatal brain injury.

HRB NEPTuNE will train PhD students in multidisciplinary research projects in premier research centres in Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and NUI Galway. Students will have a holistic overview involving the entire translational research paradigm from basic science research, translational clinical research, clinical trials to epidemiology and population health, while getting in depth expertise in their chosen areas.

HRB Neonatal Encephalopathy PhD Training Network (NEPTuNE) Core Partners

  • Professor Eleanor Molloy (Consultant Neonatologist, Chair and Professor of Paediatrics, TCD and Tallaght Hospital)
  • Professor Geraldine Boylan (Professor of Neonatal Physiology and Director of the INFANT Research Centre, UCC)
  • Professor Elizabeth Nixon (Assistant Professor in Developmental Psychology, TCD)
  • Professor Declan Devane (Professor of Midwifery, NUI Galway; Director, HRB Trials Methodology Research Network)
  • Professor Arun Bokde (Assistant Professor in Neuroimaging, TCD)
  • Professor Deirdre Murray (Senior lecturer in Paediatrics, UCC)
  • Ms Mandy Daly (Director of Advocacy and Policymaking, Irish Neonatal Health Alliance)
  • Dr Mark Watson (Head of Education and Development, CRDI; Investigator, CÚRAM Centre; Co-Director, Wellcome-HRB Irish Clinical Academic Training)
  • Mr Paul Ryan (Patient Group Representative)
  • Mrs Fiona O’Farrell (Paediatric Occupational Therapist)
  • Ms Sharon Keogh (Director & Co-Founder of Irish Neonatal Health Alliance; Founder of Monoamniotic Twins Ireland).

PhD Projects

The HRB NEPTuNE programme will support full time structured PhD, both training and research projects for 5 doctoral trainees in patient-focused research. The new HRB NEPTuNE trainees will start in October 2018.

The structured PhD degree is a doctoral training programme with the core component of advancement of knowledge through original research and integrated support for professional development.  The programme is student centered and the qualification is designed to enhance, improve and directly engage the student in relevant research skills. In addition, it will offer the student disciplinary, generic and transferable skills, tailored to suit the experience of the student and reflect the disciplinary requirements. 

Develop a core outcome set for use in clinical trials, and other studies, for the prevention and the treatment of hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy - NUI Galway

Supervisors

  • Professor Declan Devane, Health Research Board-Trial Methodology Network (HRB-TMRN)/School of Nursing and Midwifery, National University of Ireland Galway
  • Professor Eleanor Molloy, Chair of Paediatrics & Child Health, Trinity College Dublin
  • Dr Patricia Healy, Research Fellow, National University of Ireland Galway

Description

Applications are invited for a PhD Scholarship with Neonatal Brain Injury Consortium Ireland and the Health Research Board-Trial Methodology Network (HRB-TMRN) to allow full time research towards a Structured PhD. NUI Galway hosts this PhD.

The HRB-TMRN is a partnership between the five Irish universities. The overall mission of the HRB-TMRN is to strengthen trial methodology and reporting on the island of Ireland, through a programme of work, which will also impact elsewhere in the UK and internationally. This is achieved through a focus on three high-level activities relating to the methodology of trials (i) support (ii) training and education and (iii) research and innovation. The HRB-TMRN was established in 2014, and since then has grown to become the main support network for all trialists, communicating to over 4000 people with an interest in trials every month. The network is dynamic, energetic and adaptive to the needs of the trial community.

One of the difficulties often faced by systematic reviewers when trying to synthesise the evidence from studies on a particular topic is heterogeneity in the outcomes measured in those studies. This means that reviewers are frequently unable to compare and contrast the findings of all, or even most, of the studies and a meta-analysis of the findings of all included studies is rarely possible. One of the suggested ways to address this problem, is to develop and apply agreed standardised sets of outcomes, known as ‘core outcome sets’ (COSs). The idea is that a COS should represent the minimum to be measured and reported in all trials, and other studies, on a specific condition, while accepting that if outcomes outside of the COS are also important in the context of the individual study they should be measured for that study. This use of the COS as a minimum across an entire research area would allow for the results of trials and other studies to be effectively compared, contrasted and combined, as appropriate.

The aim of this project is to develop a core outcome set for use in clinical trials, and other studies, for (a) the prevention and (b) the treatment of hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy 

CRADLE: Circadian Rhythm Alterations anD outcome in neonatal Encephalopathy - TCD

Supervisors

  • Primary PI: Prof Eleanor Molloy (TCD)
  • Supervisory team:
    Prof Ger Boylan (UCC), Dr. Annie Curtis (RCSI), Ms. Mandy Daly, Prof Declan Devane (UCHG)

Description

Applications are invited for a PhD Scholarship with Neonatal Brain Injury Consortium Ireland and the Health Research Board-Trial Methodology Network (HRB-TMRN) to allow full time research towards a Structured PhD. Trinity College Dublin hosts this PhD. 

Changes in circadian rhythm are common in many illnesses including neonatal brain injury and neonatal encephalopathy (NE). NE is associated with persistent abnormal systemic inflammatory responses that may be amenable to immunomodulation as an adjunct to therapeutic hypothermia. Alterations in circadian rhythm affect immune function and are associated with changes in melatonin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Understanding the role of the circadian rhythm in neonatal brain injury and inflammation may lead to simple therapeutic measures such as decreasing the duration duration of light exposure to increase endogenous melatonin production. Therefore, we wish to investigate whether alteration of the circadian rhythm in babies with NE decrease inflammation and improve outcome?

A background in medicine as apediatric trainee would be the ideal for this PhD position as they will cross disciplines in neuroimaging, neuromonitoring and neuroimaging, biostatistics, immunology and neuroscience. This PhD student is crucial as they will consent and meet all parents in the programme initially and collect biobanked samples and ensure all clinical data and management is standardised. The remaining PhD students will subsequently use this data and followup these recruited infants with neuroimaging, development or EEG. The clinical and scientific experience would make this trainee ideally suited to lead collaborative translational research in neonatal brain injury. In addition, this trainee will gain valuable clinical and organisational skills in order to lead on establishing neurointensive care and neuromonitoring in Ireland at consultant level in the future. In addition,  international collaborative links with experts in the area of neonatal brain injury management will be strengthened and support these initiatives.

PANDA: Psychological And Neurodevelopmental assessment of Neonatal Encephalopathy - TCD

Supervisors

  • Professor Elizabeth Nixon, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin.
  • Professor Jean Quigley, School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin.
  • Professor Eleanor Molloy, Chair of Paediatrics & Child Health, Trinity College Dublin.

Description

The aim of this project is to characterise the developmental and psychological outcomes of infants with hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy. Neonatal brain injury is a common cause of mortality and disability. Neonatal encephalopathy (NE) is one of the commonest causes of neonatal brain injury in full term infants. For every baby that dies from NE, another will survive with significant lifelong disability.   Ireland is at the forefront of research in the field of neonatal brain injury and a recent HRB funded study by researchers in this consortium has shown that even infants with mild encephalopathy can have cognitive impairments at 5 years of age. 

This project will focus on the neurodevelopmental, cognitive, linguistic and socio-emotional follow-up of NE infants, using standardised developmental assessments.  A further focus of the study will be on parent-infant interactions as predictive of a host of developmental outcomes, including self-regulation, linguistic and cognitive competencies and executive functioning. The influence of neurobiological risk, such as that which may arise from NE, may disrupt parent-infant interaction and influence the course of development, as has been shown in the context of prematurity. To date, no research has considered the nature of parent-infant interactions in the context of NE.   

The successful applicant will join a team of PhD students working on similar questions with various clinical and community groups and will experience the holistic overview of research in this area involving the entire translational paradigm from basic science research, translational clinical research, clinical trials to epidemiology and population health while gaining in depth expertise in their chosen area.  The applicant will work closely with the directors of the Infant & Child Research Laboratory to collect new data with this clinical cohort using observational methods and developmental assessments, for which training will be provided.  In addition to the research expertise, this collaboration will allow the development of advanced standardisation of reporting and discussing neurodevelopmental findings with families.

 

Essential Qualities

  • BA/BSc honours level degree in psychology from an accredited course (minimum 2.1 award)
  • Research assistant experience
  • Experience in data analysis
  • Experience with child research participants
  • Excellent English writing skills

Desirable Skills

  • MA/MSc in Psychology
  • Experience with standardised test administration (e.g., BSID, WAIS, WPPSI)
  • Experience of observational methodology and coding
  • Experience with relevant software
Identify characteristic features or ‘biomarkers’ of encephalopathy in newborn infants using EEG - UCC

Supervisors

  • Professor Geraldine Boylan (UCC) and Professor Deirdre Murray (UCC)

Description

Applications are invited for a PhD Scholarship with the Neonatal Brain Injury Consortium Ireland to allow full time research towards a Structured PhD at the INFANT research centre in UCC Cork.

The aim of this project is to use detailed analysis of electroencephalography (EEG) in newborn infants to identify characteristic features or ‘biomarkers’ of encephalopathy (all causes) and to identify features that are most predictive of poor neurodevelopmental outcome.

The commonest cause of Neonatal Encephalopathy (NE) is hypoxia-ischaemia (HI) but other disorders such as sepsis, genetic and metabolic disorders may closely mimic the clinical features. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the cause of encephalopathy in the first few days after birth and to predict longer term outcome. This project aims to characterise the standard EEG features seen in all cause NE using EEGs from a large database of studies available at INFANT.  This project will also identify features that are most predictive of poor neurodevelopmental outcome.

We are seeking a graduate who has completed a degree in Clinical Measurement Science (or equivalent e.g. Clinical Physiology), specialising in Neurophysiology and who wishes to expand their knowledge of neonatal EEG and become an expert in this area. The student will register for a PhD at UCC’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and will work alongside a range of other multidisciplinary PhD students at the INFANT centre. The student will be expected to take part in EEG monitoring studies in the NICU in order to maintain clinical skills and gain familiarity with other neurological assessment techniques such as cranial ultrasound, MRI and neurodevelopmental assessments.

NEON: Investigate the functional brain changes in neonatal encephalopathy (NE) infants and the associated behavioral and cognitive consequences - TCD

Primary PI: Prof Arun Bokde (TCD)

  • Prof Arun Bokde (TCD)
  • Supervisory team: Prof Eleanor Molloy (TCD), Prof Elizabeth Nixon (TCD), Prof Declan Devane (NUIG)

Description

 

Applications are invited for a 4-year PhD position in the laboratory headed by Prof. Arun Bokde based in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience (Trinity College Dublin). The position will cover college fees for the 4 years at Trinity College Dublin and provide an annual stipend of €18,000. The post is envisaged to start in September 2018. As part of the research project, the student will develop high level of expertise on brain injuries to neonates, neonatal neuroimaging, neuroimaging analysis and complex statistical techniques.

The goal of this project is to investigate the functional brain changes in neonatal encephalopathy (NE) infants and the associated behavioral and cognitive consequences. The project will use brain imaging data (structural MRI, functional MRI, diffusion imaging) to quantify the functional integrity of the neural networks and examine potential associations with inflammatory markers and clinical phenotypes. The student will be involved in data acquisition, analysis and writing reports on research results. The project requires someone with a strong interest in neurodevelopment, comfortable working with computers, and excellent communication skills.

Standard duties and Responsibilities of the Post

  • Working together with clinicians in the recruitment of study participants
  • Organizing data collection
  • Conducting neuroimaging assessments
  • Organizing data entry and data storage
  • Perform quality control checks on the data.
  • Liaise with the administrative team for the support of the project
  • Undertake any other reasonable duties that may be relevant to the role outline
  • Work as a conscientious and committed member of the team in order to achieve the aims of the project

Funding Information

This project is funded by the Health Research Board

Person Specification

Qualifications (Required)

  • Degree in Psychology, Neurobiology, Biology, Neuroscience or Medicine or related areas.

Knowledge & Experience (Required)

  • Ability to deal with sensitive issues and maintain confidentiality of data.
  • Work together with a multidisciplinary team
  • Demonstrate excellent communication skills. In addition, proficiency in communicating sensitively and effectively with volunteering families is essential.
  • Self-motivated
  • Interest in neonatal and childhood disorders
  • Introduction to statistics (course work)

 Skills & Competencies (Desirable)

  • Knowledge of Excel and Word.
  • Experience with neuroimaging software/analysis.
  • Working knowledge of Linux
  • Basic programming/scripting skills