PhD – ultrasound guided spine surgery

Doctoral Positions Available: IGNS ultrasound guided spine surgery (J0084)

Background: Approximately 20% of the 233,900 Canadians diagnosed with cancer this year will have spinal tumors or develop spinal metastases. In one quarter to one half of these people, the tumour presses on the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing severe pain, weakness, sensory problems, bowel or bladder dysfunction, or even paralysis. Of these, an estimated 2000-3700 patients have spine surgery each year to decrease pressure and relieve symptoms due to the tumors or metastases. Our goal is to develop tools for image guided surgery that will improve the quality-of-life outcomes for these patients.  We have recently obtained CIHR funding to integrate the following technologies:

  • Intra-operative ultrasound to achieve sub-mm accuracy for surgical navigation with
  • Augmented reality to provide ‘superman x-ray vision’ of critical, but hidden, structures for neuronavigation during surgery.

Possible research projects: Two doctoral research positions are possible at McGill University in the departments of Biological and Biomedical Engineering (BBME), Computer Science (CS), and in the Integrated graduate Program in Neuroscience (IPN).  The successful candidate will work to develop novel technology to enable precise identification and visualization of vertebra and soft tissues of the spine during surgery by merging pre-operative computed tomography (CT) and intra-operative ultrasound (US) images.  Example potential PhD research projects include, but are not limited to:

  • improve patient-to-image navigation by piece-wise linear (for vertebrae) and non-linear (for soft tissues) registration pre-operative CT and intra-operation US.
  • integrate biomechanical models of spine, tendon and muscle movement into CT-US registration
  • develop deep learning methods to segment neural structures from preoperative MR.
  • develop deep learning methods to segment vertebrae from preoperative CT .
  • develop tools to simultaneously register and segment residual tumour during surgery.
  • develop tools to estimate and visualizer registration accuracy and uncertainty.
  • integrate high-resolution US data for navigation near spinal cord
  • model patient movement due to breathing in patient-to-image registration
  • develop augmented reality visualization methods for use in surgery
  • develop new surgeon-friendly data interaction methods
  • develop registration and visualization methods for minimally invasive surgery
  • laboratory and clinical validation of methods developed for separation surgery, lumbar spinal fusion, and decompressions.

The successful candidate will work with a team of engineers, computer scientists and clinicians in an open-software environment, integrating new tools into our publicly available, open science, IBIS neuronavigation software platform.

Requirements: Candidates should have a masters degree in Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Bio Engineering, Neuroscience or related field (or be graduating shortly) with strong analytical and programming skills (C, C++, Python), ability to work independently, good communication skills and research experience in computational image analysis methods. Previous experience with medical image processing, image-guided surgery, OpenGL, DirectX, Vulkan, Unity, iOS/Android, VTK, ITK and/or 3DSlicer is a plus.

Please note that non‐Canadian trainees must have valid student visa to study in Canada.

Location of work: The Brain Imaging Center (BIC) of the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI, the Neuro).

Work Schedule: Full time. Starting as soon as possible.

Salary: $25k funded for 3 years.

How to apply?

Why work in the NIST lab?