The School of Science and Engineering are delighted to offer a 4 year fully funded (UK/EU) PhD studentship based within the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID).

An essential part of the remit of the Greenhouse Research Studentship Programme is that successful applicants are required to teach in the dissecting room throughout semesters 1 and 2 and to assist with other classes as and when required. 

The successful candidate will commence their studentship in January 2020. The 2019/2020 tax free stipend for the scholarship is £15,009 per annum. 


Candidates must be UK/EU students and MUST have an undergraduate and/or Master’s degree which includes experience of full body gross anatomical human dissection. Applicants who do not have such experience will not be considered for the scholarship.

PhD Greenhouse projects

Two research topics are offered to potential candidates who wish to apply for the Greenhouse scholarship award. Only one of these projects will be taken forward and so applicants are requested to indicate clearly which of the projects they wish to apply for.

Project 1

Juvenile skeletal response to changing biomechanical forces at the talocrural joint throughout development.

Supervisors: Dr. Craig Cunningham (CAHID) and Dr. Catriona Davies (CAHID) 


Understanding the ways in which the juvenile skeleton responds to changing forces is key to understanding the development of trabecular structure and organisation. There is a paucity of information regarding the ontogenetic development of trabecular architecture at the ankle despite this joint acting as a major conduit for load transfer in the upright bipedal individual. Through qualitative and quantitative analysis of juvenile skeletal remains, this project will aim to describe the changes that occur in trabecular bone organisation and structure at the ankle joint throughout development. In particular, changing mechanical loads will be mapped against trabecular signatures at key developmental milestones.  This research will contribute to a greater understanding of the trabecular changes that occur with advancing development and may have clinical implications in terms of planning and managing therapeutic and surgical interventions in paediatric patients.

Project aims:

This project aims investigate the ontogenetic trabecular changes at the distal tibia and talus using specimens from the Scheuer Collection of juvenile skeletal remains. Qualitative radiography will be used in the first instance to map gross internal morphology. This will be followed by quantitative analysis of trabecular architecture using microcomputed tomography (microCT). 


  • Radiographic documentation of the developing bone architecture at the talocrural joint
  • MicroCT analysis of an ontogenetic series of distal tibiae and tali.
  • Histomorphometric analysis of microCT data to include: bone volume fraction, trabecular thickness, number and spacing, degree of anisotropy, and structural model index from selected volumes of interest.

Project 2

Utilisation of Thiel embalmed cadavers to influence surgical performance in negotiating the vascular anatomy of the right colon and its variants in the resection of bowel cancer.

Supervisors: Professor Tracey Wilkinson (Cox Chair of Anatomy) and Mr Ken Campbell (Consultant Colorectal Surgeon)


Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK and the 3rd in Scotland, with colorectal cancer accounting for 12% (41,804) of new cancer cases in the UK (Cancer Research UK, 2015). Despite improvements in chemotherapy and radiotherapy, surgery is the primary form of treatment, with early identification leading to far better outcomes. It has been demonstrated previously for rectal tumours that Total Mesorectal Excision, involving meticulous surgery with careful dissection of the lymph nodes accompanying supplying blood vessels and strict following of the embryological planes, led to greatly improved rates of cure. This approach is now embedded in clinical practice, transforming the outcome of rectal cancer.

There is a growing concern that the same level of attention has not been applied to cancers in the rest of the colon. Outcomes of right sided bowel cancer in particular have remained poor since the 1980s and are now worse than cancers of the rectum, with evidence of a shift in incidence both in location (to the right colon) and to a younger age group. Also, the accessibility of the right colon has led to a perception of right colon surgery as being less challenging and therefore safely left to less specialised surgeons. A more extensive surgical approach than current practice has been suggested, involving Complete Mesocolic Excision (CME) with Central Vascular Ligation (CVL). This technique, together with the much wider anatomical variation found in this part of the colon, demands a greater level of surgical complexity and good anatomical awareness; it therefore has potentially higher risks, especially with minimal access techniques.

There is emerging evidence that simply adopting this technique without a comprehensive reappraisal of the anatomy and gain of specific technical expertise will lead to increased rates of injury, especially to the vascular structures.


The overall aim of this project is to determine whether a simulated training environment using Thiel embalmed cadavers can be created which is sufficiently realistic to allow surgeons to prepare for and train to perform CME with CVL procedures for cancers of the right colon, including the use of minimal access (laparoscopic) surgery. 


  • to investigate the pattern and incidence of colon cancer in the Tayside population (epidemiological study).
  • to investigate anatomical variation in vasculature of the right and left colon in the body donor population of Tayside (anatomical study)
  • to develop and test the Thiel cadaveric model as a training tool for CME and CVL surgery using contrast injection and cross sectional imaging techniques to create arterial and venous reconstructions of the blood supply of the right colon prior to surgery (imaging and surgical stimulation study)

We invite applications from suitably qualified candidates.

Candidates are requested:

(i)             to submit their full CV,

(ii)            to indicate which of the two projects they wish to apply for,

(iii)          to provide a one page A4 summary of their suggestions for developing their research project choice. 


Applications should reach Dr. Craig McKenzie ( by midnight on the 13th October 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be called for interview in the week commencing 4th November 2019.


Academic lead

Dr. Craig McKenzie

Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science
+44 (0)1382 384725