University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde, along with their bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, offers appropriately qualified individuals the opportunity to pursue research in postgraduate studies leading to the degrees of master of philosophy (MPhil) or doctor of philosophy (PhD). Both are research degrees versus instructional degrees. The difference between the MPhil and the PhD at Strathclyde is that the former is shorter in duration, thus a smaller research project is undertaken.

In its ongoing series about higher education in the orthotics and prosthetics profession, O&P Business News highlights the postgraduate programs at the University of Strathclyde. The university is one of only three institutions in the world offering a doctoral program in O&P.

Established in 1972, the National Centre for Training and Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics (NCTEPO) with allied clinical facilities at the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, provides training, education and research in the fields of orthotics, prosthetics and associated facets of rehabilitation technologies. The NCTEPO is a department within the faculty of engineering at the University of Strathclyde.

Current research projects

University of StrathclydeAccording to the University of Strathcylde’s Web site, the postgraduate department collaborates with other research and clinical facilities in the United Kingdom, as well as overseas. The department is conducting research projects in the following general areas:

  • Clinical evaluation of contemporary practice
  • Development and testing of new materials and methods for prosthetics and orthotics
  • Diabetic footcare pressure measurement, insole design and shoe construction
  • Prosthetic and orthotic device design
  • Development and evaluation of computer-aided measurement, device design and manufacturing systems and human performance measurement in health and disease.

Other current research projects for the university include:

  • Analysis of patient activity and performance
  • Transtibial socket design
  • Performance of reinforced composites in orthoses
  • KAFO loading patterns
  • Psychological correlates associated with prosthetic use and recovery following amputation
  • Distortion of thermoplastic prosthetic sockets during manufacture.

Driving the field

Students conduct research in transtibial socket design. Above is a one application of a pressure measuring system.
All images reprinted with permission of the National Centre for Training and Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics and the University of Strathclyde.

Margrit Meier, PhD, director of research at NCTEPO, believes that as in any other discipline, the field of O&P requires doctorate programs to expand knowledge, be it a doctorate specific in O&P or a PhD in a related discipline, such as rehabilitation studies or biomedical engineering with an emphasis in O&P.

“Just as in any field, whether it be psychology, geography or any other area, we in O&P should have the opportunity to move ahead and explore and widen our discipline,” Meier said.

A doctorate is much better recognized and it levels the playing field in many ways, Meier said.

“Who will drive the field if there are no orthotists or prosthetists with PhDs?” she said. “There are people from engineering, robotics, and other related fields who all bring much value to the field, but not necessarily the views and experience of the O&P world. In addition, if one does not talk the same language as researchers do, it becomes difficult to make our discipline and its challenges heard. If you have doctoral level people within the field, they are able to formulate the difficulties or challenges we face in a different way. Our experience is that people from O&P can enrich and contribute greatly to other fields.”

Criteria and curriculum

The university welcomes national and international students with suitable educational and career backgrounds. Student applications are submitted to and evaluated by the departmental research committee. Although the university calendar year starts in September, registration is possible throughout the year.

“Each application is considered on its merits and is reviewed by the director of research and the head of the department,” said Angela Irvine, administrator for postgraduate studies.

A background in the appropriate field would obviously help, Irvine said. The curriculum is research-based. The students are required to complete between 50 to 60 credits. Appropriate classes are chosen with their mentors’ advice in order to compliment the students’ skills within the given field of research. Successful completion of all classes, an oral examination and the submission of a thesis are required to obtain the award. Currently, full-time doctoral candidates have a maximum of 48 months to complete the program. There are presently two full-time PhD students and four part time students; three PhD and one MPhil.

University services

Performance of reinforced composites in orthoses is part of a wider research interest in developing and testing new materials.

According to course information, the university premises include workshop, clinical examination and treatment areas, accommodation for staff, research laboratories, five lecture rooms, an audiovisual studio and drawing office. The NCTEPO has an assessment walkway with two Kistler force platforms as well as video and computing equipment. The clinical suite has a fully instrumented gait analysis laboratory. Equipment is also on hand for prosthetic and orthotic interface pressure measurement and for assessing energy consumption during activity. A library and information service RECAL, specializing in the field of O&P and rehabilitation is available within the department.

Funding, training, other services

A continuing responsibility of the NCTEPO is to maintain an awareness of global clinical research and development in its field. Funding for research comes from external and internal sources, including the National Health Service in Scotland, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the European Union. The NCTEPO has a strong commitment to providing high quality training and education, including postgraduate education, to health care professionals and students of the rehabilitation professions.

The NCTEPO plays a pivotal role in the rehabilitation technology information service, which is concerned with the collection of data on rehabilitation services in Scotland for benchmarking purposes and the Scottish Physiotherapy Amputee Research Group, according to the University’s Web site. This organization conducts research into physiotherapy and treatment of amputees.

Meier said that the O&P field is a relatively young community and has historically been primarily a craftsman type of industry.

“This is essential, but now we need to expand,” she said. “Our field is known for taking bits and pieces from all over in order to create new things. This is the fascinating part of our discipline. It makes it difficult and wonderful at the same time.” — by Rachel Kelley

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