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Your Impact on Potential: Postgraduate Scholarships

Our PhD students are bringing the future of healthcare to life.

Axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) is a form of inflammatory arthritis in the lower back, affecting an estimated one in 200 adults in the UK. There’s no cure, but exercise can be used to help with symptoms and maintain mobility.

A patient’s condition is monitored via a score on the Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Metrology Index (BASMI), which can currently only be measured by a trained professional such as a physiotherapist. With these appointments at a premium, wouldn’t it be easier if people could accurately take their own BASMI score?

Violet Henderson is addressing this issue in her PhD in Computing, funded by the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust (RUH). She’s developing a smartphone app that will calculate a person’s BASMI score based on measurements taken by a friend or family member using a simple tape measure.

With the app providing guidance and feedback, patients are empowered to better keep on top of their prognosis and the most suitable exercises for their current condition.

Violet explains:

"The project is touching on a lot of things that I find interesting – it’s the human user side of computer science. The research is working towards something very positive, to help people with this chronic condition."

Next steps

Violet’s PhD scholarship has enabled her to continue her education at Bath after completing a degree in Computer Science in 2017 and a Master’s in Digital Entertainment in 2018.

Violet Henderson stood in front of a tree

She also works alongside the RUH as part of the Spondyloarthritis Research Consortium, which also includes academics from the University’s Centre for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Applications (CAMERA). Other PhD scholarships across the University are supported by philanthropic donations by individuals, trusts and foundations, and our corporate partners.

Violet continues:

"Without the funding, this research wouldn’t have happened. There have been quite a lot of expenses – obviously there are my living expenses, but there’s also been equipment we had to buy for the research, particularly different smartphones for testing and evaluation."

The app is currently in its final stages of testing and has been distributed to a cohort of patients for feedback. So far, results have been promising, and Violet hopes this will act as a proof of concept to convince the NHS to invest in professional development of a similar app for widespread use in the future.

Healthy partnerships

Our research with the RUH addresses a range of healthcare challenges:

Patient transportation

A team from our Department of Mechanical Engineering are working to improve trolley design.

Heart disease

Researchers in our Department for Health are testing a new ‘Super Rehab’ programme tailored to individuals.

Paediatric resuscitation

Staff from the University’s Centre for Therapeutic Innovation designed custom storage to safely house equipment on trolleys.

Discover more about Violet's research

Read our Parade Profile