Postgraduate research

Comparative studies of paediatric tissues frequently injured during abusive head trauma: A histological and 3D micro computed tomography approach

Qualification: PhD

Department: Genetics

Application deadline: 13 May 2022

Start date: October 2022



Project Description


In the infant population, head injury is the single most common abusive injury causing death or permanent disability. When a baby is the victim of abusive head trauma (AHT) they have likely suffered a violent shaking and/or impact to the head. Common findings in such cases include subdural haemorrhage, retinal haemorrhages, encephalopathy and fractures of the ribs and long bones. The injured biological tissues which cause these findings may demonstrate microscopic trauma which can only be detected using histological techniques or micro-computed tomography (CT) imaging. Examples of these types of micro-trauma may include damage to blood vessels which results in subdural haemorrhage, or rib fractures that may not be detected by standard CT imaging undertaken by hospital radiology departments.

During post-mortem examinations and subsequent imaging and laboratory investigations, the identification of traumatic damage to biological tissues aids the pathologist in the process of determining potential causes of death and mechanisms of injury. However, it is essential that the pathologist has sufficient information to be able to rule out alternative causes for the findings commonly documented in AHT. During court proceedings, there is the potential for expert witnesses to suggest alternative natural and accidental mechanisms as the cause of several pathologies demonstrated in such cases. It is therefore, essential that the typical microscopic morphology of paediatric tissues is fully described from both AHT and non-abusive post-mortem examinations.  


This PhD project will investigate the microscopic morphology of the biological tissues often injured in AHT cases (including the blood vessels thought to be the source of subdural haemorrhage). The case series will include infants that have died a natural or accidental death. Biological tissues will be examined using standard histological methods and will also be imaged using 3D micro CT.


The PhD student will be based primarily in the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit, University of Leicester for retention of tissues and histological studies. The 3D micro CT will be undertaken with the Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick, as part of an ongoing collaboration between our two units.

The student will be trained in both laboratory research techniques and micro CT imaging. They will develop protocols for the optimal processing of biological tissues for both histological and CT imaging. This project is an excellent opportunity for an individual interested in forensic pathology research and the undertaking of technically challenging, intricate practical work.


  1. Cheshire, E.C., Malcomson, R.D.G., Sun, P., Mirkes, E.M., Amoroso, J.M., Rutty, G.N., 2018. A systematic autopsy survey of human infant bridging veins. International Journal of Legal Medicine. 132, 449-461. 
  2. Narang, S. & Clarke, J., 2014. Abusive head trauma: past, present, and future. Journal of Child Neurology. 29, 1747-1756. 
  3. Narang, S., 2012. A Daubert Analysis of Abusive Head Trauma/Shaken Baby Syndrome. Houston Journal of Health Law & Policy. 11, 505. 
  4. Han, H., Tao, W., Zhang, M., 2007. The dural entrance of cerebral bridging veins into the superior sagittal sinus: an anatomical comparison between cadavers and digital subtraction angiography. Neuroradiology. 49, 169-175.
  5. Case, M.E., Graham, M.A., Handy, T.C., Jentzen, J.M., Monteleone, J.A., National Association of Medical Examiners Ad Hoc Committee on Shaken Baby Syndrome, 2001. Position paper on fatal abusive head injuries in infants and young children. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. 22, 112-122.
  6. Baier, Waltraud, Mangham, Chas, Warnett, Jason M., Payne, Mark, Painter, Michelle and Williams, M. A, 2019. Using histology to evaluate micro-CT findings of trauma in three post-mortem samples — First steps towards method validation. Forensic Science International, 297, 27-34. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2019.01.027



Funding available to UK Applicants only.

The funding provides

  • Stipend at UKRI rates for 3 years. For 2022/3 this will be £16,062 pa

  • Tuition Fees at UK rates for 3 years


Entry requirements

Entry requirements

UK Bachelor Degree with at least 2:1 in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent. 

University of Leicester English language requirements apply

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries

Please email project enquiries to Dr Emma Cheshire

Application enquiries to 


How to apply

How to apply

To submit your application, please use the Apply button at the bottom of the page and select September 2022 from the dropdown menu.

With your application, please include:

  • CV

  • Personal statement explaining your interest in the project, your experience and why we should consider you

  • Degree Certificates and Transcripts of study already completed and if possible transcript to date of study currently being undertaken

  • Evidence of English language proficiency (if applicable)

  • In the reference section please enter the contact details of your two academic referees in the boxes provided or upload letters of reference if already available

In the funding section, please state  GGB CLS Cheshire studentship

In the research proposal section, please provide the name of the project supervisors and project title (a research proposal is not required)



This PhD is only available to UK applicants

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