Study level

  • PhD
  • Master of Philosophy
  • Honours
  • Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Zhiyong Li
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Engineering


The sudden rupture of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques and subsequent thrombosis formations are responsible for most acute vascular syndromes, such as myocardial infarction and stroke. Many victims who are apparently healthy die suddenly with no prior symptoms.

Such deaths could be prevented through surgery or alternative medical therapy, if vulnerable plaques were identified earlier in their natural progression.

While intravascular methods have been developed to visualize various features of vulnerable plaques, there is no single technique that can accurately predict plaque rupture in patients. This is because plaque rupture is a complex structural failure as a result of the interplay between haemodynamic forces and plaque structure.

The final event of plaque rupture results from the failure of a mechanically compromised plaque. Although the current available methods have allowed for a better imaging of plaque morphology, there is no quantitative functional tool to assess its structural stability.

Research activities

This project will develop novel intravascular optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging technology which can characterise the dynamics the plaque. This will help us directly assess its structural stability.

It offers a composite evaluation of plaque stability to predict the propensity of plaque rupture, providing a functional diagnostic tool for vulnerable plaque detection.


Upon completing this research, we expect to have:

  • developed an ex vivo OCT imaging methodology to characterise the deformation within atheroma by combining OCT imaging
  • developed an in vivo OCT-based plaque imaging system which can be applied to measure the deformation in a rabbit model of atherosclerosis
  • evaluated the difference in plaque imaging between lipid-rich thin-cap plaques and stable plaques.
  • characterised the main imaging features that are associated with a vulnerable atheroma.

Skills and experience

To be considered for this project, you should have a background in one of the following:

  • mechanical engineering
  • optical engineering
  • biomedical engineering.


You may be eligible to apply for a research scholarship.

Explore our research scholarships



Contact the supervisor for more information.