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  • Paul Leeson, Adam Lewandowski

about the research

There is a particular interest in why some young people develop hypertension early in life and how this impacts on both the heart and brain. In addition, the group works on development of new methodologies utilising machine learning to interpret images and biological samples to understand mechanism. Therefore projects in the research group are appropriate to clinical trainees as well as physiology graduates and computational scientists with an interest in clinical research.

The group works in three areas: 

Novel markers of early disease - Using imaging and laboratory studies to identify early cardiac and vascular changes in young people at risk of cardiovascular disease. In particular, those predisposed to hypertension, such as families with a history of preeclampsia or preterm birth. 

Young adult cardiovascular prevention trials - Running trials to understand how novel approaches to lifestyle and clinical management may be able to modify these early risk cardiovascular phenotypes to prevent the development of later disease. 

Artificial intelligence - Pioneering the application of artificial intelligence to large research imaging datasets to improve the clinical tools already available to identify those at risk, such as stress echocardiography, and to identify next generation imaging and management approaches.

training opportunities

This project will provide training in imaging, cardiovascular disease development and human physiology using a range of techniques appropriate to the project. These methods include echocardiography, vascular ultrasound, cardiovascular magnetic resonance, measures of macro- and microvascular structure and function (endothelial function, microscopy, laser Doppler flowmetry, venous occlusion plethysmography) and cardiopulmonary exercise testing. Where appropriate training in image processing and analysis is available, including computational modelling and application of machine learning. The student would learn about regulatory issues surrounding clinical studies and randomised trials such as ethics, hospital R&D and GCP and attend relevant courses. The type of projects available in the research group are appropriate to both clinical trainees and physiology graduates with an interest in clinical research. As there are close links with laboratory studies on clinical samples there are also opportunities for interested, and appropriately experienced, individuals to combine clinical data collection with laboratory research. 

Students are encouraged to attend the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine DPhil Course, which takes place in the autumn of their first year. Running over several days, this course helps students to develop basic research and presentation skills, as well as introducing them to a wide-range of scientific techniques and principles, ensuring that students have the opportunity to build a broad-based understanding of differing research methodologies.

Generic skills training is offered through the Medical Sciences Division's Skills Training Programme. This programme offers a comprehensive range of courses covering many important areas of researcher development: knowledge and intellectual abilities, personal effectiveness, research governance and organisation, and engagement, influence and impact. Students are actively encouraged to take advantage of the training opportunities available to them.

As well as the specific training detailed above, students will have access to a wide-range of seminars and training opportunities through the many research institutes and centres based in Oxford.

The Department has a successful mentoring scheme, open to graduate students, which provides an additional possible channel for personal and professional development outside the regular supervisory framework. We hold an Athena SWAN Silver Award in recognition of our efforts to build a happy and rewarding environment where all staff and students are supported to achieve their full potential.


Williamson W, Lewandowski AJ, Forkert ND, Griffanti L,    Okell TW, Betts J, Boardman H, Siepmann T, McKean D, Huckstep O, Francis JM,    Neubauer S, Phellan R, Jenkinson M, Doherty A, Dawes H, Frangou E,    Malamateniou C, Foster C, Leeson P. Association of cardiovascular risk    factors with MRI indices of cerebrovascular structure and function and white    matter hyperintensities in young adults. JAMA 2018;320(7):665-673  
Huckstep OJ,    Williamson W, Telles F, Burchert H, Bertagnolli M, Herdman C, Arnold L,    Smillie R, Mohamed A, Boardman H, McCormick K, Neubauer S, Leeson P,    Lewandowski AJ. Physiological stress elicits    impaired left ventricular function in preterm-born adults.    J Am Coll Cardiol.    2018;71(12):1347-1356  
Siepmann T, Boardman H, Bilderbeck A, Griffanti L, Kenworthy Y,    Zwager C, McKean D, Francis J, Neubauer S, Yu GZ, Lewandowski A,    Sverrisdottir YB, Leeson P. Long    term cerebral white and grey matter changes after preeclampsia. Neurology 2017; 88(13):1256-1264  
Lewandowski AJ, Augustine D, Lamata P, Davis EF,    Lazdam M, Francis J, McCormick K, Wilkinson A, Singhal A, Lucas A, Smith NP,    Neubauer S, Leeson P. Preterm    heart in adult life: cardiovascular magnetic resonance reveals distinct    differences in left ventricular mass, geometry and function. Circulation 2013;127(2):197-206  
Lewandowski A,    Bradlow W, Augustine D, Davis EF, Francis J, Singhal A, Lucas A, Neubauer S,    McCormick K, Leeson P.Right    ventricular systolic dysfunction in young adults born preterm. Circulation 2013;128(7):713-20