DC7-project 7: A state of the art and clinically applicable shear force measuring system


The risk of developing a foot ulcer in people with diabetes increases with the presence of loss of protective sensation, biomechanical abnormalities and peripheral vascular disease. In particular when people already had a foot ulcer, the risk of developing another one is high. In both moderate and high-risk groups, we have incomplete understanding of the pathogenesis of ulcer recurrence. Biomechanical factors are important, but there are gaps in our knowledge concerning the extent and mechanisms through which biomechanical factors contribute to ulceration and amputation. One of those gaps is regarding the role of shear in the development of foot ulcers, where general consensus is that this factor plays a significant role, but we are not able to quantify it because a system or sensor that measures shear inside a patient’s shoe is currently not available. To advance the field of diabetic foot disease, an advanced sensor that can measures shear inside people’s footwear should be developed, to improve our understanding of the role that shear plays in ulcer development and to evaluate footwear for people with diabetes for shear-reducing capacity.


The doctoral candidate will explore the use of shear as contributing biomechanical component to development of foot ulceration in diabetes and develop a state-of-the-art and clinically-applicable shear force measuring system for inside the shoe, following an iterative software engineering design process. This process is based on the capacitive measuring technology and integrating new approaches for a shear sensitive sensor and electronics and specific personalized software to measure very small changes in capacitance. The sensor will be an insole-embedded 3D sensor prototype for specific surfaces inside shoes and included comprehensive software for calibration, 3D display and data analysis. The doctoral candidate will test the sensor for measuring capacity and association with normal plantar pressure distribution, and explore the additional contribution of shear acting on the plantar skin to foot ulcers in different ulcer risk groups to establish the predictive value of shear load in the provocation of skin irritation. Furthermore, the doctoral candidate will use the developed shear-measuring sensor to evaluate footwear that is developed in other DIALECT projects for their shear (reducing) capacity.

Secondments will take place at GSU for essential clinical field-testing on non-diabetic people and people with diabetic foot disease; at IOR and OIM for essential field-testing for the sensor within footwear.

Our research and development team

Novel (www.novel.de) has been focused on reliable electronics and sensor technology and smart software for biomechanical, medical and industrial application. In 1984 the German Federal Ministry for Research and Technology (BMFT) approved a significant grant to Novel for developing the first dynamic pressure distribution measurement platform system (emed®) for the early recognition of high pressure points under the neuropathic diabetic foot. Novel presented as a world-first the pedar® system (including software) for the analysis of pressure distribution inside special shoes for people with diabetes. The candidate will learn from, and collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of physicists, engineers and software engineers and another Doctoral Candidate for DIALECT, who will also focus on the development of a smart system to monitor a different aspect of the foot load (horizontal forces) – potentially causing skin damage.

Your experience

  • The candidate should be eligible to enrol for a doctoral program in Germany and have a Master’s degree in computer science (preference), biomedical sciences, technical medicine, or related field
  • Interested in interfacing electronics
  • Experienced in working with agile framework
  • Demonstrable fluent spoken and written English skills
  • Strong higher education track record and broad scientific curiosity 
  • Strong analytical and communication skills
  • Ability to apply software development practices and standards to develop robust and maintainable software and to analyze software
  • Ability to create and transfer scientific results into software programs
  • Capable of functioning in an interdisciplinary environment of engineers, scientists and developers, but also of scientists, clinicians, and patients, requiring interpersonal curiosity and soft skills

We are looking for a talented and motivated individual with preferably a computer science background and with a passion for software development, preferably with experience in C++ or the QT framework – or similar – for an interdisciplinary project, who enjoys collaborating in teams to share software design and solution ideas and being involved in every step of the software development life cycle for a complete system for monitoring patients. This includes engineering application software, designing highly scalable testable codes and discovering and fixing programming bugs. The candidate should be able to work independently but also as part of a team. The research project should result in a PhD thesis.

Our offer

This PhD position is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) of the European Union’s Europe 2022 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 955625. You will be appointed as fulltime PhD for 3 years with novel GmbH. The MSCA programme offers a competitive and attractive salary and working conditions. The successful candidate will receive a salary in accordance with the MSCA regulations for early stage researchers. Gross salary will consist of a Living Allowance (= €40.800/year, correction factor to be applied for Germany: 0.98) and a monthly Mobility Allowance of €600. An additional monthly allowance of €660 is applicable depending on family situation. Please be aware that these amounts are subject to taxes, the exact salary will be confirmed upon appointment. In addition to their individual scientific projects, all doctoral candidates will benefit from further continuing education, which includes internships and secondments, a variety of training modules as well as transferable skills courses and active participation in workshops and conferences.

Your application

See recruitment procedure. You can apply using the online application form. For more information about the position you can contact Dr. Axel Kalpen at axel.kalpen@novel.de

German Sport University

With more than 6000 students from 93 countries, the German Sport University Cologne (GSU) is currently an outstanding university location both nationally and internationally. The GSU stands for applied and basic research with a high volume of third-party funding and state-of-the-art as well as international teaching in all social and life science sub-disciplines of sport science. The Doctoral Candidate will be working with the Neuromechanics and Musculoskeletal Biomechanics Group (Prof. Dr. Uwe G. Kersting) at the Institute of Biomechanics and Orthopaedics.

The aim of the group is to understand fundamental mechanisms of positive and negative adaptations to physical loading in sports and everyday life contexts. We join biomechanics and neurophysiologic/motor control research methods to:

  • Understand acute and long-term sports injury mechanisms
  • Investigate the processes of multi-layered adaptation during training, rehabilitation and return to play
  • Assess the influence of equipment, training and conditioning strategies in fundamental, clinical and applied research contexts.

The German Sports University (GSU) will be the PhD awarding institute for the doctoral candidate. This also means that the doctoral candidate will follow the doctoral program of the GSU. For further information see here