Student projects

Turn a physiological mathematical model into a gaming engine

Project overview

The objective of this project is to develop a “virtual patient simulator” or game engine to foster teaching and learning in medicine and physiology.

This project focuses on calcium-phosphate homeostasis, a complex and tightly regulated system for which we have readily developed the underlying mathematical model as well as entry-level eLearning app.

Building on these bases, you will be in charge of conceiving and developing the game engine. Ultimately, the developed patient simulator will be hosted with all our physiological web applications under

Project Description

Simulation‐based eLearning platforms are gaining interest for teaching medicine and physiology, as a means to interactively visualize and understand the dynamic interplay between different organs, hormones and regulations in health and disease. Yet, these models are typically too complex for non-expert users and mostly remain confined to the research community. To bridge this gap, our group is currently developing a set of eLearning apps for human physiology.

The project was initiated in 2017 with the support of the NCCR Kidney.CH. We have established a first generation, entry-level eLearning app for calcium-phosphate homeostasis, a typical example of intricate tightly regulated physiological system for which we had previously developed and validated an exhaustive mathematical model 1. This entry-level app includes an intuitive interface as well as case studies based on real clinical situations (see attached screenshots).

In this new project, we would like to prompt active student participation by developing a game engine (an online patient simulator), in which the end user would be given a daily task. Each day (game day), a new patient with an unknown disease (related to calcium and phosphate metabolism) would be randomly assigned to the user. Based on relevant measurements as well as patient history, the user would have to suggest a disease and try to cure it with adapted treatments. Scoring and ranking systems based on the speed and accuracy of the diagnosis and treatment, costs engaged, erroneous decisions, etc may be envisioned to further strengthen the user experience.

The thesis includes

  • Design a sketch of the game engine: set the rules, draw the diagram of interactions, select the relevant libraries, establish the development timeline, …
  • Develop the web-based game engine core using R (Shiny web framework) and javascript, within the Rstudio IDE.
  • Optimise the computational intensive tasks with compiled code such as C or Fortran
  • Customize this engine with HTML and CSS
  • Manage the hosting part: take care of a virtual machines army fuelled with ShinyServer Pro (2 licences available)
  • Use version control tools (github)

Your Skills

  • You have a strong background in programming: javascript, R, HTML, CSS, C
  • You are interested in web/game development
  • You are extremely rigorous about your code management
  • You are motivated to work in an interdisciplinary field
  • You are a team player, curious and come up with innovative ideas
  • You are able to work independently
  • You approach problems systematically and manage your projects methodically

1David Granjon, Olivier Bonny and Aurélie Edwards, Am J physiol Renal Physiol, 313, 2017.


Type: Master thesis (Semester thesis possible)

Project start: Open now

Prerequisites: Strong background in programming: javascript, R, HTML, CSS, C

For further information or to apply, please contact

Diane de Zélicourt (Interface Group)
UZH Irchel, Y23 J 78


  • Figure 1

  • Figure 2

  • Picture3