Oh my word...I'm in the final, how did that happen?! Please keep voting!!
Bioengineering Group – University of Nottingham; Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering – University of Leeds
Lecturer of Mechanical and Medical Engineering
University of Hull
I love learning about how things work, and love solving problems…good job really as this is exactly what an engineer does!
I am a medical engineer and my research is all about the spine! Instead of using joint replacements and artificial bits and bobs, i’m trying to figure out how we can tell the spine to make itself better all by itself using Tissue Engineering techniques.
As you get old the squidgy bits in the spine (the intervertebral discs) that allow us to bend and move around start to harden. This is why old people get back pain and cant touch their toes! My research is allowing us to figure out how this happens, and is allowing us to figure out how to reverse the process so that we can avoid nasty and painful surgical operations.
This is what the spine of a sheep looks like underneath all its fluff (*GROSS*)…
This is a cross-section that has been cleaned up and all the blood removed
and this is a bioreactor, which is essentially a little house that we can put bits of spine in to to keep it alive, and tell it what to do!
We can then put these bioreactors into a machine called a simulator, that allows me to mimic the movement of a human. I can then apply all the forces and loads that our healthy spines experience, so that the tissue can pretend to be a real human. Confused!? I was at first, but this is soooooo cool!!
Earlier this month I started a new job as a lecturer at the University of Hull. I teach mechanical and medical engineering to students aged 18+ and its all a bit scary at the minute! My office is looking very empty, and the sound of the phone echoes around the big empty room whenever anybody calls me 🙁
I absolutely love taking part in public engagement and outreach activities where I get to talk about science and engineering to people from all walks of life. You can usually find me at science fairs, museums and even going in to schools to talk about medical engineering and how important it is!
I really hope that I can show you that engineering is not all about cars and planes, and that it is a really exciting subject with lots of career prospects!
My Typical Day
There is no such thing as a typical day!! Always lots of things to do, and always a few surprises!
My day is split between lecturing/teaching, helping students with their projects and working in the lab on my research.
I love all parts of my job as they are very different. They all involve thinking about complex situations and figuring out how we can make something work.
I spend a lot of time talking to people about how we are going to secure money for the projects that we are running, and how we are going to tell the world about what wonderful discoveries we are making. It’s really important that the public know that the money we receive from the government (i.e. tax payers) is being put to good use, and that we are not wasting it.
The really rewarding part of medical engineering is knowing that everything you do is working towards being able to help somebody. There are lots of new and exciting technologies emerging, and medical engineering makes the most of all of these! There will always be really exciting jobs available in medical engineering as we will always get old and our bodies will always break or become damaged. The question is, how far can we go before we turn people into robots?! Hmmmmm.
What I'd do with the money
I would run a drop-in session at the local hospital so that patients who are receiving implants can hold and touch the implants, and talk to the scientists and engineers about the design and manufacture of the implants.
I think that it would be great to run a drop-in session at the orthopaedic unit at the local hospital, inviting patients to come and meet the engineers who are designing and working with the new implants. Usually patients only have contact with the doctors and surgeons who often only explain the medical aspects of the operation, and can only answer the very basics about the science of the implant.
Wouldn’t it be good if you could hold the implant that you were about to receive, and ask about the materials its made from, why its the shape it is, why it will only last 10 years, and what the future holds for orthopaedic implants?
It’s also really important that as engineers we see how our ideas fit with society, and to see if people are aware of our work and the potential inventions and designs that are on the horizon!
Public engagement is for everyone, even those with broken bones!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Determined, inquisitive and outgoing
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
**WARNING THIS IS A BIT GROSS** I took a bit of spine from a sheep and put in a special tank called a bioreactor, and kept it alive for a month. I wanted to see why old people have trouble with their backs and try to figure out how we can stop our spines from getting stiff as we get old. I also like pointing out that engineering is for everybody, it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A doctor or a physiotherapist. I applied to study medicine at university, went to 4 interviews, secured places at 2 universities and then missed one of my A-Level biology exmas. Yep, I thought it was in the afternoon and as my mum dropped me off at college I saw all of my friends walking out of the exam. That was the worst feeling ever! I’ve never missed anything since then!!!!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Nope – maybe I was too much of a goody two-shoes OR maybe I just never got caught ;-)
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I’d love to work for Lego! Who wouldn’t want to be paid to play with Lego?! (as long as its not that girly pink stuff, no thanks!)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Queen – I like all kinds of music though (apart from RnB…I just don’t get it)
What's your favourite food?
Yogurts- Its the one thing I couldn’t live without!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Skydived from 13,000 feet and landed on a beach full of salt water crocodiles.
Tell us a joke.
What was the name of the first electricity detective? Sherlock Ohm