Thank you so much for voting me your winner. I am honoured and thrilled! I hope I inspired a few of you to become engineers.
Before going to University I did a Year in Industry at Atkins. After Uni I worked at Arup, another engineering consultancy, designing and modelling safer cars and then baggage handling systems for airports.
I am a researcher and I am currently completing my PhD in biomedical engineering. I also help to teach undergraduate students.
University of Birmingham
I design and test spinal implants which replace intervertebral discs and help patients with severe back pain
I am a PhD student in biomedical engineering at the University of Birmingham. That means I have spent three years researching the design of spinal implants called Total Disc Replacements. They are used to replace the intervertebral discs of people with severe back pain. The implant is made of a ball and a socket, which rub against each other as the person moves. Over time the surfaces of the implant wear and it needs to be replaced. I am looking into the use of ceramic materials which are likely to wear less in use and therefore extend the life of the implant. I am currently writing my thesis, which is like writing a book as it is 50,000 words long! Once it is finished I will have an exam where two people ask me questions about my research and then decide if I have passed or not. I’m already nervous!
My Typical Day
My typical day is spent in the laboratory working on experiments or analysing results and writing my thesis at my desk.
I use machines called spinal simulators to test the Total Disc Replacements. They simulate the movement of the spine and we run them for 10 million cycles of movement, which is roughly equivalent to 10 years of a patient’s life. I then measure how much the implant has worn and compare it to other implants. This link shows you a video of the spinal simulator in action testing one of the implants.
As well as doing experiments I spend time at my desk analysing my test results. This is a graph of frictional force against time. It helps me understand what is happening to the surfaces of the implant.
I’m currently spending a lot of my time writing my thesis and journal papers. Journal papers are the way scientists share their research with each other. They are reviewed by a couple of researchers and if they are good enough quality they will be published in scientific journals.
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to develop an activity called the Accident and Emergency Engineering Challenge for school students to design and test an implant for fixing a broken bone. If I win the money I might be able to come and visit some of your schools and do it with you!
I love my job and I’m passionate about sharing what I do with other people and letting students know what a fascinating career it can be. I’m currently developing an activity where students need to design, build and test a device which will fix a broken bone. It will take students through the whole engineering process, from identifying the problem and developing ideas to solve it, to building their idea and testing it to see if it works. If I win I would use the money to buy some fake bones to be broken, and also lots of craft supplies for the students to build their devices with. I’d also like to buy a model of the spine which includes the different parts of an intervertebral disc, the vertebrae and spinal cord to show students why my research is important.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
I’m inquiring, enthusiastic, and bubbly.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Ed Sheeran, I love his single Thinking Out Loud
What's your favourite food?
Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings, delicious :0)
What is the most fun thing you've done?
A few years ago I sang on stage at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Proms. It was an amazing experience!
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Very rarely, I don’t like getting in trouble!
What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?
That is a tough one. I think probably my work on the design of Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport. However that will be replaced by my PhD once it is finished!
If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?
I can’t imagine not being an engineer but a small part of me would love to be a singer!
Tell us a joke.
Why did the skeleton go on his own to the party? Because he had no body to go with.
This is my lab’s pet skeleton Cecil. He gets up to a lot of mischief and has a fine collection of accessories. As engineers we are not great with anatomy so he helps us work out where all the bones are!
I work at the University of Birmingham and we are lucky enough to have a beautiful campus. This is a picture of the clock tower, affectionately known as Old Joe after one of the uni’s founders. Rumour has it if you walk underneath it whilst the bell is tolling then you will fail your degree, so nobody does. He even has his own twitter account!