Good luck to the rest of the engineers. #team???
University of Leeds, DePuy, Bedford Hospital
Academic Research Fellow
Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, University of Leeds
My research is looking at designing better treatment for the ankle – for young and old patients alike!
I am a medical engineer and my research is focussed on the ankle joint – understanding the load and movement that happens at the ankle when we walk and go about our lives, and seeing how this changes when we get an injury, such as an ankle sprain.
Over time, and as we get older, our joints can become stiff and sore, and some people might need a joint replacement. At the moment, ankle replacements are not used very much and don’t always work as well as we’d like – so another area of my research is looking at improving the designs of these to make them work longer. I’m working with a group of researchers to design new tests so that we can ensure they are safe before they are used to treat patients. This picture shows a ‘simulator’ which can make the ankle joint ‘walk’ for days on end – similar to what would happen in a patient
I also teach on our mechanical engineering and product design degrees and supervise some projects. I really enjoy teaching, and particularly working with the students on their projects- these students have all just finished for this year and got some very good marks, so I’m very proud of them!
I also like doing our public engagement activities – this can be anything from running a school workshop to science fairs. This year I took part in a MP pairing scheme – I got to shadow an MP at the Houses of Parliament to see how government works, and then earlier this year he came to our labs
I’m really lucky with my job, I work with so many different people and it’s really rewarding. I know that the research I’m doing might change someones life, and even on days I find difficult, where there might be some problems to solve, that makes everything worthwhile!
My Typical Day
Talking to a lot of people – whether through research or teaching!
I wouldn’t say I have a typical day – I can be working at the hospital, attending a conference or on the university campus, and then be in the lab, my office or a lecture theatre! But here’s something close I think…
0830: Sitting in my office at university – catching up on email, looking at the latest research, or preparing for a lecture
1000 Meetings – I spend a lot of time in meetings – with my project students or my PhD students discussing their work; with my boss – letting him know what I’ve been up to; with a local surgeon – to talk about the current research; in academic meetings – to discuss teaching; research group meetings – to talk about everything we’re doing
1230 – lunch is usually at my desk whilst checking email, or on the way across to the hospital. I do try to get out for a walk or something but in Leeds it’s often raining so I like to stay indoors!
1300 – I’ll spend some time in the laboratory – either checking things are running ok, or setting up something new to test. Most of the work I do is experimental, so I do spend a lot of time in the lab, but I do sometimes make computer models too (although I’m not great at those, so I do leave them to my better work colleagues)
1600 – Admin – grant writing, assignment marking, report writing, planning!
I guess the other thing I do a lot of is thinking! Working out how to tackle a problem, thinking about what I’ve just read, how I’m going to explain something to my students. I spend a lot of time thinking – including on the train to and from work. Usually I head home around 1730 – although sometimes my days can start at 0730 and not finish until after 7pm!
What I'd do with the money
Develop a new school workshop activity to show engineers aren’t all about engines!
People seem quite surprised when I say I’m an engineer. Not only that I’m chartered and a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. It’s not always obvious that engineers do different things and aren’t just about engines!
At the moment, we run a workshop for schools called ‘Great Bones’. It’s aimed at 11-14 year olds, and we talk about how and why bones break, and how they heal – then it’s over to the students to repair a broken bone with the kit of materials we provide – they become the bioengineers! My research group has been running this for nearly 10 years now, so I think it’s about time we did something new. Some of the work I’m doing is looking at tissue engineering and I’d really like to develop a similar workshop that explains how engineering can be used to help the body repair itself.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Enthusiastic, organised, happy
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I’ve done some research on a knee replacement that is now being used for patients around the world!
What did you want to be after you left school?
Something to do with looking after animals
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not really, but I was a bit lazy!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Tricky, before I was an engineer I was a cardiac technician – looking after patients hearts, so I’d probably do that again
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Pharell Williams – I love Happy :)
What's your favourite food?
Pasta – especially gnocchi
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Volunteered on a stand at the Big Bang Fair – talked to over 8000 people in 4 days!
Tell us a joke.
What kind of fish is made of two sodium atoms? 2Na (ok, my jokes are BAD!)