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10 Questions

ChristinaCampbell30 July 2015

In this monthly feature, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Professor Kwang-Leong Choy, Director of the UCL Institute for Materials Discovery and Professor for Material Discovery at UCL. We asked her 10 questions around her research, career and personal life. Here are her answers….


 

IMG_76241) How long have you worked as Director of the UCL Institute for Materials Discovery and Professor for Material Discovery at UCL?

Since February 2014

2) Can you please describe what it is you do?

I work in Materials Discovery, so we work with new materials, new processes, materials with improved/enhanced performance, new applications of materials, and we link theory with practice.

3) What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the science, engineering and medical fields. Now I’m able to use materials and apply my knowledge and skills to contribute to these fields.

4) What keywords would you use to describe your work?

Innovation; Discovering new things; Excitement; Passionate about inventions; Novelty factor.

5) What has been your career highlight?

The research that I do is incredibly important to me and it’s exciting to see how my work can make a difference in the world. It’s remarkable to see how my research ideas have been transformed from conception to demonstration and exploitation.

6) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given others?

There are so many little sayings I enjoy sharing with others. Not only do I believe them, I also live by them daily: Failure is a medicine that one should use to improve; When one door shuts, another opens. When you lose one opportunity, you often find a different one; Life is a journey.

7) If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

I would love to engineer a perfect surface solution with self-healing properties and the capability to harness energy from nature in an effortless and eco-friendly way – that would be amazing. And then I would develop new materials based on my research.

8) What do you do in your spare time?

I really enjoy getting involved in various charity projects. I would always like to do more for the community, but time is always a factor. I also enjoy spending time with my children.

9) What’s your favourite book at the moment?

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane

10) Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would love the opportunity to collaborate with UCL colleagues across all disciplines and open up new areas of research leading to material discovery. If you are also interested in getting involved in something like this, please send me an email at k.choy@ucl.ac.uk

 

Professor Choy obtained her D.Phil. in Materials Science from the University of Oxford. Her D.Phil. thesis was on the Chemical Vapour Deposition of new ceramic protective coatings for SiC fibres reinforced Ti based metal matrix composites.

She currently leads a team of 12 researchers, performing pioneering research into novel, sustainable, and cost-effective processing of nanostructured materials, thin films and thick coatings using non-vacuum and environmentally friendly chemical vapour based deposition methods, with unique nanocrystalline microstructure and superior properties for structural, functional and biomedical applications.

She has over 25 years’ experience in surface coating and nanomaterials.

 

 

10 Questions

ChristinaCampbell29 June 2015

In this monthly feature, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Dr Tom Carlson, a Lecturer at the Aspire CREATe – Centre for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology, UCL. We asked him 10 questions around his research, career and personal life. Here are his answers….


 

TomCarlson1)  What is your job title?

Aspire Lecturer – just to clarify, rather than “aspiring” to be a lecturer, this lectureship is part-funded by the Aspire Spinal Injury Charity. Our lab is located close to the Aspire headquarters on UCL’s campus at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore.

2) How long have you worked as an Aspire Lecturer?

One-and-a-half years.

3) What keywords would you pick to describe your work?

Stimulating, rewarding, beneficial, challenging and fun!

4) What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

When I was younger I loved building things with Lego. I also really enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how to put them back together (or not) – fortunately my parents were very patient!

It was my Grandad who taught me all life’s essentials in his wood workshop – how to use a multitude of hand tools, how to solder, how to make a dovetail joint… I also have to thank Graham Bennett, my high school electronics teacher, who staved off retirement and came back part-time to teach our 4-pupil-strong A-level electronics classes. He was definitely a catalyst of my passion for all things electric, and he encouraged me to pursue Electronic Engineering at university.

It wasn’t until my PhD with Yiannis Demiris at Imperial College London that I began to gravitate towards the medical sector. Later I received a lot more exposure to the clinical world during my post doc years with José del R. Millán at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

5) What do you enjoy most about your work?

I love playing with robots and it’s even better when we’re developing medical technologies to actually help people get on with their lives. I also enjoy meeting all the diverse people along the way, from scientists, to clinicians, to patients and the general public – we all share the same enthusiasm for the projects we’re working on and I have friends all over the world.

6) What do you feel are the main challenges facing your research/clinical practice at the moment?tom - wheelchair

I guess one of the main challenges is managing the interests and expectations of all the stakeholders – the patients and their families, the charities, our academic, industrial and clinical collaborators…

And certainly the key technical challenge is how to deal with the variability in our human users – everyone is different; everyone has their own capabilities, needs and desires – how can we create generic technologies that are cost-effective, reliable and useful, but at the same time meet the very specific (and ever-changing) demands of each individual user?

7) How will you deal with these challenges?

By involving the stakeholders at all stages throughout the research and being open and honest about where we are and where we’re going, we hope we can manage their expectations. For example, on some of our recent grant applications, in addition to consulting with our industrial partners, we are also involving potential end-users as co-applicants, who can then take a very active and important advisory role in the project.

As for the technical challenge of end-user variability, we are working on creating adaptive and learning algorithms, such that as your capabilities change, so does the level of assistance or support provided by our “shared control” systems. We’re trying to do this at multiple timescales, to enable us to cope with short-term changes, like fatigue, as well as longer-term behavioural changes.

8) What has been your career highlight?

It’s still early days, but I would have to say that my career highlight so far was when we got the first patient driving our brain-controlled wheelchair around a rehabilitation centre in Switzerland – that was only a demonstration and there’s still a lot of work to do, but it was a pretty exciting moment!

9) Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

When I first became a postdoctoral researcher there were two senior scientists in the lab, Dr Robert Leeb and Dr Ricardo Chavarriaga. They have been an immense help in mentoring me during the transition from being a PhD student to an independent researcher and also in the transition from a very much electronic engineering world into the biomedical engineering world.

1Tom alps0) What do you do in your spare time?

In Switzerland I spent my time hiking in the alps and skating on frozen lakes. Now I’m back in the UK, the hikes are a little less steep! I enjoy playing the piano, and more recently I’ve spent a lot of time decorating my new house.

 

 

 

Tom Carlson obtained his MEng (2006) and PhD (2010) from the Electrical Engineering Department at Imperial College London. Before moving to UCL, he undertook three-and-a-half years of postdoctoral research on brain-computer interfaces at EPFL, Switzerland.

Tom is currently working on the user-centred design of assistive robotic technologies for people with spinal cord injuries. In particular, he is developing shared control techniques for operating devices such as wheelchairs, with novel interfaces, eg brain-machine interfaces and eye-trackers. These devices predict the user’s intention in the context of an environment, translating from wheelchairs to exoskeletons.

He is also an active member of the IEEE SMC Technical Committee on Shared Control, which he co-founded and has chaired for the last three years.

 

 

 

10 Questions

ChristinaCampbell27 May 2015

In this monthly feature, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Professor Allen Goodship, retired as the Director of Institute of Orthopaedics in 2011 and currently part-time Professorial Research Associate in Medical Physics. We asked him 10 questions around his research, career and personal life. Here are his answers….


 

1) How long have you worked as a Professorial Research Associate?

 

Allen Goodship

I first joined UCL as a joint appointment with Royal Veterinary College in 1996. Then was appointed as Director of UCL Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science in 2000 up to retirement in 2011. I returned in 2012 to the part-time Professorial Research Associate position, enabling me to progress research with minimal administrative duties! Just like being a post doc again!

2) What keywords would you pick to describe your work?

Exciting; interesting; intriguing; challenging, with a touch of frustration.

3) What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

A long standing fascination of form/function interactions in biological systems in general and the adaptive self-optimisation of skeletal architecture in particular.

4) What is your favourite thing about your work?

The constant challenge in addressing exciting, unanswered questions, and the opportunity to meet a wide range of academics around the world, leading to fantastic research collaborations and lifelong personal friendships.  Allen Goodship2

5) What’s been your career highlight?

Probably the unique experience of participating in a project on the MIR space station, where the science was complemented with the opportunity to undertake some experience of microgravity by flying the “vomit comet”!

Also, having the opportunity to contribute in several areas of research leading to new treatment and diagnostic modalities for diseases in both animals and man.

6) What is your favourite quote?

Probably several of “Peter’s Laws”. In particular, number 5: “Do it by the book …… but be the author!”

7) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Look and listen; not always easy to follow!

8) Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My PhD supervisor – an excellent scientist, fantastic mentor, and lifelong friend. After qualifying as a vet and in my first job in mixed practice, he persuaded me to return to research and academia for which I have no regrets.

On a more personal but “higher” level – my wife Dawn, who has supported me throughout my career.

9) What do you do in your spare time?

Off shore sailing, off road cycling, restoration of vintage motor cycles and more recently, beekeeping – a fascinating hobby, much like academic management, where you think you are in control but actually the bees do exactly as they please! Also, spending time with my grandchildren and family.

10) If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

Topically, regeneration – to address my increasing interest in aging and to restore normality in disease and degenerative conditions.

 

Professor Allen Goodship graduated in veterinary science in 1972, his PhD thesis in 1976 related to functional adaptation of bone, both at the University of Bristol.  In 2000 he was appointed as Director of the Institute of Orthopaedics and Muscloskeletal Science at UCL and held this position up to retirement in 2011. He returned part time as a Professorial Research Associate at UCL in 2012; in 2015 he transferred to the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering.

 

 

10 Questions

DespinaKoniordou20 April 2015

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Professor Jem Hebden who is Professor of Biomedical Optics and Head of the Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering, UCL. We asked him ten questions around his research, career and personal life and here is what Jem replied…


Jem Hebden1) What is your job title?

Head of Department, UCL Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering.

2) How long have you been Head of Department?

Since October 2008.

3) What keywords would you pick to describe your work?

‘Challenging’ and ‘rewarding’. When I started, other heads of department warned me that it is a job which gets more difficult over time, although no-one knows why. And they were right.

4) What brought you to the world of science?

I am of the generation that was inspired towards science by the Apollo moon landings. Like many other small children in 1969, I wanted to be an astronaut and go to the moon. I still do.

5) What is the most satisfying aspect of your work?

It is highly rewarding to be involved in research which has the potential to make a lasting, positive difference to people’s health and wellbeing. As a head of department, I also derive great satisfaction from being able to help students and early-career researchers launch their own careers.

6) What do you least enjoy about your work?

The least attractive aspect of working in academia is the obsession with measuring, assessing, and reporting performance, which is totally uncreative work (e.g. REF, IQR, etc.).

7) What’s been your career highlights?

During the early part of my career as an astronomer working in Arizona, I held the world record for generating the highest spatial resolution optical image of a star. Sadly my record has since been beaten. More recently, I am very proud of my team’s achievement of the first 3D optical images of functional activity in the infant brain.

8) Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

The person who had greatest influence on my approach to life is my father, a Yorkshireman and schoolteacher who treated those imposters triumph and disaster with equal contempt. He neither condemned failure nor praised success; to him the only crime was not having a go.

9) What do you do in your spare time?

Spare time? Oh yes, I remember that. I attend a monthly art class (painting and drawing), and I occasionally play my guitar while watching Newsnight. I also read a lot of books.

10) What are your favourite books at the moment?

I recommend everyone should read Paul Broks’ unsettling and profound essay on identity and consciousness entitled “To be two or not to be” in the book Into the Silent Land: Travels in Neuropsychology. Meanwhile, two novels which I discovered and enjoyed recently are Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov (about an obituary writer and his pet) and The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier (about drug-induced time-travel).

 

Jem Hebden, Professor of Biomedical Optics and Head of the Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering, leads a research group developing diffuse optical imaging technology, primarily for diagnosing neuropathology in the newborn infant brain.

10 Questions

DespinaKoniordou11 March 2015

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Dr Umber Cheema who works as Lecturer in In-Vitro Tissue Engineering at the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, UCL. We asked her ten questions around her research, career and personal life and here is what she told us…


Dr Umber Cheema1) What is your job title?

Lecturer – In vitro tissue engineering.

2) What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

I always wanted to be a scientist, and during my PhD I developed a tissue engineered model of skeletal muscle. Following on from that I decided I wanted to be in the translational medicine field.

3) What is your favourite thing about your work?

The interaction I have with engineers, mathematicians, clinicians and surgeons means my work and science are varied, and I enjoy all the different perspectives it gives the research.

4) What do you feel are the main challenges facing your research at the moment?

The emphasis on conducting research which has an impact to wider society is now more critical than ever, but remains a challenge especially with the regulations in translational medicine.

5) How will you deal with these challenges?

Stay informed, talk to funding bodies including research councils and charities, keep close links with patient groups.

6) What’s been your career highlight?

I have 2 highlights: I was awarded a BBSRC David’s Phillips Fellowship in 2008; and my first PhD student passing her viva this November gone!

7) What is your favourite quote?

“When it’s dark enough you can see the stars.”

8) What do you do in your spare time?

I spend time with my boys – mostly at zoos and farms, or any place with animals.

9) What’s your favourite book at the moment?

Right now I’m reading ‘Istanbul’ by Orhan Pamuk and it paints a beautiful picture of the city.

10) If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

Definitely being able to fly. Would massively help with getting from place to place quickly, and provide the perfect escape when things get too hectic.

 

Dr Cheema is Lecturer in in-vitro tissue, and previous to this she was a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow (2008-2013). Dr Cheema’s research is based on understanding cell behaviour and signalling in 3D collagen scaffolds. This work has resulted in close collaboration with industrial partners, including Oxford Optronix, on real-time O2 monitoring in 3D tissue engineered scaffolds and Sartorius, on development of biomimetic 3D tumour models. Dr Cheema’s recent research projects include (i) The development of a reproducible 3D in vitro model of tumour growth. Here the spatial architecture of a tumour and its surrounding stroma have been reproduced in vitro, with evidence of tumour invasion into surrounding ‘normal’ tissue; (ii) The development of engineered capillary beds for tissue engineered constructs; (iii) Development of tissue models to study decompression sickness.

10 Questions

DespinaKoniordou13 February 2015

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we interviewed Professor Robert Brown who works as Professor of Tissue Engineering for the Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science, UCL. We asked him ten questions to do with his research, career and personal life and here is what he replied…


Robert Brown 1) What is your job title?

I am UCL’s first Professor of Tissue Engineering.

2) What keywords would you pick to describe your work?

Fun: Deeply Satisfying: Immensely Exciting – OR – Tissue Fabrication: Protein Materials: Collagen Cell Delivery: Angiogenic Materials.

3) What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

(i) A desire to make a difference to advanced healthcare;  (ii) a drive to invent; (iii) the people in science and their fantastically diverse minds.

4) What is your favourite thing about your work?

Every day is different and the difference you can make – not least for the students and early stage researchers- is a joy!

5) What’s been your career highlight?

Inventing a method for rapid fabrication of living tissues that works (called plastic compression or ‘RAFT’), and understanding cell mechanics (OOPS) and scarring to the point where it was possible to invent a garment for reduction of pregnancy stretch marks.

6) What is your favourite quote?

“The wrong view of science is betrayed by a desire to be right” by Karl Popper.

7) What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?

Be careful where you are drilling.

8) Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My father for instilling a love for new knowledge, and Paul D Byers (osteopathologist) for introducing me to the complexities of the scientific hypothesis.

9) What do you do in your spare time?

Walk and talk; with my dog Muttly or grandson Finn.

10) Finally, if you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

Super-vision (to see what people really need, or super-writing so that I could secure the grants I really wanted to do.

 

Professor Brown is a biochemist who turned to use protein materials for engineering of tissues and a network-generator with a foot permanently in two disciplines; He invents devices, using glimpses of effects which are surprisingly simple and basic.  

10 Questions

DespinaKoniordou16 January 2015

The Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month we speak to Professor Alister Hart, Chair of Academic Clinical Orthopaedics, UCL, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Director of Research and Development, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, about his career, life and favourite pastimes.


1. What is your job title?

Chair of Academic Clinical Orthopaedics at UCL, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Director of NHS Research and Development at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH).

2. What keywords would you pick to describe your work?

Orthopaedic implants, clinical outcome, imaging, blood metal biomarkers for implant function.

3. What brought you to the world of science/engineering/medical technologies/medicine?

I was first really inspired by science at school by my S-level chemistry teacher. I was introduced to the RNOH at around the same time when I used the RNOH library (I went to school locally in Watford) to research my biology A-level project, testing the strength of rat and rabbit tendons. Medicine became the only subject I wanted to do, and I always wanted to be a surgeon.

After school, I continued to be inspired by science via the small group supervision system provided by my Cambridge college, Gonville and Caius. This provided regular weekly discussions with world-leading medical researchers and scientists. The fellows at Caius included Sir Francis Crick, Prof Stephen Hawking, and the current master Professor Sir Alan Fersht (who also happens to now be my father-in law!) so the college had no difficulty in attracting the best teachers.

Interactive discussion of science continued during my MD, which I undertook whilst continuing in my training post as a specialist registrar in orthopaedic surgery. The direct relevance of my research to my clinical training enabled me to do both concurrently. I realised this was how I wanted to continue working throughout my career.

4. What is your favourite thing about your work?

Watching and encouraging the development of the young people in my research group.

5. What’s been your career highlight?

Publishing a paper in Nature when I was a SHO.

6. What is your favourite quote?

“I have not had time to prepare a short speech” by Winston Churchill.

7. Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My wife. She is a cancer doctor at UCLH with a PhD and two young children. She keeps me grounded by telling me that a cancer diagnosis is much more devastating than arthritis, and academic orthopaedics is an oxymoron. She is much cleverer than me so I listen.

8. What do you do in your spare time?

I do whatever my wife tells me! Actually, I manage to sneak out to keep fit. In the last 3 years I have led expeditions in 5 continents, completed a quadrathlon, two road marathons (including NY), and two cross-country ski marathons.

9. What’s your favourite book at the moment?

How to make an impact by Jon Moon because my life is dominated by anything to do with getting my research ideas disseminated. One day I will return to stories of adventures in wild places.

10. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

My superpower would be grant-writing! Then I could spend more time doing sport.

 

Professor Alister J Hart is Chair of Academic Clinical Orthopaedics, UCL, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Director of Research and Development, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, and Visiting Professor, Imperial College London. His interests focus on the achievement of the best possible patient and radiological outcomes after hip and knee replacement, through implant design, surgical positioning and patient factors. He is co-founder of the London Implant Retrieval Centre (LIRC) with John Skinner, and has published more than 70 papers, and performed more than 3000 operations including 750 primary or revision hip and knee replacements.

10 Questions

DespinaKoniordou5 December 2014

An interview in 10 Questions…

In this monthly feature, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) interviews our researchers, academics, students, clinicians, affiliates and partners to find out a little more about who they are and what they do.

This month the IBME interviewed Dr Ben Hanson, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, UCL


Ben Hanson

1. What is your job title?

Senior Lecturer & Departmental Tutor

2. How long have you worked as a Senior Lecturer & Departmental Tutor?

Nine years as a Lecturer, appointed as Departmental Tutor last year.

3. What keywords would you pick to describe your work?

Biomechanics, signal processing.

4. What is your favourite thing about your work?

Solving problems, that’s what engineering is all about. It’s lovely to work in hospitals, and with inspiring people who make a real difference to people’s lives. We’re doing a great project at the moment showing scary movies to people with implanted pacemakers in an attempt to identify how stress affects the heart. [UCL News; Time Magazine]

5. What’s been your career highlight?

My first publication in a medical research journal, (Circulation, 2009). That took a lot of hard work and head-scratching, but my struggle to understand the workings of the heart and to make sense of some data we’d recorded turned out to be really useful in revealing how things worked at a fundamental level.

6. What is your favourite quote?

Miss Piggy: “Never eat more than you can lift” (a great image and, I guess, a lesson in biomechanics).

7. Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

My first PhD supervisor, Andy Plummer, who is such a nice human being as well as being an engineering genius: he demonstrated that the two are compatible.

8. What do you do in your spare time?

Eat! Often with friends & family, often something I’ve made: I am a chocoholic and like making chocolates. My research involves the biomechanics of eating and drinking for people who have difficulties, e.g. due to a stroke, surgery or dementia. I’m very motivated to find ways to control the mechanical properties of foods & drinks to make them easier to manage so that I can continue to enjoy my food when I’m old & frail.

9. What’s your favourite book at the moment?

I was laughing out loud at “The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared”.

10. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?

I love it when the clocks go back and you have an extra hour in the day so I would have an extra hour please, then I might get to do some of the things that unfortunately get squeezed out.

 

Dr Ben Hanson is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University College London, with Affiliate status in the Division of Medicine. Dr Hanson researches biomedical applications of engineering, system-modelling and analysis.