After my PhD (which is basically a job too) I worked in the Warwick Manufacturing Group for nearly a year
I’ve worked at the University of Birmingham for about 2 years
University of Birmingham
Engineer, university lecturer, snowboarder and judoka who tries to regenerate the human body!
I live with my boyfriend in Coventry and work as a Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. Usually you will find me:
I was born and brought up in London (claim to fame – my house is on the Eastenders map!!) but have lived in the West Midlands for the past 10 years.
Since a young age I’ve been fascinated by the way things work, which I guess is how I’ve found my way to Engineering. I learn best by doing things and as part of my job I love spending time in our laboratories trying to make new materials, test their properties, and see how these materials interface with biology.
I’m trying to repair the human body by understanding diseases better and designing/making/manufacturing new implants
I’m a Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering at the lovely University of Birmingham .
In this role I have three main responsibilities:
Research: trying to discover new things about the human body to help us as engineers find better ways to repair damaged or diseased tissues
Teaching: helping university students to learn new scientific concepts and supporting them in applying this knowledge to real world engineering problems. I supervise a number of students who do research projects with our group.
Admin: that’s the boring part!
1. Understanding our bodies in more detail
I’m interested in using lots of really cool pieces of equipment to analyse different types of tissue (bone, cartilage, skin…) so that we can understand how diseases effect us.
For example, here is a bit of diseased cartilage that we squished using a mechanical tester . We were trying to understand how this disease, called osteoarthritis, affects the structure of cartilage and may change how this tissue responds to loads.
Another example, here is a elemental map (different elements are shown in different colours) of bone; we are trying to figure out how this type of bone forms by looking at where the elements are located in the bone separately and overlapping.
2. Making new materials to repair damaged or diseases body parts
This is where we as engineers need to start getting creative. We are trying to repair/regenerate bits of the body and that can be quite difficult because evolution has got a bit of a head start on us! Quite frankly, our bodies are made up of some amazing strong, flexible, functional materials and this part of my research is to make synthetic versions that match up to the real stuff!
I work with a whole range of different materials for lots of different parts of the body. In particular, I’m interested in using ceramics to repair bone. I think some of the ceramics we make are really beautiful, for example look at these whisker-like crystals .
3. New ways of manufacturing medical implants
So you’ve probably hear of 3D printing? And perhaps you have one in your school? In case you don’t, 3D printing involves creating a part by making it one layer at a time. The part is designed using computer aided design (CAD) and this allows us to make some complex geometries that would be very difficult to make using other methods.
I’m using 3D printing to try and make medical implants fit patients better.
So that’s a summary of what I do but please feel free to ask me questions about any of my research or anything else 🙂
My Typical Day
Being in the lab, meeting with colleagues about projects, talking with students, writing stuff, analysing data
It’s really hard to describe a typical day for me as every day is always different from the last! But here goes….
Usually I get to work around 08:30, I’m a morning person, and make a to-do list for the day.
Typically I have a few meetings booked in to talk about progress on projects, discuss new ideas and meet with new people to see if there are things we can work together on.
Each day I try to spend some time in our laboratories with students to see the results of their latest experiments and give them some advice.
Quite often I have to make presentations or visit companies/universities. This is quite a common thing for engineers in general but it is particularly common in academia. The really exciting part is when I get to visit other places/countries. Last year I presented in Montreal, Canada. I really liked the city and they have this yummy dish called poutine, which is chips with gravy and cheese (yes I know it sounds awful but it was actually really good, you’ll have to trust me on that one).
What I'd do with the money
Our research group often go into schools (ones like yours) to talk with students. To make this more fun we’d like to use the money to make some games/activities for us to use on school visits
Our research group often go into schools or volunteer at events involving young people, like you! This is a really great opportunity for you to learn new things and for us to get better at talking to people about our ideas and research.
At the moment we have limited resources to be able to do this but if we win then we’d use the money to develop some of our activities:
Guess the tissue: using a microscope look at samples of different types of tissue and try to guess what they are. To do this we need to buy a portable microscope and prepare a few different tissue types for you to look at. Do you think you could tell the difference between bone and cartilage? Skin and the cornea?
Build an implant: can you help save Cecil and build him a new hip implant? This will involve using a piece of software to design and implant to fit Cecil’s hip and then build it using our portable 3D printer.
Deliver a drug: can you formulate an injectable polymer system to release a drug in the desired time period? For this activity we need some money to develop materials to help run this activity.
I’d love to hear your feedback on these activities and to hear about anything that you’d like to know more about.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Creative, fun, hard working
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Another hard one… 1. Invented something that’s now being patented, 2. present my research at international conferences, 3. a research placement in Thailand!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Me, never!!! Well…. maybe once or twice but it totally wasn’t my fault!
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Mmmmmmm a scientist?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
That’s a hard one and I don’t really have a favourite, I just listen to anything really, mostly chart music…
What's your favourite food?
Pasta, Pizza, Prawns, Cheesecake, Chocolate mousse, Cheese…
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Skydiving, Snowboarding, Surfing, Rock climbing (what do you think is the most fun??)
Tell us a joke.
To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.