I have worked as a mechanical engineer in the Civil Service, for Arup and at Brunel University.
I am currently a researcher in the Mechatronics in Medicine Laboratory.
Imperial College London
I work as part of a team designing a tool for brain surgery.
My role in the team is to understand how a soft needle reacts when it is pushed into the brain or a liver. The shape of the needle and the material that it is made from mean that we can make it steer inside the tissue. By using computers to do lots of maths, I try to predict how the needle steers. The tests that I do on the computer also help to show ways in which the design of the needle can be changed so that it steers more or does less damage to the brain when it is pushed in. I also work with other team members to find ways that the needle can also be used to tell if a person is sick when it is pushed into the brain. We hope to do this by shining a light at the needle tip and measuring how the light bounces back.
I also help students with their project work. At the moment I am working with two student groups. One is designing a device to find out how hard a cyclist presses on the pedals when they are riding their bicycle. The second project is to design a machine that measures how stiff or stretchy different materials are.
Sometimes I share my work with other scientists at meetings around the world. Another way that I share my work is by writing about it for specialist magazines. In this writing I have to describe my experiments, what we found and why our steerable needle is important for other engineers and doctors.
My Typical Day
My typical day is spent doing tests using a computer to see how our steerable needle makes the material around it bend and break.
My day normally starts at about 8.30am and finishes at about 5.30pm.
I spend most of my days working at a desk and using a computer to do lots of maths. This maths tells me how material like brain behaves when it is pushed by our steerable needle. Sometimes I work in our laboratory to see how close what I predict on the computer is to what happens when we really use the needle. In our laboratory we use motors to push our steerable needle into gels. We measure how much the needle steers and how much the gel stretches using cameras.
Often I have meetings with my boss or other team members to talk about my work or work that they are doing. I also meet with students to talk about their projects. I try to help them if they don’t know how to use some equipment or if a particular design is a good idea or not.
It is normal for me to spend time making presentations of my work or writing about it. This is so other engineers can see what I’m doing to help them with their projects – and so we can show that we were the first team to have a particular good idea!!
My other duties are to make sure that our team has what they need for doing their tests in the laboratory. I also have to make sure that our laboratory and everybody using it is very safe. Most of what we do is safe but some tools, like lasers, can be dangerous if they are not used carefully.
By the end of the day I am normally very happy to get on the train home. Mostly my evenings are spent quietly either reading or watching television. At the weekends I also like to ride my bike and watch whatever sport that I can.
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to build an interactive robotics activity for this year’s Imperial Festival.
The Imperial Festival is a big event that happens for one weekend each year. It is so engineers and scientists from around Imperial College can show the public what they do – and hopefully make it seem fun too! The medical robotics team that I work with will be in an area with many of the other groups interested in robots from the College.
I would like to have an interactive stand so that visitors can build robots and try different ways of controlling them. In previous years we have used a 3D joystick and shown how the game ‘Operation’ can be made more easy with that. This year we would like to use Lego Mindstorms to allow visitors to build a robot, input some simple controls on a laptop and then see how it is able to perform simple tasks. The advantage of using Lego is that it is easy to build, modify and understand. The interface is also simple for visitors to understand and change quickly.
I would use the money for a Lego Mindstorms kit and spare parts that could be used for a simple robotic challenge. We would also like to use a small amount of money to buy a prize for the most creative solution over the course of the Imperial Festival weekend.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Quiet, curious, stubborn.
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I worked on a project to design a new device to help with robotic surgery. Seeing that used for the first time in an operating theatre was very exciting!
What did you want to be after you left school?
An engineer or a product designer.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not often. Sometimes I was too cheeky but mostly I was well behaved.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
[I would like to be ] A professional cyclist, footballer or musician.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don’t normally listen to just one singer or band – at the moment I’m enjoying Whitney Houston and Sara Bareilles though.
What's your favourite food?
Pizza or cheesecake.
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I rode my bike across the United States and had a great time doing it!
Tell us a joke.
What do you do with a blue whale? Cheer it up.