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ARC Training Centre for

Medical Implant Technologies

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Meet the PhD students
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Xin Li

Project title

Antimicrobial nanomaterials for medical implants

Supervisors 

Professor Andrea O’Connor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Dr Daniel Heath, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Professor Neil O’Brien-Simpson, Melbourne Dental School, The University of Melbourne

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Xin Li with Professor Andrea O'Connor

Xin Li is undertaking a PhD research project with the Department of Biomedical Engineering, The University of Melbourne. She has long held an interest in undertaking research since graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine (Dentistry) at Tianjin Medical University, China. While conducting research in cancer for the Master of Medicine (Dentistry) at Lanzhou University, Xin grew to appreciate the importance of technology in advancing treatments for patients. She progressed to enrolled in a Master of Engineering (Biomedical) majoring in biomedical engineering at the University of Melbourne as the research program would enable Xin to combine her knowledge in medicine with engineering skills. The research experience in the BioFab3D@ACMD facility in Melbourne has broadened her horizon in the biomaterials field. This encouraged her to embark on a PhD candidature to advance her biomedical engineering skills and capabilities.

Xin’s PhD project aims to address anti-microbial challenges affecting medical implants. Medical implants-associated infections remain the concern of post-operative infections. This is mostly due to the application of biomaterials of the implants. Even though the drug delivery coupled system showed an antimicrobial capacity, the drug resistance of bacteria remains challenging.  Xin’s project focuses on anti-microbial nanomaterials for medical implants, aiming to improve the antimicrobial properties of skeletal reconstruction implants to reduce the risk of infection and minimize the potential development of microbial resistance.

Sarah Woodford

Project title

Joint function of the healthy, osteoarthritic and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) replacement jaw

Supervisors 

A/Professor David Ackland, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Professor Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

 

Dr Dale Robinson, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Sarah Woodford with Associate Professor  David Ackland

Sarah Woodford completed a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, and was exposed to applications in the medical device industry, which inspired her to pursue a career working as a design engineer for a large hearing aid manufacturer in Denmark. Upon returning to Australia she decided to undertake a PhD, working with Dr David Ackland and his team in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Sarah was particularly interested in their work involving customized 3D printed temporomandibular joint (TMJ) implants and their significant impact on the quality of life of implant recipients.

Currently the design and post-operative evaluation of TMJ implants is limited by the capacity to accurately assess jaw motion and jaw loading. The research that Sarah is undertaking involves investigating the structure and function of the jaw, and the differences in its kinematics between healthy, osteoarthritic, and joint replacement patients. Ideally this project will lead to improved implant design and a deeper understanding of dynamic jaw joint function.

This project also has a personal aspect for Sarah. With a sibling with TMJ deformities, Sarah is acutely aware of the life changing impact of these devices and their developments in terms of increasing functionality, reducing pain levels and providing excellent cosmetic outcomes for the patient.

Stepanka Haiblikova

Project title

Three-dimensional behavior of the human intervertebral disc under static and dynamic loading conditions; progressing towards automated patient-specific finite element (FE) models

Supervisors 

Professor Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Professor Duncan Shepherd, Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Birmingham

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Stepanka Haiblikova with Professor Peter Lee

Biomedical engineering is providing Stepanka Haiblikova with an opportunity to be a part of an inspiring and rapidly developing field which aims to improve the treatment of disease. As Stepanka highlights "With the chance to be involved in potentially life-saving outcomes, why would I want to study anything else?”

 

Although Stepanka was initially discouraged from studying engineering, her path to becoming a biomedical engineer was straightforward. Alongside pursuing a Master’s Diploma in Biomechanics at Czech Technical University in Prague, Stepanka had the opportunity to study abroad. It was Professor Teo Ee Chon from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who triggered her interest in spinal biomechanics.

 

Stepanka’s PhD project is focussed on understanding the mechanics of intervertebral disc which is essential for many clinical applications. Treatment of lower back injuries or disc degeneration and development of intervertebral disc replacement are limited. Computer simulations and finite element (FE) modelling proved to be a useful tool for surgical planning and implant design. However, validation of these FE models presents a difficult part of the process. In vitro measurement of internal strains of the human disc would address this problem and contribute to the development of an automatically generated patient-specific model of the spine.

 

Stepanka has chosen to undertake her PhD at The University of Melbourne because of the biomedical engineering expertise and the advance equipment that is available for her research. She believes that the combination of the cultural heritage and diversity of the city and the surrounding wilderness makes Victoria the place to be.

Yihang Yu

Project title

Biomechanical modelling and design of personalised spinal implants.

Supervisors 

Professor Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Associate Professor David Ackland, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

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Yihang Yu and Professor Peter Lee

Yihang Yu completed his Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne. Inspired by his capstone project  “Design and Development of a Soft Prosthetic Wrist”, he became interested in the field of Biomedical Engineering. He decided to pursue this passion with Professor Peter Lee and his team, and find new ways of designing orthopaedic spinal implants.

 

Yihang’s project aims to solve some the major problems in spinal implants such failure to provide fusion. To solve this, he will be working on developing personalised 3D printed spinal implants that involves using finite element modelling tools, materials structure optimisation methods and additive manufacturing technology. The project will focus on placement of the implants, and how the implant size, porosity, density, lattice structure will affect its performance. The improved personalised implant design would help surgeons achieve the desired clinical outcome.

 

There is also a personal story to Yihang’s chosen field of research. He has high respect for people working in the medical field; his mother is an ophthalmologist.

Yichen Huang

Project title

Stability of the glenohumeral joint after anatomic and reverse total shoulder arthroplasty

Supervisors 

Associate Professor David Charles Ackland, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Professor Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Dr Dale Robinson, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Yichen Huang with Associate Professor David Ackland

Yichen has developed an interest in engineering long time ago. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree (Engineering) at the South China University of Technology, China. During those four years, he was always enthusiastic in participating in all kinds of engineering projects. During the last two years of his undergraduate study, he completed a National Innovation Project of China with his schoolmates. With the desire to learn more in engineering, he came to the University of Melbourne in 2017 to study for a Master’s Degree in engineering. During the two years of his Master’s Degree study, he was exposed to more advanced knowledge and techniques in engineering field. He was especially interested in the application of engineering tools in solving biomedical problems. Therefore, aiming to explore more in this area, he made a decision to undertake a PhD research project and joined A/Prof David Ackland’s team in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

 

Yichen’s PhD project aims to investigate the instability complication associated with shoulder arthroplasty. Shoulder arthroplasty is a surgical procedure in which all or part of the glenohumeral joint is replaced by a prosthetic implant. Anatomical total shoulder arthroplasty (TSA) and reverse total shoulder arthroplasty (RSA) are the most common shoulder arthroplasty procedures. However, instability still occurs at a significant rate after TSA and RSA. Once instability occurs, revision arthroplasty is often required, bringing more pain to the patients. Yichen’s project involves developing and validating computational models of the native shoulder and the shoulder after TSA or RSA and using these models to evaluate the influence of several design variables on the stability of glenohumeral joint after shoulder arthroplasty. Hopefully this project will improve our understanding of shoulder arthroplasty and lead to better implant design.

Lauren Wearne

Project title

Quantifying the interference fit achieved by cementless tibial trays and its effect on primary stability

Supervisors 

Associate Professor Egon Perilli, Medical Device Research Institute, College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University

Professor Mark Taylor, Medical Device Research Institute, College of Science and Engineering,Flinders University

Lauren Wearne and A/Prof Egon Perilli

Lauren completed a Bachelor of Science (Physics) and a Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering at Flinders University. It was only during her final year of her undergraduate study, whilst working with a Paralympian that had multiple sclerosis for her honours project, did Lauren consider pursuing a PhD. Lauren particularly liked analysing the muscle EMG data and correlating this quantitative and physiological measurement to the athlete’s personal experience. It was also during this time that she was introduced to Medical Physics and Egon Perilli, who is now her primary supervisor. Medical Physics provided Lauren with the opportunity of combining her two undergraduate degrees into a single profession whilst simultaneously pursuing research.

Lauren’s PhD considers the interference fit of cementless tibial trays. Cementless fixation of implants have several potential advantages, including preservation of bone stock and ease of revision. This is especially important considering that patients who receive a primary knee replacement are younger than previously. Despite the importance of interference fit, little is understood. The majority of computational models ignore the influence of press-fit when assessing primary stability or other models use values that are significantly lower than those found clinically. Through the use of micro-CT and digital volume correlation, Lauren aims to provide some of this information by quantifying the extent of done damage induced during implantation and the primary stability of cementless tibia trays.

Shareen Chan

Project title

Development of paste inks for 3D printing of Multi-scaled Porous Ceramic Architectures

Supervisors 

Professor George Franks, Department of Chemical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Professor (Honorary) David Dunstan, Department of Chemical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Dr Daniel Heath, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Shareen Chen and Prof George Franks

Shareen Chan’s passion for Additive Manufacturing (or 3D printing) was ignited during her studies in Mechanical Engineering (Bachelor with Honours) at the National University of Singapore. After completion, she worked as an engineer in the consumer product and medical device testing industry, where she developed a deeper appreciation for biomedical technology and its impact on the quality of life.  After nearly a decade in industry, she decided to further pursue both her interests in a PhD project with Prof. George Franks in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Heath in the Department of Biomedical Engineering.

 

Bone is the second most transplanted tissue worldwide, with allo- and autografts as the ‘gold standard’. Despite their limited availability and other shortcomings, the alternative – synthetic bone substitutes or scaffolds – currently fall short due to incompatible mechanical properties and inferior osteoconductivity. Shareen’s project aims to solve some of these challenges through colloidal processing of bioceramics and 3D printing, namely extrusion-based Direct Ink Writing, resulting in scaffold structures with multiple scales of porosity. The relationships between formulation, structure, properties and performance will be investigated. Potential outcomes include improved scaffolds for orthopaedic repair and a better understanding and control of the fabrication process.

Sarah Safavi

Project title

Design and manufacture of composite and structures for maximum biomechanical integration

Supervisor

Prof Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Sarah Safavi has always been fascinated by technology and its impact on our lives which is why she decided to pursue a career in engineering. With both her parents being doctors, she also had a great interest in medicine, and it quickly became clear to her that the field of biomedical engineering was what she was most passionate about.

Sarah studied Mechanical Engineering at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany. During that time, she had the opportunity to gain insights into biomechanics and implant development at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology. This experience, as well as her time as a research assistant at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, not only further encouraged her to become a biomedical engineer but also to pursue a career in research.

Sarah’s PhD project is dedicated to the improvement of longevity hip implants. Due to aseptic loosening, many patients undergo revision surgery a few years after implantation. The aim is to target this issue by developing additively manufactured personalised, porous structures with optimised material properties.

The University of Melbourne caught Sarah’s attention as it is a renowned university with high expertise in the biomedical field and she is very happy about the opportunity to undertake her research here. 

Sarah Safavi and Professor Peter Lee