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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


Professor Peter Lee, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, The University of Melbourne


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


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.

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