Engineering meets Medicine!
My name is Ben and I'm a 2nd year PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester. I have always been interested in aeroplanes and space for as long as I can remember so studying Aerospace Engineering at University was an easy choice for me having studied Physics, Chemistry, Maths and Further Maths at A-Level. I completed a four year integrated Master's at the University of Manchester in 2014 before beginning my PhD in 2015. My research concerns the simulation of characteristics of blood flow through diseased arteries. By modelling these characteristics we can begin to understand why these diseases, such as the growth of aneurysms, occur.
The main focus of my research is improving the criteria for when preventative surgery should take place for patients with an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA). An aneurysm occurs when the artery begins to expand and swell, weakening the artery wall and can lead to a rupture. Due to the amount of blood travelling through the aorta, 90% of patients who have a ruptured AAA die. As a result, it seems sensible to perform the preventative surgery even if there is only a low risk of rupture. However, AAAs mostly occur in men over the age of 65, for who surgery is more dangerous than the average person and shouldn't be taken lightly. Therefore a compromise must be found between the two risks.
The current criteria for surgery is based upon the maximum diameter of the aneurysm, found using ultrasound similar to that used for pregnancy scans, is greater than 5.5cm for men and 5.0cm for women. However, this isn't patient specific as it does not take into account the weight, height or family history of the patient. My research, working with Wythenshawe Hospital and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Manchester, is looking to improve this criteria by taking the images obtained from the ultrasound, building a 3D geometry from them and then simulating the blood flow through the aneurysm to assess the risk of rupture for the patient. The aim is to have the entire process automated so that it can be done quickly by the doctor to give a very fast decision which will hopefully reduce the number of patients who have unnecessary surgery while also reducing the number who die from the aneurysm rupturing. We have a lot of work to do before it becomes clinical practice but the results so far have been promising.
The research I have been working on during my PhD isn't what is normally associated with an Aerospace Engineer at first glance. However, I am able to use a lot of the same theory I learnt during my first degree and apply it to a new application, showing the diversity of career available to an Engineer.
For updates on my research activities, follow me on Twitter: @b_owen92
Or visit my website www.about.me/benowen
More information on Aerospace Engineering can be found at www.aerosociety.com
Or general engineering at www.theiet.org/
Here is a fun video of the type of projects you will be involved in if you study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester: www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZUHunTmMV8