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Engineering meets Medicine!

by YPU Admin on October 27, 2016, Comments. Tags: aerospace engineering, Aneurysm, PhD, Research, simulation, and UoM

Introduction

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. 



In Depth

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.

Going Further

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

 

Recreating the conditions inside the sun

Introduction

Hello! My name is Asad and I’m a PhD student at the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering at the University of Manchester. Within my PhD, I work in the relatively recent field of nuclear fusion. More specifically, I look at the effects of plasma damage and neutron irradiation (both known phenomenon that occur within nuclear fusion) on materials that could be used to build a potential fusion reactor.

A little bit about my background first. Before I embarked on my PhD, I completed a Master of Engineering (MEng) in Mechanical Engineering with a minor focus on Nuclear Engineering. I also did some part time study in mathematics and research projects within fluid mechanics. Of the latter, a noteworthy one is that I constructed a mathematical model of the acoustics of a banjo!


In Depth

Science has always intrigued mankind. Some of the foremost questions we have been obsessed with are the simple ones:

·  “Where did we come from?”

·  “Why are we here?”

·  “What do we do?”

No matter who you ask, you will realise that we still don’t really know the answers to these; whether we look for philosophical reasoning or scientific. We search high and low for answers. Our universe is at the centre of such research. And at the centre of our universe: the sun.

The sun can be considered a giant ball of energy. The manner in which this energy is generated is referred to as nuclear fusion. As the human species observed this, we felt the urge to exploit the process to aid our need for energy, in order to survive on a world where resources are rapidly depleting.

What exactly is nuclear fusion? The answer is a result of work done by pioneering scientists such as Ernest Rutherford, Pierre Curie and Marie Curie. We find that certain atoms of elements undergo interesting transitions. We have been able to exploit these, such as nuclear fission which is currently a dominant process to generate electricity. Within fission, we find that under the right conditions, some of the atoms will split and become smaller releasing energy in the process. Fusion is the opposite; some atoms combine and through the process release energy. It has been found that the energy released through fusion could potentially be more sustainable, cleaner, and less fraught with the risks associated with the energy generated through fission. 

Thus we are now engaged in a global technological race to be able to achieve the right conditions for fusion on earth. Thus far we have managed to recreate the conditions. However, we still haven’t managed to be able to maintain these for long enough, nor have we been able to extract power from it. We have some ideas on how to achieve both. One of the questions however is, do we have the materials to be able to do so?


This is where people like me come in. Thus far I have spoken about how this is a relatively new process mingled with a plethora of difficulties. Therefore, it will not be surprising when I say that we don’t exactly have the appropriate facilities to be able to entirely comprehend the extreme effects taking place. So how do we go about solving the problem? Some people try and use proxies, alternative approaches that in some way mimic certain effects we expect. Others try to use computational techniques and our understanding of physics to paint a picture. I’m involved in the latter. I use modelling and simulation to try and deduce what we expect. It isn’t as simple as pushing a button however. One needs to be aware of a lot of inter-related pieces of physics. Sometimes, we also find that we don’t have the computational power to actually be able to process all of these (surprising isn’t it given the progress in the field of IT).  Sometimes my job is therefore to see which processes are negligible. At other times, it is to check and draw conclusions from the results of my simulations. To name a few of the techniques I use; I use solvers for the neutron transport equation, binary collision approximation and molecular dynamics. The last considers how atoms are likely to behave. This generates some interesting perceptions of important chemical and atomic processes.

I’ll stop here. I’ll end on a note that the human race is currently engaged in very exciting things. But to see this realised; we need young, ambitious and creative minds that are keen to learn as well as try new things. 


Going Further

If you want any more information, please feel free to contact me at: asad.hussain@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk . 

To find out more about the chemical and atomic processes generated in molecular dynamics: http://lammps.sandia.gov/movies.html

A more comprehensive yet elementary guide on nuclear physics can be found at (http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nuccon.html)

Here are also some web links pertinent to what I have written: 

Culham Center for Fusion Energy: http://www.ccfe.ac.uk/introduction.aspx

Nuclear Energy Agency: http://www.oecd-nea.org/workareas/

Fusion Center for Doctoral Training: http://www.york.ac.uk/fusion-cdt/