My story by Anthony Leong
I was born in Singapore and because my parents passed away from a very young age, I was pretty independent right from the very beginning. If there is one thing my mother taught me early in life which I attribute to where I am today, it would be the most important thing to have in the world is a good education, and that no one will help me more than myself. Typical of Chinese culture, my mother was harsh and would expect me to have at least 98% in all my exams; if not I was met with severe punishment! Of course even today I thought that was a bit extreme, but nonetheless it set the stage for me strive even harder and work towards more achievements.
After primary school I attended Christ Church Grammar School in Australia where I took up hobbies in hockey and flying. Initially I chose subjects such as math and science as I wanted to do engineering, and maths and science were my best subjects. I was also inquisitive when it came to designing new ideas and I loved problem solving.
The turning point came however sometime towards the end of my high school years, when a certain individual convinced me that engineering was mundane and I would end up working on boring pieces of equipment such as a circuit board of a washing machine, and inanimate objects such as these couldn’t talk and interact with you. Hence I chose medicine, as I love interaction with people and in addition it involves solving problems, and is intellectually challenging. As I chose to retain my Singapore citizenship, I had to postpone medical school and return to Singapore for my 2.5 years of National Service. After basic military training I spent my time at the army’s psychological care centre as a researcher helping to develop a set of scores for army recruits at a high risk for suicide, self harm and other psychiatric illnesses.
Delighted that at last national service was over, I went back to Australia to enrol in medical school at the University of Tasmania graduating with a BMedSci(Hons) and MBBS (Hons). I completed my FY1 year at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane, and my FY2 year, at Princess Alexandra Hospital, also in Brisbane. Subsequently I decided to join Imperial College as a researcher with the aim of completing a MD(res) at the department of Surgery and Cancer, in the field of Orthopaedics. I felt this would be a good time to let my inquisitive nature expand my research abilities. I hope to learn more about knee morphology and kinematics, with the aim of improving current surgical techniques, and influence the next generation of knee prosthetic implants.
Right now I love being here in the United Kingdom, as culturally its very similar to Australia and in some aspects even Singapore. I hope to eventually specialise here in the United Kingdom, as the environment is very conducive to academia and the support I have from my colleagues and bosses here at Imperial College is overwhelmingly good!
My name is Martin Jaere, I am a Medical Doctor from Norway and currently undertaking a double masters; MA and MSc in Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. This summer I have been working as a research assistant with Dr Susannah Clarke at the MSK Lab on Patient Specific Instruments (PSI), which is one of the many exciting projects going on in the Lab.
The theory behind PSI is that new manufacturing processes can help improve the work of the surgeon when it comes to accuracy and time taken in the operating theatre; in addition to drastically reducing the number of surgical tools needed for the operation. The technology works by using custom made tools designed specifically for each patient from plans based on pre-operative radiological data. The tools, once designed, are then made by a 3D-printer from a bio-compatible polymer.
The technology of using computer engineered surgical plans has been developed in-house by Dr Simon Harris and his team, so there is the complete specific chain from assessment and planning, to manufacturing all under one roof. This is one of the benefits of an intimate research group, where we are all working cooperatively towards one goal – improve the patient specific experience and recovery when suffering with back, hip and knee disease.
This summer we have been working on tools for various surgical applications, but with an overall focus on knees and hips. Instead of having engineers and designers working in remote offices, we have developed an ‘open studio environment’ where the surgeons have been following our developments on a day-to-day basis, for them to make comments and suggestions on our work. This close cooperation with the orthopaedic surgeons has been key to our success, along with Prof Cobb’s insights and supervision, we have felt supported and confident to develop our design and product further.
I have had a really interesting summer at the Lab and feel both fortunate and happy to have been part of the team.
“I’m Chloe Chiou, a PhD student from the department of Physical Therapy and Assistive Technology from National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan. The National Science Council of Taipei strongly supports and encourages international collaborations between colleges. It is for this reason I applied to Imperial College and owe a huge thanks to Professor Alison McGregor and Dr Paul Strutton for approving my place here, allowing me to join the MSk Lab and assist in research for the next six months.
The project I am working on here is to investigate the way the nervous system controls the trunk muscles, particularly focusing on people with low back pain by using transcranial magnetic stimulation as a tool. My PhD thesis is looking at the changes which occur within the brain following a stroke; the back pain research is an additional topic that I am working on in conjunction with Dr Paul Strutton.
He is an expert in back pain and an excellent tutor – I had no idea how to set up and use the equipment to start with. However with guidance from Paul the study was up and running within a few weeks and I felt confident that I knew what I was doing. Both he and Alison have given me a great deal of space/time to also get involved with the recruitment of patients for the study – signing people up from clinics, explaining the experiment to them, arranging the appointments and then carrying out the tests. It has been a huge learning curve for me and certainly not been easy, but I have felt extremely supported and learnt invaluable skills essential to being a researcher.
I am really enjoying the work I am doing here and feel part of the MSk Lab team. It is a great place to work, with so much going on and exciting things happening. A big thank you to all the staff for having me, I shall miss you when I go back home in December.”
By Ms Chloe Chiou
“I am Justin Boey, 3rd year medical student from Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore. It has been a privilege to participate in a summer research internship at the MSk Lab, Imperial College London, as part of my 3rd year electives. This internship is also part of a research collaboration between the International Offices of National University of Singapore and Imperial College London with sponsorship from Santander Bank.
Back in Singapore, I was involved in clinical and translational research in the fields of Orthopaedics and Spine Surgery. Despite having prior research experience, my stint at the MSk Lab was both an eye-opener as well as a valuable learning experience.
The MSk Lab is a leader in the field of Orthopaedic Research. I am impressed at the professionalism and depth of knowledge of the undergraduate, post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers in the Lab. The research atmosphere was stimulating and intense with a smorgasbord of different personalities and backgrounds. There were researchers from different undergraduate majors (Bio-engineers, Mechanical Engineers and Doctors) and different parts of the world (USA, Australia, China). All these elements form an integral part of an exciting brew of intellectual curiosity and exchange of ideas.
I believe that the hands-on approach of my supervisors is also another reason why the MSk Lab is able to constantly innovate and produce ground-breaking research. Research is a long-drawn and resource-intensive affair that requires the utmost commitment from the investigators.
The research focus of the Lab has great potential for impact on future clinical practice, surgical techniques and implant design. For example, my treadmill study on how knee replacement patients walk after surgery has the potential for application in the decision-making process of surgeons as well as for knee implant design. Another study on the shape of the patella will have application in terms of implant design and surgical technique.
The Musculoskeletal Lab is, no doubt, impressive with their current international collaboration and funding. However, I believe that the best is yet to be for this research institution. I wish Professor Cobb and his dedicated team all the best in their future research endeavours and continued support from their benefactors.”
By Justin Boey