Wednesday, 26 July 2017

CATCH student presents at prestigious conference

A student supervised by CATCH Academic Dana Damian, presented a research paper at an international conference last week. 

Alex Thorn, a MEng student from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering (ACSE) at the University presented at the Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems (TAROS) conference which was held at the University of Surrey. There, he presented an oral paper on creating a phantom variable stiffness tissue, innovative research into creating artificial tissue for testing medical robotics.

The team, made up of four students including Alex and Dorukhan Afacan from ACSE; Emily Ingham from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Bioengineering; and Can Kavak from the Izmir Institute of Technology’s Department of Mechanical Engineering began researching how to create a sufficient alternative which would replicate oesophagus muscle so that medical robots could be tested. The problem was creating a synthetic material which would act like a real tissue, such as scarring after trauma.
Alex joined the project after applying to the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) scheme ran by the University of Sheffield which encourages undergraduates to take part in real life research projects, giving them vital experience they need for work.
Alex said: “I needed something to do over the summer last year. It is essential for any undergraduate to get experience. I had a few ideas about the artificial tissue and was really interested in that area, so I went to the academic lead, Dr Dana Damian, to talk through these ideas before applying for a place on the scheme.
“Research is quite unstructured because you are literally doing something that has not been done before so it is very different from undergraduate study.
“The conference is going to be interesting given it’s so close to the exams ending. The presentation itself is not the problem as ACSE give you a lot of opportunities to do presenting. It’s knowing what you are talking about because these are people who have been doing research in this field for years.”
TAROS is the longest running UK-hosted international conference on Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), which is aimed at the presentation and discussion of the latest results and methods in autonomous robotics research and applications. The conference allows senior researchers as well as young scientists to present their work to the scientific community.
Academic Lead, Dr Dana Damian from ACSE and based in CATCH, said: “There is a great need of mimicking soft biological tissues in order to allow efficient, faster and inexpensive translation of healthcare technologies. Soft robots can be endowed with the ability to change stiffness or morphology, just like biological tissues do, and thus, new medical devices can be better tuned to respond to possible pathological tissue changes. Our lab is particularly addressing malformations of the gastrointestine using robotic implants.”
Alex presented on the second day of the three-day conference, after missing the first day so he could attend his graduation ceremony at the University of Sheffield.

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