Interviews

On this page you can find updates from the BioMEP doctoral students.

Joeri Kok: Computational modelling and image processing of bone strength and hip fracture risk assessment

Primary supervisor: Associate Professor Hanna Isaksson

Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Email: joeri.kok (at) bme.lth.se

1. Where do you come from and what have you previously studied?

I grew up in the Netherlands and I studied at Eindhoven University of Technology. I did a Bachelor in Biomedical Engineering and a Master in Medical Engineering, where I conducted my thesis in the university hospital of Maastricht. This thesis was about the imaging of bone formation using a PET/CT scanner.

2. What made you choose natural sciences?

Since I was a little kid I have been amazed by anything related to biology and I always had fun learning about it. In high school I learned that I was fairly good at courses like physics and mathematics. This makes Biomedical Engineering the ideal combination of skill and interest for me.

3. What is your research subject in your PhD work?

My research is all about making finite element models of the femur. The eventual goal of these models is to be able to make better patient-specific assessments of fracture risk and potentially decide on the best treatment for the patients at high fracture risk.

4.What made you apply to BioMEP doctoral programme?

Towards the end of my Masters I decided that I wasn’t done doing research and that I wanted to continue working in an academic environment. However, I did want to properly challenge myself and get the most out of my research as possible and I believe that going abroad and collaborating with other research groups is the best way to do this.

5. What have you achieved so far?

So far, I have been working on preparing finite element models for a mechanical test we will perform soon. One thing that I have been looking at is a better implementation of the material properties of the cortical bone, which should lead to a better correlation of measured strain data on the bone surface. Another thing that I recently started is the creation of models with ‘cement’ injections that should help increase the bone strength.

6. What have you enjoyed the most during your PhD work?

The best thing so far for me is how welcoming everybody has been in my new group and in general here in Sweden. As soon as I came here I felt at home, which has also helped me enjoying my research even more than I expected. I have also been on two small trips for my PhD work (one summer school in Italy and one trip to collect data in Lithuania). These types of trips are one of the reasons why I wanted to do a PhD and they were even more fun than I could’ve imagined.

7. What are your future goals?

I try not to think too far ahead about my own future, but for as far as my PhD goes I want to have an impact on the way that fracture risk is assessed and on potential treatments to reduce this risk. For the rest I want to develop myself in a broader sense to maybe also help others in gaining knowledge or realizing their goals in the field of Biomedical Engineering.

8. What do you want to say to people who are interested in applying to recognized Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programmes?

Go for it. If you have any doubts, ask. There are a lot of people working in a Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programme and e-mail addresses are not hard to find.    

 

Barbara Genocchi: ln-silico modelling of astrocyte function in neuronal networks

Primary supervisor: Professor Jari Hyttinen

Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland

Email: barbara.genocchi (at) tut.fi

1. Where do you come from and what have you previously studied?

I come from Turin, Italy, where I lived until two years ago, and where I studied physics for my bachelor studies, and nuclear and biomedical physics for my master studies. I then conducted my master thesis research in London at The Institute of Cancer Research UK.

2. What made you choose natural sciences?

I have always been interested in understanding the world as much as I can, and for this reason, I was interested in Physics since the high school. But in more general, I’m interested in all the fields that are related with nature, as it is the most complex environment we can imagine, and I find exciting trying to understand it in its deepest laws.

3. What is your research subject in your PhD work?

My research aims to understand and computationally model the role of the astrocytes, and how the activity of these cells and neuronal networks are coordinated and what basic mechanisms these interactions have in health and disease. I will focus my research on epilepsy. There is, in fact, increasing evidence that astrocytes have an important role in epilepsy and we hope in the future to be able to develop astrocyte-based cures for neuronal diseases.

4. What made you apply to BioMEP doctoral programme?

When I saw the call last October, I thought it was a great opportunity for my future work in such a great network of universities. Having the possibility of being in contact with other students from all over the word and also, thanks to the annual meeting having the chance to obtain suggestions on my work both from fresh and young researcher similar to myself, but also from experienced researchers.

5. What have you achieved so far?

First testing results are coming out from our model, and this led me to participate in the XIII European Meeting on Glial Cells in Edinburgh this July and I will participate in the European Synapse Meeting in Milan the next December.

6. What have you enjoyed the most during your PhD work?

In these firsts six months it was interesting discovering the university environment and the Finnish culture. It was also very nice feeling every day a little bit more part of the group here at the Tampere University of Technology. Moreover, when I started, everything was new, exciting but also scaring, now, starting to obtain results gave me more self-confidence and I started enjoying more the work itself.

7. What are your future goals?

I would like to gain a lot of experience in teaching and supervising students, but also create and then expand my scientific network. I would like some day to go back to Italy and set up my group on computational neuroscience.

8. What do you want to say to people who are interested in applying to recognized Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programmes?

Do not lose this occasion, maybe being scared of moving abroad. These programmes are big opportunities for young students because they permit to be part of important laboratories and research environments with lot of connections and possible stimuli for your research and career.

Thomas Notermans: Computational modelling of Achilles tendon biomechanics and mechanobiology

Primary supervisor: Associate Professor Hanna Isaksson

Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Email: thomas.notermans (at) bme.lth.se

1. Where do you come from and what have you previously studied?

Hi, my name is Thomas Notermans and I’m from the Netherlands. I pursued my Bachelor and Master degree in Biomedical Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology with a special interest for numerical modeling of growth and remodeling of collagenous tissues, e.g. the aortic heart halve.

2. What made you choose natural sciences?

My interest in natural science comes from the intriguing complexity of biology and especially the human body. It appeared very interesting for me from the start unravel the complex mechanisms involved in the growth and remodeling of a human being to affect health care and subsequently quality of life.

3. What is your research subject in your PhD work?

My research will investigate how mechanical loading influences tendon function, structure and composition  under supervision of Assoc Professor Hanna Isaksson at Lund University in Sweden. The first part of the PhD work will address the effect of loading on intact rat Achilles tendons. A previously developed mechanical model will be used to investigate the effect of unloading on rat Achilles by using experimental data that were recently obtained. Future research should address a mechanobiological model to couple the dependent growth and remodeling of different components in the tendon to the evolution of mechanical properties.

4. What made you apply to BioMEP doctoral programme?

The BioMEP programme gave me an excellent opportunity to perform interesting fundamental research abroad with a high degree of international possibilities to visit interesting research groups all across Europe. In addition, there is a significant focus on obtaining additional education in specific courses or soft-skills, to ensure discrete innovative personal development.  

5. What have you achieved so far?

Thus far, the majority of the research has been devoted to reading the literature considering the biomechanics involved in Achilles tendons. Subsequently I focused on the finite element implementation of our mechanical models and adapting these implementations to the newly obtained experimental data. Currently, we are developing a method for combining different types of experiments and corresponding simulations to combine as much experimental data as possible to ensure a well-determined mechanical model.  Our next target is to determine a final and feasible approach to conclude the first study.

6. What have you enjoyed the most during your PhD work?

Foremost, a  great international and personal atmosphere in our group. Secondly, the high level of  biomechanical research. Finally, I enjoy the possibility to have the time to really dive into a very specific problem and learn about all the different aspects to develop a deep and comprehensive understanding and possibly changing our understanding of the mechanisms underlying complex biomechanical behaviour. 

7. What are your future goals?

One of the most complex constituents in the human body, from a mechanical perspective, is collagen. I would love to significantly contribute to a better understanding of the growth and development of collagen. In addition, I would like to to translate the findings of my PhD studies into discrete changes in medical sciences to improve quality of life.

8. What do you want to say to people who are interested in applying to recognized Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programmes?

If you want to be a part of a European high-quality research network in the field of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics with endless possibilities to grow and learn to impact research and improve the medical quality of life of people, you should apply now!

 

Gustavo Orozco: Numerical modeling of adaptation of articular cartilage to abnormal loading in the knee joint

Primary supervisor: Professor Rami Korhonen

University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland

Email: gustavo.orozco (at) uef.fi

1. Where do you come from and what have you previously studied?

Hello, my name is Gustavo. I am from Cali, Colombia. I studied my bachelor and Master in mechanical engineering at Universidad del Valle. During my studies, I did my research about computational biomechanics.  

2. What made you choose natural sciences?

Well, my decision to work on natural sciences, especially biomechanics is founded in the interdisciplinary research, for instance, from the engineering point of view, I could share concepts with doctors and medical staff to solve common problems.

3. What is your research subject in your PhD work?

Currently, I am working as junior researcher in the Biophysics of Bone and Cartilage group (BBC) at University of Eastern Finland. My PhD research is related with developing a computational model which is able to predict local changes in the collagen network during the progression of osteoarthritis. The model includes articular cartilage interactions for a normal knee joint and the contributions of menisci, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. I consider that my research project may help in understanding and preventing diseases in the knee joint and improve clinical treatments.

4. What made you apply to BioMEP doctoral programme?

I applied to BioMEP doctoral programme because it offers complementary expertise of excellent European research groups with strong cooperations with many universities around the world in the field of Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics. Also, I liked this particular program since it requests for highly-qualified biomedical engineers to move towards innovative approach in research and multidisciplinary education.

5. What have you achieved so far?

Well, I just started my research in BBC group but recently we presented our preliminary results in the last annual meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society in San Diego, USA with positive feedback.

6. What have you enjoyed the most during your PhD work?

I really enjoy to work in this research group at University of Eastern Finland with an excellent interdisciplinary teamwork which is recognized as one of best research groups in biomechanics around the world. I feel that this opportunity will enhance my capabilities for my future career as a research scientist. Besides, I have enjoyed the beautiful Finnish nature with some colleagues in many extracurricular activities.  

7. What are your future goals?

My short-term goal is complete my PhD research with a solid performance. After this, I would like to continue to growing as research scientist. In future, I would like to continue working on biomechanics developing new strategies to improve medical protocols.

8. What do you want to say to people who are interested in applying to recognized Marie

 Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programmes?

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programmes are a great opportunity to enhance career development and prospects by working abroad. I consider that this wonderful program allows you to work in a first-class research environment while benefitting from an innovative developing and multidisciplinary attractive education.

 

Yike Huang: DNA-origami based biosensing for medical applications

Primary supervisor: Assistant Professor Anton Kuzyk

Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

Email: yike.huang (at) aalto.fi

1. Where do you come from and what have you previously studied?

I am from China and I studied bioengineering for my Bachelor and Master in China and  US. respectively.

2. What made you choose natural sciences?

I am very interested in natural science. I am curious about the mechanism behind phenomenons and good at solving question-driven problems.

3. What is your research subject in your PhD work?

I study DNA origami based dynamic nanostructures.

4. What made you apply to BioMEP doctoral programme?

I wanted to study DNA origami technology and to combine the aptamer technology that I acquired in my Master program with it. I came up with the project idea and was seeking fundings for it. I found this program and also noticed that there were many other benefits such as international and industrial connections and interactions compared to other scholarship.

5. What have you achieved so far?

I have finished the preliminary study and successfully incorporated an aptamer into an DNA origami to construct the dynamic structures during the past 6 months.

6. What have you enjoyed the most during your PhD work?

I enjoy the working environment. The university resources are adequate. The lab is well equipped. Colleagues are friendly. My advisor gives me both autonomy and guidance which makes me work efficiently. I am learning new knowledges and techniques and having a productive research here.       

7. What are your future goals?

I want to have a fruitful Ph.D. work. After that, I hope to start up my own DNA technology company.

8. What do you want to say to people who are interested in applying to recognized Marie Skłodowska-Curie doctoral programmes?

It’s a good program. If you have great ideas, are motivated to work in science, and interested in sharing knowledge and information with people from different background, just apply!