UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering


2020 Autumn Research Symposium

20 November 2020

Thanks to everyone who joined us for a day of research, networking and fun!

Picture of Rawen, Lucy, Sean and Phoebe

Tuesday 27 October, we held our third Autumn Research Symposium – and our first ever virtual symposium! 

The symposium was a showcase of the best healthcare engineering and digital health research at UCL, spanning a wide range of disciplines and career stages. We were delighted to have Dr Oz Ismail, a science-communicator, podcaster and comedian, host the day. Oz is a UCL alum, now living in the States, after completing a PhD in dementia research last year.  

Dr Oz Ismail's tweet about hosting the Symposium

The morning session: networking & research priorities 

At a time when many are feeling cut-off from social contact, we wanted to provide an informal virtual space for people to come together for a chat. So, the day began with a drop-in networking session on the Wonder.me platform. Dr Ester Bonmati (WEISS) won herself a recipe box voucher, for this delightful picture of her morning coffee. 

Ester's photo of her coffee mug wearing headphones

Next up, Professor David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) and our director, Professor Rebecca Shipley welcomed everyone to the event, and gave an overview of how much the UCL community has achieved, despite, and in response to the challenges of this year.  

In February this year, the Institute of Healthcare Engineering directors unveiled our research priorities, and we showcased these with a series of talks from experts in the area. 

These priority areas reflect significant healthcare challenges currently faced around the world, and where our cross-cutting position in UCL’s research community will allow us to bring knowledge and innovation from multiple disciplines to bear on these pressing challenges. 

  • Self, shared and community care, with Dr Henry Goodfellow (Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care) 
  • Timely detection, diagnostics and intervention 
  • Healthy ageing and multimorbidity across the life course, with Professor Nadia Berthouze (UCL Interaction Centre) 
  • Cost-effective and effective healthcare technologies, with Professor Martina Micheletti (UCL Biochemical Engineering) 


‘What’s is like when the world isn’t designed for you?’ 

We then settled in for an insightful panel discussion, ‘What’s it like when the world isn’t designed for you?’ with colleagues from the Global Disability Innovation Hub. Chaired by Professor Cathy Holloway, with Dr Dafne Zuleima Morgado Ramirez and Dr Giulia Barbareschi as panellists, the session explored attitudes to disability and how healthcare engineers can design products that are inclusive of everyone’s needs.  

Screenshot of Cathy Holloway

Cathy Holloway is academic director of the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub

Dafne described how societal prejudices trickle down into design decisions;

“We engineer society with our view, but if that society excludes certain groups of people, then there is a high risk of their technology excluding people as well”. 

Giulia emphasised the importance of speaking to end-users and finding out what really matters to them, instead of making assumptions. Through working on a project for wheelchair-users in Kenya, she learnt that “what we thought was important, wasn’t actually what was important to people”. 

“If you want to do projects that have a meaningful impact, you need to be able to listen and get directly in contact with people. Create a network of people with disabilities that you consult with – not just at the start or end of your project – but an ongoing consultation to make sure you don’t deviate from your initial principles”. 

Pre-lunch stretching session 

We rounded our morning off with a pre-lunch stretching session with Lynda Keane, from Aspire Leisure Centre – Europe's first leisure centre for people of all abilities. The chair-based exercise session was a big audience favourite!  

A tweet by Nazia Mehrban, saying 'why can't all conferences have chair based yoga'

Early-Career Researcher Competition 

We finished the afternoon on a fun note, with a five-minute presentation competition for our early-career community. 

After putting out a call for abstracts, we whittled down the applicants to just eight contestants on the day, from a wide range of research backgrounds and experience levels.  

Our judging panel consisted of: 

  • Professor Elizabeth Murray, our Deputy Director (Clinical) 
  • Dr Pilar Garcia Souto, co-chair of our Education Delivery Group 
  • Dr Vivek Dua, co-chair of our Careers Delivery Group 

We were blown away by the quality of all the presentations, which made the judging decision extremely tough! After a few minutes of deliberation, we were pleased to award to prizes to the following winners (pictured below, anti-clockwise): 

  • 1st place: Dr Rawen Kader, Clinical Research Fellow, WEISS, ‘Computer-aided diagnosis of colorectal polyps using artificial intelligence’ 
  • 2nd place: Lucy Rothwell, UCL POND, ‘Identifying three clinical subtypes of Huntington’s Disease with distinct progression patterns’ 
  • 3rd place: Dr Sean Doherty, Honorary Researcher, London Spinal Cord Injuries Centre, ‘The bionic bladder: nerve stimulation approaches to restore bladder control following spinal cord injury’ 
  • Audience vote winner: Phoebe Heseltine, PhD student, UCL Mechanical Engineering, ‘An IoT platform for remote monitoring of inflammatory bowel disease’ 

Picture of Rawen, Lucy, Sean and Phoebe

Congratulations to the winners and a big thank you to all the participants. 

It was fantastic to see so many members of the UCL community and beyond at the Symposium, and we look forward to seeing you at other events soon.