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UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering

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Awards and funding

The Institute of Healthcare Engineering provides a number of funding opportunities for early-career researchers.

Early-Career Researcher Travel Bursary

The IHE ECR Travel Bursary aims to support our early-career researchers in sharing their healthcare engineering research nationally and abroad. By promoting world-class healthcare engineering research to a wide audience, we hope to pave the way for interdisciplinary networking and collaboration.

The current funding round is CLOSED. Please keep an eye out for future funding rounds.

So far, we have awarded the ECR Travel Bursary award to 15 early-career researchers. Here are some of their experiences. 

Salfarina Saberi - TERMIS World Congress, Kyoto

Salfarina Mohamed Saberi is a PhD student within the Division of Surgery and Interventional Science. In September 2018, she attended the TERMIS World Congress in Kyoto.

I was very happy to find out that I was a recipient of the ECR Travel Bursary from UCL IHE. Thank you for the generous, financial support towards my conference attendance at the 5th TERMIS World Congress 2018 in Kyoto, Japan. More than 2,300 participants attended the conference from all over the world. 

Thanks to this award, I was able to present my research progress and communicate with research scientists from academia and researchers. I obtained up-to-date information relevant to my work which will definitely assist with the writing the remainder up of my PhD thesis. For example, there were many types of latest 3D printers used in various tissue engineering applications, with recently-developed biomaterials. From the poster sessions, I learned about a new formulation of growth medium that could improve the angiogenesis of my cell differentiation for heart valve regeneration. 

Salfarina Saberi

I am grateful I was still able to present my work on the final day of the conference after being after stranded for two days at Kansai International Airport due to Typhoon Jebi. The unpredicted changes added more to my accommodation and transport expenses. I truly appreciate the contribution of this bursary; my attendance of the conference would not have been a success without your support.

Junjie Zhao - Biennial meeting of the ISACB, Bordeaux

In September, Junjie Zhao (Division of Surgery and Interventional Sciences) travelled to Bordeaux for the 16th biennial meeting of ISACB.

Being in the final year of my PhD, it was important for me to present my research in an international conference as part of my professional development.  Thanks to the IHE Early Career Researcher Travel Bursary Award and my supervisors, Janice Tsui and Dr Brian Cousins, I was able to attend and the 16th biennial meeting of the International Society for Applied Cardiovascular Biology (ISACB 2018) in Bordeaux, France. During this adventure, I was given a chance of oral presentation of my PhD research, which was submitted to the conference as an article, titled, ‘A Nano-Island Coatings Promotes Endothelization for Endovascular Stents’.

It was the first time I travelled to Bordeaux. I was absolutely amazed by the landscape of the city, by the wondrous culture and the majestic conference site. I presented our research, still a bit nervous at speaking in front of all the experts and pioneers of similar research fields, but I made it through. The audience were kind, especially one of the hosts of the section, Professor Michael F Wolf (Medtronic), he brought up a few very nice points and questions regarding my presentation. It was nice to have this discussion and to feel that I was able to discuss my topic on a scientific level with a senior scientist whom I did not know. Even though I was able to address all their questions, doing so it also gave me a few new perspectives from which I can re-exam my research, and very constructive feedback for future direction.

Junjie Zhao

I am extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to go to this conference, which wouldn’t be made possible without my supervisors’ support and the IHE Early Career Researcher Travel Bursary Award. For me, this experience has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Ben Miller - World Congress on Biosensors, Miami, Florida

Ben Miller is a researcher at the London Centre for Nanotechnology. In June 2018, he attended the World Congress on Biosensors in Miami, Florida.

I attended World Congress on Biosensors 2018 in Florida, USA, the largest conference in the field of biosensing. My PhD is in the field of biosensing, specifically focussed on the use of paper microfluidics along with novel nanomaterials to improve sensitivity and quantification; and expanding their use to new biological assays. This made the Pre-Congress Summer School on Paper-based (Bio)Sensors of particular relevance. There were a variety interesting talks including the use of synthetic biology on paper and silicon microfluidics, as well as quantitative modelling of fluid propagation in paper microfluidics, which will hopefully lead to a future collaboration. It was inspiring to see the speakers’ excitement for the future of paper-based sensors, and the breadth of the research in the area.

I gave an oral presentation on the first day of the three-day conference as part of the immunosensors stream, which focused on sensing systems built on antibody-antigen binding interactions. The work that I presented was on the use of video analysis with paper-microfluidics to take kinetic measurements of ligand-receptor binding interactions on paper microfluidic strips. This allowed measurement of antibody-antigen dissociation constants, a measure of the binding affinity, without pumps or power supplies, demonstrating excellent agreement with gold-standard laboratory instrumentation. In addition, kinetic measurements can give insights into lateral flow test design and fluid flow. Applying video analysis, rather than endpoint readings, to paper-based HIV diagnostic tests allowed rapid quantification, as well as extending the dynamic range of existing tests in certain circumstances. After my talk, it was interesting to discuss people’s perspectives on the work, and their ideas on the potential applications.

The talks schedule was fascinating, the four concurrent streams ensuring there were always talks of interest. It was an invaluable experience to get an overview of what people are working on in the field, as well as seeing work in slightly different areas to mine, which I found useful to build a picture of potentially interesting collaborations for the future. As well as meeting prominent academics in the field, the plenary talks were an opportunity to hear them present their work, and their visions for the future of the field, diagnostics and healthcare in general.

Michael Ebner - MICCAI 2018, Granada, Spain

Michael Ebner travelled to MICCAI (Medical Imaging Computing & Computer-Assisted Intervention) to present his paper on an automated reconstruction framework for fetal brain MRI.

Michael Ebner at MICCAI 2018
Vasileios Kitsos - IEEE Sensors 2018, New Delhi

Vasileios Kitsos is a PhD student in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. In October 2018, he travelled to India to present on his work. 

I delivered a lecture presentation of my work: “Asymmetrical Sensing Configuration for Improved Sensitivity in Calorimetric High Flow Measurements in Constant Power Mode”. That was a great opportunity for me to present my work to a larger audience and get feedback from experts in the field. IEEE Sensors is a major conference in its field, gathering experts from around the world to discuss the next trends on sensors. It is a well-organised conference with multiple events that offer an important opportunity for career advancement through continuing education, mentorship, and networking, especially for early career researchers such as myself.

Vasileios presenting his work
Yu-Jung Tsai - 2018 IEEE Nuclear Science Symposium and Medical Imaging Conference, Sydney

Yu-Jung Tsai is from the UCL Division of Medicine. In November 2018, she flew to Sydney to attend one of the leading conferences in her research area.

Yu-Jun Tsai presenting her research

The IEEE NSS/MIC is one of the main conferences in the nuclear medicine field. It covers various topics, such as algorithm development, instrument improvement and potential practical applications. It provides a good opportunity to meet and discuss with specialists in every related field.

As a research student seeking future collaborations, attending the conference really helped me build up my network. I met quite a few scientists who I have contacted via email and Skype. We talk about our projects and share news about our lives. It was not only a conference but also a social event where you could catch up with old friends.  The conference also held a series of short courses and workshops where students and young professionals could learn from experts and have an interactive discussion. This was a more efficient way to understand their knowledge than digging into literature. In addition, the quality of the presentations at the conference was extremely high. After attending the sessions related to my current project, I was inspired by the methods and principles the presenters applied. I was amazed by how machine learning and big data could improve the image quality or help with diagnosis. For future work, I will consider applying a similar approach for improving the quantitative accuracy in emission tomography. I believe no other conference has this level of technical detail on the subject of my PhD project. 

During the session of my presentation, I received a lot of valuable feedback. Currently, I am preparing a paper on the same subject. With the consideration of the feedback I received at the conference, I believe the quality of the work has been improved and hence the chance of acceptance in a highly-ranked journal. I sincerely appreciated the support of IHE ECR Travel Bursary. It was one of the best conference experiences during my PhD at UCL.  

Céline Kayal, Society of Engineering Sciences 55th Annual Technical Meeting, Madrid

Céline is a PhD student in the UCL Department of Mechanical Engineering. In October 2018, she attended the SES 2018 Technical Meeting. 

Thanks to the IHE, I had the opportunity to present an oral presentation at the Society of Engineering Sciences' conference, in the ‘Biomechanics and mechanobiology of cells and tissues’ seminar. This international conference attracted a truly diverse and multidisciplinary mix of experts.

The presentations in the ‘Biomechanics and mechanobiology of cells and tissues’ session chaired by Prof Marino Arroyo, as well as the ‘Mechanics of Brain’ session chaired by Prof Antoine Jérusalem helped strengthen my knowledge in mechanobiology, interact with the mechanobiology community and build an international network.

In summary, it was a really enjoyable meeting and highlighted significant work in the mechanics of cells and tissue. My presentation was well received and I benefitted significantly from the scientific expertise and feedback. I also contacted potential collaborators. Once again, I would like to thank IHE ECR Travel Bursary for helping me attend this conference.

Phoebe Evans, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine - Annual Meeting, Montreal

Phoebe Evans is a PhD student at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI). She attended the 2019 ISMRM Meeting in Canada.

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to the Institute for Healthcare Engineering for helping me attend the annual ISMRM meeting in Montreal, Canada. This was my first opportunity to attend an international meeting and engage with the international MR community and I found the whole experience inspiring.

I have been working on a new and non-invasive MRI technique to image the glymphatic system (a recently described pathway for rapid cerebrospinal fluid-interstitial fluid exchange) within the rat brain. At ISMRM the work I presented highlights the functional role of blood vessel pulsation to drive perivascular fluid motion. These results will be of significant interest to the international Alzheimer’s disease research community where there is a concerted drive to develop new MRI methods to evaluate the glymphatic system. Additionally, enlarged perivascular spaces are one of the earliest and most consistent neuroimaging findings in small vessel disease and correlate to risk factors such as ageing and hypertension. Thus, we suggest that precise monitoring of perivascular structure and function, with non-invasive imaging, may provide early diagnostic staging and mechanistic insight into SVD pathology.

Attending this meeting allowed me to foster collaboration and discuss potential application of this approach to animal models of disease as well as in humans. Specifically, I met a post-doctoral researcher from the Netherlands who is developing a similar MR sequence to be used in humans. This meeting could potentially initiate collaboration between UCL and their group and ultimately help us to better understand the glymphatic pathway in the human brain.

Yolanda Ohene, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine - Annual Meeting, Montreal

Yolanda is a PhD student at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI). She attended the 2019 ISMRM Meeting in Canada.

Yolanda Ohene

The International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) has an annual conference for MRI physicists and clinicians to come together discuss the developments in MRI. This year there was a theme of ‘disruptors’ in the plenary sessions, exploring the ways that we, as scientists, can be disruptors in the way that we gather, visualise and interpret data. I found this a real thought-provoking session in the way that we tackle healthcare problems. And I was pleased by the society’s efforts to include several sessions on equality, diversity and inclusion as well as global sustainability throughout the conference.

My work was presented as a power pitch in the session “Mix All the Physical Properties with Water & Shake Well” which was focussing on novel contrast mechanisms used in MR imaging. I had many interesting conversations during the session, about the work and also forging some potential future collaborations. It was very interesting to hear the progression of the other research groups who are working in similar areas and the recent developments that have been made in the field. International conferences are such great places to spark discussions and new ideas with researchers from across the world.

Thank you to the Institute of Healthcare Engineering for supporting me in attending this conference.

Elena Costariol, ISCT 2019, Melbourne, Australia

Elena is a PhD student in the UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering. In May 2019, she travelled to Melbourne to present her work on CAR-T therapies.

I had the opportunity, as a recipient of the UCL IHE Early Career Researcher Travel Bursary, to attend the ISCT 2019 annual meeting in Melbourne, Australia. My abstract was selected for a poster presentation, giving me the opportunity to discuss my latest PhD work with experts in the field.

I would like to thank UCL IHE for the bursary, giving me the opportunity to attend such a great conference, which was highly valuable for my research career.