Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering


Medical Physics monthly seminar to be presented by Dr. Alan Cottenden on 27th November

27 November 2017, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Event Information

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LT 508, Roberts Building, Torrington Place, London

The second installment of the 2017/18 Medical Physics monthly seminar series will take place on Monday 27th November with a session titled: 'The Journey so far: Reflections on (sort of) retiring after 39 years in academia'.

The seminar will be given by Dr. Alan Cottenden from 1-2pm in Lecture Theatre 508, Roberts Building.


Having recently retired after 39 years in academia - 37 of them researching incontinence technology and 34 of them at UCL - Dr. Alan Cottenden will reflect on his career. He will trace key points and influences and share lessons learned, all in the hope of stimulating fruitful thought among his “fellow-travelers” – especially those near the start of their journey.  

In particular, he will explain how, from the unlikely start of a PhD on the mechanical properties of metal and ceramic machine tool materials, he came to focus his research on incontinence technology. He will discuss the thrills and challenges of working in a seriously under-researched field with few maps, well-worn paths, or experienced guides. He will describe the fun, stimulation, and hard work of learning enough about the worlds of others to practice real and effective multi-disciplinary collaboration. He will also share his thoughts on balancing depth and breadth in building a research programme and highlight the importance of being aware of your weaknesses and strengths, as well as those of the people around you.

He will reflect on the changing nature of the student teaching / learning experience, from the perspectives of both teacher and learner, and will touch on navigating a world increasingly obsessed with measuring and monitoring. Perhaps of more interest to those further on in their journey, Dr. Cottenden will also discuss his recent experience of preparing for retirement and contemplating what comes next.


For almost all of his academic career, Dr. Alan Cottenden has focused his research on technology for managing intractable incontinence. He has collaborated with a rich diversity of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians in academia, as well as colleagues in industry, government, and the clinical and not-for-profit worlds. With these peers, he has tackled a range of projects from the fundamental science and mathematical modelling stages, through clinical trials and international standards, to product development, think tank facilitation, and consultancy. 

He has given some 200 invited lectures and has over 300 scientific and clinical publications, refereed conference contributions, and patents. He initiated and chairs the organisational committees of the only two regular international conferences on incontinence technology in the world: the 'Incontinence: the Engineering Challenge' series run every two years in London by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and the 'Innovating for Continence' series, run by the Simon Foundation in Chicago. 

He contributed to all six 'International Consultations on Incontinence', co-leading the team producing the book chapter and associated website on incontinence technology. These resources provide evidence-based advice on the selection and effective use of incontinence technology to users and caregivers. Click here to view the website that Dr. Alan Cottenden co-produced.

In his university teaching, Dr. Cottenden provided modules on technology in urology and, more widely, on biomaterials, biomechanics, and engineering design. For many years he served in various wider teaching roles including; director of studies, undergraduate tutor, and admissions tutor.