Going ape for medical innovations

August 17, 2007

Name - Ruth Wilcox

Age: 32

Job: Lecturer in the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering, Leeds University.

Salary: Enough to satisfy my need for chocolate and fine wine.

Practical training/education/ experience: Undergraduate in engineering science at Oxford, a PhD at Leeds, a five-year Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship, then a lectureship.

Working hours and conditions: The people you work with affect conditions more than anything else, and I'm incredibly fortunate to work with a great team. Number of students you teach: About 120 undergrads.

Your department: People often have the misconception that engineering is about tinkering under car bonnets, so visitors can be surprised by the vast array of things we do. One of our biggest research areas is in medical engineering: technology for hip and knee replacements, spinal treatments and robotic physiotherapy devices.

What is your office like? Extremely messy and too small for all my junk. There's usually some muddy running kit hanging on the radiator (it helps to keep the students away).

What's your biggest challenge this year? Academically, obtaining funding through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's Challenging Engineering scheme. Non-academically, the Sierre-Zinal race in the Swiss Alps (30km with a 2,000m climb thrown in).

How did/will you solve it? With chocolate, in both cases.

Worst moment of your university career: When teaching, I frequently have to use words such as "stiffness" and "rigid members". Hardly a lecture goes by without me dropping some awful double entendre. Do you socialise with people at work? Yes - it usually involves me making a fool of myself. We recently went to Go Ape, an activity centre where adults can jump around in trees. And a volleyball tournament involved everyone from MSc students (the most athletic) to professors (the most competitive).

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally? I'd better not name names.

Do you interact with other departments? Lots. My research focuses on treatments for the spine so I work with materials scientists, biologists, chemists, computer scientists, surgeons and orthopaedic companies.

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