|Tanya O’ Brien (PhD)
Tanya obtained her undergraduate Bachelor (BSc) degree in Veterinary Nursing in 2015 from University College Dublin – conferring with First class honours and receiving the Merial Animal Health Prize for overall best student in large animal studies. Tanya then worked for 4 years as a Registered Veterinary Nurse in Ireland – in hospital, clinic and teaching capacities, and volunteered abroad with arboreal, marine, avian, reptilian and mammalian species.
In 2019, Tanya undertook a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where she discovered her passion for biomedical engineering. Tanya is particularly interested in understanding how biophysical stimuli are transduced by biological tissue. Hence, she completed her thesis as a literature review, titled: Smart Piezoelectric Biomaterials for Tissue Engineering of the Central Nervous System. Tanya qualified with First class honours from the MSc. Biomedical Science in 2020.
Tanya was awarded a PhD scholarship by the European Research Council in 2020, under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara for the research project: Mechanobiological model systems for Bone Osteoporosis mimetics. As the MMDRG group recently discovered –biological mechanisms by which bone cells respond to their mechanical environment in osteoporotic bone are impaired – Tanya will continue to advance this research by working as part of the MMDRG group to (i) Uncover the role of mechanobiology in the aetiology of bone osteoporosis by developing mechanobiological in vitro and ex vivo models to mimic the complex multicellular and mechanical environment of osteoporosis in vivo, and (ii) Investigate the potential of mechanobiological inhibitors to prevent osteoporosis. The overall aim of this research is to recapitulate the paragon for bone osteoporosis to more closely align with the pathology of the disease in an attempt to advance future therapeutics.
|Anneke Verbruggen (PhD)
Anneke Verbruggen was awarded a Bachelor in biomedical engineering from National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2016. During this time she worked in the Lean Sigma department of Medtronic for 9 months (the only medical device company Cell system in the world). Her final year project involved a computational model demonstrating bone nanoindentation of hydrated and dehydrated bone tissue, and was aided by her supervisor (and NUIG alumnus) Dr. Ted Vaughan. To further research this field and investigate where to specialise, she returned to Galway for a taught Masters degree in biomedical engineering. This included a group Bioinnovation project investigating an optimum method to tackle obesity. A fluid flow model, bench testing, original patent and seven year business model were included in the thesis for an entirely novel bariatric device.
Anneke worked as a research assistant under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology Research Group for 6 months. This research was funded by the Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CURAM) and involved projects such as the mechanical testing of bone aggregates originally optimized by Dr. Fiona Freeman (see Alumni section). Following a 7 month backpacking trip around the world to gain perspective, Anneke returned to begin a PhD with the MMDRG group.
Anneke was awarded the Hardiman Postgraduate Scholarship to conduct research into metastatic bone tissue. Specifically, she is assessing local tumour-induced changes in bone mechanical properties and composition, using animal models provided by Dr. Roisin Dwyer from the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI, NUI Galway). By applying methods such as nanoindentation and microCT scanning, Anneke hopes to pinpoint distinct differences in bone tissue microenvironment upon cancer invasion and replicate this process through computational modelling techniques (FEA, USDFLD subroutines) to establish why breast and prostate cancer favour bone tissue as a site for invasion.
|Dr. Syeda Masooma Naqvi (Post Doc)
As a postdoctoral researcher, she utilised skills she gained during her PhD and combined this with the indispensable training she received in the MMDR group to develop appropriate 3D in vitro model systems that mimic the changes that occur in bone mechanobiology during osteoporosis (SFI funded project: mechanobiology based approaches for treatment of osteoporosis). Her investigations attempted to inform the generation of novel mechanobiology-based therapeutic approaches for osteoporosis.
Masooma’s current research involves investigating the role of mechanobiology in the aetiology of bone metastases (IRC funded project: MEchanobiological model systems for bone METastases mimetICs (MEMETIC)). Although much research has been conducted to understand the pathogenesis of metastatic bone disease, it remains that therapies are deficient and once cancer invades bone tissue the condition is untreatable. Thus there is a distinct need to significantly advance our scientific understanding of bone metastasis. To address this, she is developing advanced 3D in vitro model systems that mimic the complex multicellular and in vivo mechanical environment of metastases, including interactions (via mechanosensitive matrix attachments) between such cells and their surrounding physical environment and using these model systems to establish whether inhibition of mechanobiological responses can attenuate tumour cell-bone cell signalling and the development of bone metastases.
|Vatsal Kumar (PhD)
Vatsal graduated from Manipal University, India in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. He went on to work for close to 3 years as a Verification and Validation engineer in Tata Elxsi, India in the area of medical electronics. In 2017, he came to NUI Galway to pursue MSc in Biomedical Engineering and worked on his thesis with the MMDR group. The thesis titled ‘Mechanobiology of Bone Metastasis’ investigated the effects of conditioned media from mammary carcinoma cells on Osteoblast mediated Osteoclastogenesis and the effect of 3D gelatin substrate stiffness and mammary carcinoma cell on Osteoblast mediated Osteoclastogenesis. After completing his Master’s in August, 2018, he has now begun his PhD titled ‘Mechanobiological model systems for bone metastases mimetics’, funded by the College of Engineering and Informatics scholarship, under the supervision of Prof. Laoise McNamara in the MMDR group
This project will use advanced in-vitro and ex-vivo models that replicate bone metastasis in terms of biomechanical properties to study mechanobiological responses during metastasis. These models will be used to assess whether inhibition of these responses can affect tumor-cell and bone cell signalling, hence, essentially affecting the development of metastatic bone disease.
|David Symes (PhD)
David is a graduate of NUI Galway (2016), where he received his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. In his final year, David completed a project on the analysis of the risk of rupture and dissection of arteries. Following completion of his Bachelors, David spent a year working with a medical device start-up (AdvancedCath) in San Jose, California before returning to Galway, Ireland to work with Creganna Medical for a year.
David is now undertaking a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in collaboration with Medtronic Vascular entitled “Cerebrovascular risk predictions post-transcatheter aortic valve replacement”. This research will be carried out under the supervision of Dr. Claire Conway in Aston University’s Biomedical Engineering Department in Birmingham, United Kingdom and Prof. Laoise McNamara in the Mechanobiology and Medical Devices Research Group in the Discipline (MMDRG) of Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway. David was awarded funding by the Irish Research Council “Enterprise Partnership Scheme” to conduct this research.
Ischemic stroke post-TAVR is thought to occur due to debris or tissue tearing away during or after intervention which can result in a blockage forming in the cerebral vasculature. This project will investigate using numerical techniques and imaging data the response to prosthetic valve placement via TAVR. Using virtual aortic structures derived from patient imaging, the deformation and tearing of tissue will be predicted using advanced computational techniques. Consideration of the impact of the dynamic motion of the whole heart will be enabled through the use a 3D multiphysics model capable of simulating a complete cardiac cycle. This project will reveal vital information on the likelihood of an embolic response post-TAVR and insights gained will inform SAVR also.