With this series of interviews, we want to help VPHi's members get to know one another and involve more and more students in this group, contributing significantly to the Institute's life and the in silico community!
1. Tell us something about yourself!
My name is Robyn, and I have had an unusual journey to my PhD in Bioengineering at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute in Auckland, New Zealand! I trained as a medical doctor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and since my first clinical rotation in paediatrics, I have been passionate about children’s health. I have been fortunate to be able to pursue various interests – from clinical practice in South Africa to an MPhil in Biomedical Ethics, to my introduction to Biomedical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, to three years in maternal and perinatal clinical research at the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland. My current doctoral research project brings together my two passions of paediatrics and bioengineering.
2. How did you first get involved with the VPHi? What is the most significant added value of being a VPHi student member?
My introduction to the VPHi was by virtually attending the VPHi 2020 conference in the first year of my PhD. Being a VPHi student member has been a fantastic opportunity to connect with others in the in silico community internationally, particularly as there have not been any travel opportunities since I started my doctoral research. It’s great to be part of a community fostering clinical and engineering collaborations.
3. Can you describe your PhD research work in 3 sentences?
I am doing a joint project between the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland. My project aims to develop zero-dimensional computational models of the cardiovascular system for newborn babies. We are investigating how cardiovascular development might be different in babies born early and the physiological mechanisms that might predispose preterm babies to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.
4. What is the expected outcome you would like to achieve?
In future years, we will adapt the model to preterm babies, validate and personalise our models using the data collected and apply them to answer our research questions. We hope that these models will be clinically applicable to provide haemodynamic insights for diagnosis and surgical planning and that our findings will contribute to further translational research to address the cardiovascular risks for babies born early.
5. Have you already published any papers as part of your research work? Or have you reached any results that make you proud?
Unfortunately, I have not published any papers yet. However, despite the challenges of covid, I am proud to have almost completed data collection on a prospective, observational cohort study to collect data on cardiovascular anatomy and function in term and preterm babies at Auckland City Hospital. I am humbled and grateful to all the families who have contributed to my research.