I am fortunate to have a diverse, transAtlantic experience in biomedical engineering, which spans the fields of academia and industry. I’m a Galway girl and graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical) degree from NUI Galway in 2004. While in university, I did my work placement in Mednova Ltd, a Galway company that was since acquired by Abbott Vascular. On graduation, I was awarded a place on the IBEC Export Orientation Programme (now IBEC Global Graduates), which allowed me to work in Mednova in Galway for six months and then in Abbott Vascular in the Bay Area in California, where I remained until 2008.
I worked as a research and development engineer on test-method development for embolic filters and drug-coated stents, and on the design team cell injection catheters. I then returned to academia and completed a part-time MSc in Bioengineering at Trinity College Dublin over two years while working for Medtronic, Galway from on bio-prosthetic valve replacement delivery systems.
My master’s research involved the design of a kinematic computer-based design tool for a novel orthopaedic knee implant for osteoarthritis, and I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate with a company in California, and finite element experts in Dublin for this research.
In 2011, I was awarded a Fulbright International Science and Technology Award to pursue a PhD in Bioengineering at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. At Harvard, I was advised by Professor David Mooney, a researcher in tissue and cellular engineering and biomaterials and director of the Mooney lab, and Professor Conor Walsh, also an Irish Engineer and Trinity graduate, who directs the Harvard Biodesign Lab whose research interests include soft and wearable robotics.
Having co-advisors with such unique and distinct expertise allowed me to become competent in new research areas and my thesis work involved the design, fabrication and testing of a combination of mechanical and biological therapy for heart failure patients.
On the mechanical side, I delved into the field of soft robotics and designed a flexible sleeve that surrounds the heart and is actuated in synchrony with the native heartbeat to assist the failing ventricles of the heart to beat without contacting blood, thus obviating the need for anti-coagulants. We tested this design in a pre-clinical porcine model and demonstrated that we could increase cardiac output in an acute heart failure model and in a fully arrested heart.