Tuesday, 13 October 2015

ISTM Women in Engineering: Dr. Yvonne Reinwald

The last post in our series comes on Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
Dr. Yvonne Reinwald is a Research Associate in Regenerative Medicine, and is keen to inspire young people to choose a career in STEM. She is a STEM Ambassador, and is involved with the HEART (Healthcare Engineering and Regenerative Therapies) Outreach group.

You work in Regenerative Medicine. What does that mean?

Regenerative Medicine is an interdisciplinary field combining tissue engineering approaches with biology, molecular biology, materials engineering, bio-and chemical engineering, but also medical imaging and clinical therapies with the aim to develop novel treatments for patients to regenerate tissue function or replace damaged tissues.

In recent years, researchers have developed numerous cell delivery and biomaterial strategies to treat impaired tissue function. My research interest lies in the translation of these newly developed therapies into the clinic and/or manufacturing site in order to make them accessible to the patient. For the last four years I have been working on research projects funded by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine and our industrial collaborators to develop bioreactor technologies for clinical application. I love working together with researchers from different disciplines as part of a multi-disciplinary team. My research involves mathematicians, physicists, biologists, bioengineers and manufacturing engineers. I also travel a lot to attend national and international conferences and visit collaborators in their laboratories. In addition, I have the opportunity to supervise, train and teach students - something which I really enjoy. Hopefully one day, the therapies that we researchers are developing in the laboratories can actually benefit patients.

What is an exciting project you are working on at the moment? 

At the moment I am working on a project which aims to develop novel strategies to grow mature cartilage for cartilage regeneration, in collaboration with researchers from Manchester University and Edinburgh University. We use bioreactor technologies to help stem cells develop into cartilage-specific cells and form mature cartilage tissue. At the same time we are developing novel imaging techniques to test whether the cells and tissue that we are growing in our laboratories are healthy and mature.

For me this means that on a day-to-day basis I plan and carry out experiments and analyse data I collect. I will then use these data to write reports and scientific articles, but also present the results at conferences. In addition, I also supervise and train students in the laboratory and support them with their research and studies.

How did you become a Post-doctoral Researcher in Regenerative Medicine?

When I was at school I always loved biology and chemistry, a bit of maths and physics and I knew I wanted to do something that gives me the chance to combine all these fields. I then decided to study for a degree in Medical Biotechnology, and while doing various placements to gain experience I had the opportunity to work in the field of tissue engineering. I loved the idea of creating novel therapies for tissue regeneration, being able to help patients with devastating diseases and trying to make a difference to their lives. Therefore, I continued my study and pursued a PhD in Tissue Engineering from the University of Nottingham. In order to combine my love for academic research with clinical and industrial research I joined the Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine at Keele University in 2011 and have since worked in the Regenerative Medicine research group under the supervision of Professor Alicia El Haj.

How can we encourage more women to work in engineering?

I think one of the most important aspects is education. We have to teach students that engineering is really fun and that there is no need to be afraid of maths and physics, or tools and oily overalls. Engineering is so much more. Engineering encompasses so many different disciplines and there is a field of interest for everyone, whether you want to work in mechanical engineering, chemical engineering or bioengineering. As a STEM ambassador and through the organisation of school visits I hope to inspire young people to take up a career in a science or engineering discipline.

I also believe that mentoring through role models is an important aspect if we want to encourage more women to work in engineering. Throughout the years I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with very successful women whom I consider as role models. These women have shown me that it is possible to have a career in engineering and at the same time take part in an active family life.

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