I use multi-scale modelling engineering tools to help solve medical problems.

Dr Xinshan Li is a Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and is interested in using engineering modelling techniques to help solve medical problems.


Watch: Our interview with Xinshan

I started my journey in Auckland, New Zealand where I was doing my final year of High School. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do for my undergraduate degree and I got this opportunity to attend an open day organised by the Engineering Faculty at The University of Auckland. The day was targeted at female students in high school with a particular interest in maths and physics, because when you enter engineering you're faced with a choice of different disciplines; civil and mechanical and many other choices you can go for. At that time they were starting a new degree called Biomedical Engineering which to me sounded very interesting because I have always had an interest in biology and human physiology and that degree suited me really well. We were taught a broad range of different disciplines including some anatomy, physiology as well as mathematics and the more solid mechanics part of engineering.

My Biomedical Engineering degree was a very fun four years; I learned a lot and got to know a lot of friends in the same subject. We had a fun field trip in the second year as well, which was a good team building experience. Engineers are not all boring and studying, we are very fun too. In the fourth year we all needed to do an individual research project, I chose to look into developing a virtual model for female pelvic floors, particularly looking into the effect of child birth. This interests me because it’s a problem very closely related to women in general and I’m really keen to learn a bit more about how our muscles work and cope with this big challenge. I really enjoyed the project, I liked the research aspect of it, and I enjoyed digging into a problem and trying to find out solutions. This led me to do a PhD on the same topic and during my PhD I got to know even more clinicians, midwives and nurses who are actively researching in this area. They are all very passionate and keen to work with engineers because they think there is a lack of tools available to provide a better understanding in this area as well as quantitative evidence to back up some of the traditional thinking in medicine.

I think multi-scale modelling is an area where engineering can really help and make a difference and that is why I decided to pursue a research career in this area. I knew that Sheffield was creating a new institute called the INSIGNEO Institute for in-silico medicine, which is looking at multi-scale modelling, again trying to use engineering to solve medical problems. I love the principles behind the institute – so I joined and became an academic member.

Currently my research is looking at paediatric applications as well as women’s health, I’m hoping to make a difference in the world in these two areas.

We interviewed Xinshan in 2014.