Marcus Pandy: research impacts

26 February

Regularly, veski takes you in conversation with our innovation fellows. We talk to them about a range of topics from where they got their start in science to what happens in their lab today.

 


 

For this in conversation we chat to Professor Marcus Pandy who was awarded a veski innovation fellowship in 2004.

Marcus returned from the University of Texas at Austin to take up the role of Chair of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Melbourne.

 

We ask Marcus about the impact of his research on society.

 

Do you believe your research will have a big impact on society?

There are a variety of things we’re doing which I believe are significant. I’d like to think we can contribute in some small way to understanding better the process of initiation and progression of arthritis.

What are the objectives of your research and how will it affect society?

We’re trying to develop a tool that can be eventually used to screen at an early stage people who might be susceptible to getting osteoarthritis of their knees. We’re also looking into the efficacy of drugs given, not for arthritis, but for older men who’ve had their prostate removed and lose muscle mass in the first six months after the surgery. We’re also using our techniques to assess the performance of total joint replacements. And another interest of mine is how we might be able to help children with cerebral palsy. We’re trying to use models to more accurately diagnose the cause of a gait abnormality, and provide more scientifically-based information. This will help the surgeon better perform the corrective surgery. We’re trying to develop a framework to help the surgeon plan a surgical procedure more accurately leading to an improved outcome for the patient.

What about your work with elite athletes?

We’ve studied muscle function during running at different speeds including maximum effort sprinting. We work pretty closely on this research with the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. They have a tremendous lab there with a huge indoor running track, about 110m long, with high-speed video cameras to measure motion of the body segments and force sensors to measure the forces exerted on the ground. We’ve used gait analysis techniques in conjunction with computational modelling to better understand how individual muscles function during running at different speeds. In the next phase, we’re planning to use ultrasound imaging to study how muscles function during running at fast speeds. Ultrasound imaging still has some limitations because it doesn’t sample fast enough yet.

What keeps you interested in this area and this research?

Wanting to make a significant contribution keeps me interested. By nature, in this particular environment of high-achieving academics, we’re all competitive people. The nature of this business is that we need to publish in highly regarded journals so that our work is visible. Publishing helps to establish a track record in a particular area, which is critical for achieving success in grant applications.

What lies ahead for 2014 and beyond?

We're very close to having our mobile high-speed x-ray system finished and ready for use. This is a novel device that allows us to accurately measure the way bones move during dynamic activity. We’re planning to use this system to evaluate the functional performance of hip and knee joint replacements in patients during activities of daily living.

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