Solving Biomechanics Problems: An Interview with Our EU-Funded PhD Students

Posted on 17 February 2020 by Jessica James

Maintaining our involvement in research projects and collaborations has always been a priority for the Simpleware product team. We are currently part of the RAINBOW Training Network, an EU Horizon 2020 initiative, looking at Rapid Biomechanics Simulation for Personalized Clinical Design. As part of this project, we host two Early Stage Researchers in our Exeter office who combine their work with doctoral studies. Vasilis Krokos studies at the University of Cardiff, while Antoine Perney is a PhD student at the University of Luxembourg.

Vasilis Krokos (left) and Antoine Perney (right)

Vasilis has a Diploma degree from the School of Chemical Engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, while Antoine has a Master’s degree in Pure Mathematics from the Université de Franche-Comté. Their research projects contribute to the RAINBOW Network, where they also regularly attend workshops and courses to develop career skills.

We have asked Vasilis and Antoine to explain a bit more about what their PhDs have covered so far, and what they get out of the RAINBOW Network:

Q1: Can you tell us about what topics your PhDs are covering?

Antoine: The goal of my PhD is to develop algorithms to facilitate the use of traditional engineering software tools, such as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Simulation software Finite Element, with medical image data. This involves exploring a range of techniques for converting image data to formats suitable for use in these packages. This will eventually enable simulation to be carried out pre- or even intra-operatively.

Vasilis: My project is looking at leveraging machine learning techniques to provide faster, meshless approaches to simulating very complex problems as are commonly obtained from medical imaging (e.g. Bone, skin, Heart models…) .  This will allow simulation tools to be deployed in clinical settings.

Q2: How does Simpleware software fit into your research?

Vasilis: Simpleware ScanIP plays a very important role in my PhD. For the purposes of training my Neural Network, I have to actually perform some Finite Elements simulations. Often the geometries I use are complicated and with a lot of complex geometric features at different length scales. ScanIP offers me the ability to easily and efficiently create a Finite Element mesh for the simulations I need to perform. On top of that, through the script functionality that offers, I can easily automate this process and perform thousands of simulations with zero manual work.

Antoine: ScanIP already provides a number of steps (image filtering, segmentation, surface reconstruction…) which will be built upon for generating data in suitable formats for commonly used CAD packages.  

Q3: How do you work with other people on the RAINBOW Network?

Antoine: The RAINBOW Network gives me the possibility to talk with academic researchers and also with people from companies. This allows me to obtain two different and interesting points of view.  Moreover, RAINBOW organizes workshop and training, and so I meet other PhD students from the project and other participants, hence we can share and talk about our current work.

Vasilis: The RAINBOW Network offers me unique opportunities to meet and work with people from all around the world. My two industrial supervisors, Prof. Philippe Young and Dr. Viet Bui Xuan, are in Exeter where I am primarily stationed. We have regular meetings where we discuss the progress of my PhD. Some very important points have been raised during those meetings that helped me to stay on the right track but also gave me new ideas to improve the methods I use.

My two academic supervisors, Dr. Pierre Kerfriden and Prof. Stephane Bordas, are stationed in Paris and Luxembourg respectively. Pierre is my primary supervisor, so I have the chance to speak with him on a regular basis. We discuss the work that I do and based on the conclusions we decide the next steps. With Stephane we have a weekly communication, and I keep a research diary that I update daily so he can comment and give me suggestions. Lastly, in the future when I will need to study more complicated material behavior. I will work with other PhD students from the RAINBOW program, who are trying to develop efficient Finite Element tools for these cases.

Q4: What other opportunities have you had through the RAINBOW Network so far?

Vasilis: The RAINBOW Network gives me the amazing opportunity to travel around Europe to attend training events from top researchers from completely different backgrounds and institutions. Some examples are three training events in Copenhagen for academic writing, project management and personality development, and continuum-based modelling and another event in Luxembourg for discretization methods for computational mechanics.

Antoine: The main opportunity is travelling to attend conferences and the training events proposed by the project. I learned a lot of thing in different areas, and it allow me to see what people are doing in the scientific community.

Q5: What are the next steps you have planned for your projects?

Antoine: I am completing a review of the state of the art and will continue development and implementation of robust image to model conversion algorithms.

Vasilis: The next steps involve abstract submissions for conferences and most important preparation for submission to peer reviewed journals. Even though the second goal is a more long-term target a lot of progress has already been made.

Thanks to Vasilis and Antoine for answering these questions as they continue their PhD work.

Special Thanks to:

Dr Philippe Young, Engineering Director at Synopsys, who is part of the management structure for the RAINBOW Network and co-supervisor of Vasilis and Antoine. He had to say the following about the value of the project for Synopsys: “We are really pleased with early results from the work of Vasilis and Antoine and working with an international team of collaborators, experts in various fields, helps ensure that we remain at the cutting edge of research.”

The coordinators and consortium partners at the RAINBOW Network:

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