Department of Engineering Science

Sarah Thompson

Bachelor of Engineering (BE) in Biomedical Engineering (BME) Class of 2005

Photograph of Sarah Thompson

Research Fellow (2009)
eBonz / Auckland Bioengineering Institute

I started university doing a BSc in Biomedical Science and after a semester of memorising different aspects of biology, I decided it wasn’t right for me. I switched to Engineering with the idea of specialising in Biomedical Engineering. This was a fantastic decision and I really enjoyed learning the engineering approach to problems, as it was well suited to my mathematical mind.

After four years of undergraduate study, I wasn’t sure what to do but it seemed that postgraduate study would allow me to apply everything I had learned to a real world problem so I undertook a Masters in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI). For my project I developed an anatomically accurate 3D model of the lower limbs to analyse pressure in the buttocks when sitting. This was a collaboration between the ABI and Formway, an award winning ergonomic furniture design company. I enjoyed the variety this project offered, from experimental work to modelling and mechanics. I was rewarded for all the hard work that went into this project by receiving the Best Masters Award at the 2007 MacDiarmid Young Scientist Awards.

Since finishing my Masters in 2007, I have been working at the ABI in the musculo-skeletal group on a variety of projects. Currently, I split my time between working on an anthropometry project and working for eBonz. The anthropometry work involves using structured light scanning to capture the surface of a body in 3D space. We hope to collect data from a range of New Zealanders so we can characterise size and shape variation. We also plan to use this data with our musculo-skeletal models to create personalised models. These can be used in a range of applications from online shopping to anthropometric design of workstations and in the health and fitness industry to track body shape changes over time. eBonz is an ABI spinout company which aims to commercialise our musculo-skeletal research. I am also involved with taking our models into the education market.

One of the perks of the job has been to travel every 6-12 months to conferences or meetings all around the world. Not only has it been nice to visit new places but I have built up fantastic networks with high-class international researchers.