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Department of Engineering

Clinician Engineer Hub international student programme

Clinician Engineer Hub international student programme

Dr Amparo Güemes and colleagues at the Bioelectronics Labs at the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics

The Clinician Engineer Hub hosted an international student to meet faculty specialising in biomedical engineering research.

The hub continues on its mission globally to develop a cohort of clinician engineers. Such exchanges allow for exchange of knowledge and understanding on global health issues which can be solved with engineering solutions. The future is certainly clinician engineers.

Dr Neel Sharma, Founder and Director of the Clinician Engineer Hub

The Clinician Engineer Hub is an international network aimed at bridging the gap between medicine and engineering. The Hub offers educational, research and industry opportunities for medical students and doctors keen on developing engineering know-how in healthcare. 

Lim Kia Iag spent a week in Cambridge, meeting members of the Department who work with the Clinician Engineer Hub. Below he tells us about the experience.

I’m Kia Iag, a pre-university student from Singapore who will be pursuing Engineering and Business Administration at the National University of Singapore in 2026. In February 2024, I had the privilege of visiting the Clinician Engineer Hub in Cambridge due to my interest in engineering advances in healthcare. Over one week, I met faculty specialising in biomedical engineering research, as well as experienced entrepreneurs with deep insights on the biomedical industry.

I first met Dr Amparo Güemes, who showed me around the Bioelectronics Labs at the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics, headed by Professor George Malliaras.

It was exciting seeing the host of equipment there, including high-resolution microscopes, PCB inspection microscopes, and laser cutters. In particular, I was fascinated by the Optical Tensiometer, which measures contact angles for the characterisation of liquids and solids, and a “Prototype Ageing Machine” which provides pressure and temperature conditions to simulate the wear and tear of a prototype without the need for implant into a human or animal.

Optical Tensiometer

Photo above: Optical Tensiometer

Dr Güemes also walked me through her research on measuring the vagus nerve activity with bioelectronic devices fabricated at her lab, showing me a sample of her device and discussing some of her data from in vivo trials.

We discussed how her work (and biomedical engineering in general) is focused on engineering principles, application and problem-solving, while knowledge in biology contextualises the work and provides a purpose.

I also had the opportunity to meet Professor Shery Huang at The Nanoscience Centre. On top of showing me the Scanning Electron Microscopes and Transmission Electron Microscopes she uses to view thin specimens and proteins, Professor Huang shared the fundamental concepts behind her organ-on-a-chip work for drug development and testing.

Professor Huang avoids using animal models for drug testing as far as possible due to the lack of accuracy in representing the human body and her commitment to bioethics, which I greatly respect.

Professor Michael Sutcliffe was my next host. He introduced the structure of the Engineering Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree curriculum at the University of Cambridge and shared an extensive overview of the recent and ongoing Masters and PhD research projects related to biomedical engineering. It was inspiring to see broad areas of research making progress and learn about the latest advances in MedTech.

Professor Sutcliffe also gave me some parting advice for university - to build a team, value collaboration, and not to be afraid of asking for help.

Dr Amparo Güemes, Professor Huang and Professor Sutcliffe enlightened me on the myriad of research opportunities in Cambridge. Their sharings have widened my worldview and made it clear that research thrives as a collaborative effort by institutions across the world. As I continue my studies in Singapore, I will be sure to look out for chances to collaborate, and I look forward to possibly pursuing further studies in Cambridge.

Lim Kia Iag discusses the future and potential of computing in healthcare in the video above: Singapore Cambridge Exchange - Clinician Engineering in 2050

During my programme, I also met Dr James Ward from the Engineering Design Centre who shared with me a new perspective on biomedical engineering. He focuses on evaluating the feasibility, usability and optimisation of medical devices, products and procedures. This includes understanding stakeholders, their needs, and safety. This is extremely interesting as it goes beyond engineering a working product, and contextualises and complements the work of other researchers and engineers focused on making a device “technically work”.

Dr Ward delved into some studies he has worked on, such as analysing the risks in current practice for guidewire insertion by anaesthetists.

Dr Ward also showed me a guidebook he developed for those involved in the design process to understand systems development and patient improvement in the biomedical field. Alongside Professor Sutcliffe, he also leads a new MSt programme on Healthcare Innovation. His work is truly meaningful and the principles apply to healthcare anywhere in the world - I will keep these concepts close to my heart as I enter the world of biomedical engineering.

In the latter half of my programme, I got the chance to meet Mr Matthew Cleevely and Mr Tejas Shah, two entrepreneurs with experience in the biomedical field.

Matthew shared the importance of bridging the gap between research and commercialisation, a process which is difficult but necessary as technology loses value without people who need and can obtain it. He introduced a book titled “The Mum Test”, explaining tricks behind truly understanding consumers’ wants and needs and recognising stated versus revealed preferences. Based on his wealth of experience with tech companies, he also discussed the dangers of being too visionary with one’s technology, and the art of being able to predict and catch up to the exponential progression of tech capabilities and markets over time.

An especially interesting insight from Matthew was the different approaches to research and commercialisation in Silicon Valley and Cambridge. While both are famous in the world of tech and science, Cambridge is more research-intensive while Silicon Valley places greater focus on commercialisation, and has a larger market due to higher populations in the United States.

Matthew’s lessons were a taste of the wisdom and knowledge he has acquired from his many experiences, and I am thrilled to have been able to learn so much from him during our meeting. His sharings are heavily relevant to my line of study in university and have allowed me to better understand the unique opportunities and specialties of institutions around the world, which I am keen to pursue in future.

Tejas first shared about his interesting work in genomics at the Sanger Institute, explaining how mathematics and statistics link heavily to DNA sequencing. This showed me how interwoven the disciplines of STEM are.

On a more personal level, Tejas also shared his experience on various career paths, weighing the pros and cons of each one. It was enriching to learn about building a startup - a journey which cultivates resilience and resourcefulness while building a deep sense of ownership and motivation around your work. I shared with him about the industry and startup scene in Singapore as well.

Tejas’ advice and insights were deeply impactful for me and have prompted much reflection on my goals for the future. Coincidentally, his advice for university was similar to Professor Sutcliffe’s: value collaboration and friendships as teamwork is powerful. Great minds truly do think alike.

As a bonus, I got to participate in a networking session by Innovate UK Immersive Tech Network with Tejas, where we spoke with many researchers and business people in the field of Immersive Tech, which Tejas has also been involved in.

Finally, as a personal project to close off the programme, I visited the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge to develop a presentation on “How Computing Can Revolutionise Healthcare in 2050”. The museum was packed with fun and what felt like an infinite collection of computers and video game consoles, showing how technology has evolved over time and found more applications and potential.

Overall, my experience at the Clinician Engineer Hub was incredibly fruitful. This trip to Cambridge certainly widened my horizons, fuelled my passion for biomedical engineering, and highlighted the value of exposure to academics, culture and knowledge from different corners of the world. Even as I am back in Singapore, the shared insights from the faculty and entrepreneurs will continue to shape my mindset entering the field, as fresh perspectives which may differ from those found in Singapore but are valuable all the same.

I am truly grateful to the team at the Clinician Engineer Hub for arranging this programme for me, and to all the faculty and entrepreneurs for their precious time over the week. To anyone who is keen to explore the biomedical scene on another face of the globe, do not hesitate to enter this programme.

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