This summer, I undertook a research project within the department of Engineering Science at Osaka University, in Osaka, Japan. This three months research experience fostered growth in both my research and interpersonal skills.
My research experience was intense and rewarding within the biomechanics department of Engineering Science. Working with the students and professors of the department, I undertook a project to develop a mechanical model of the human foot, which can be used to study injured conditions as well as assist in determining the impacts of different foot treatment techniques. Using human anatomy scan data of various forms, I developed techniques and tools to extract highly accurate bone and soft tissue geometry. Based on literature searches and a rigorous understanding of solid mechanics a constitutive set of equations were obtained to describe the various geometries extracted. The final model consisted of a hyperelastic treatment of the soft tissue components and an orthotropic elastic model of the bone components. This inhomogeneous model was simulated using finite element analysis (FEA) with Ansys mechanical. The development of the FEA model required proper contact geometry definitions/parameters, precise meshing parameters and correct solution outputs.
Throughout the process of developing the model I obtained several transferable skills and experimented with various tools to arrive at the correct solution to each problem. This included developing/using various image processing; segmentation, registration and manipulation technologies. Additionally, the mathematical modeling of the different components of the foot were developed using an iterative approach, where a broad model was simplified to find the equilibrium between composition complexity and computation time. Evidently this was achieved after extensive literature search and developing a fundamental understanding of solid mechanics. However, in developing these models I not only gained a solid understanding of deformation mechanics but also rigid mechanics; helping to improve my biomechanics toolbox. Finally, by performing FEA on a complex model I developed a keen understanding of the multifaceted nature of this versatile tool. Thus, my laboratory experience was purely computational and built upon the skills that I had gained in my previous summer experiences. I choose to undertake this fully computation research not only because of my interests but also because it went well beyond the course work provided in the engineering science curriculum. Although, this led to the research subject matter deviating from the biomedical systems curriculum significantly, leading to a sharp learning curve.
Apart from the plethora of research skills, this experience provided me with multi-faceted growth that extended well beyond the laboratory. It allowed me to immerse myself within the cultural and social aspects of Japan through daily interactions and cultural events. Additionally, I had the opportunity to go beyond my expectations in learning the Japanese language, helping me to deepen my understanding of the Japanese culture. One of the most challenging aspects of this experience was being vegetarian in a society that primarily consumes meat. However, with the help of my colleagues at the university I was able to develop insight on how to cope with this situation. Although living within a foreign country for an extended period, seemed challenging at first, it was a very rewarding experience and helped to develop perspective. Additionally, my travel experiences helped to broaden my view on Japan as well as ameliorate my understanding of its social/cultural aspects.
Finally, this experience helped me to broaden my perspective on engineering science education as I interacted with many engineering science students from various countries. This overseas experience allowed me to not only conduct meaningful research within the laboratory setting, but also gain perspective on the social/cultural aspects of Japan as well as the global engineering science education.