Dr. Claire Conway,
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Strategic Academic Recruitment (StAR) Research Lecturer in Anatomy
I joined the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) in January of 2020 as a StAR Research Lecturer in Anatomy. My path to the Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine in RCSI was far from traditional. Passionate about maths and physics, I graduated first in my class of Mechanical Engineering in NUI Galway. Embarking on a research career appeared a natural step. My subsequent scholarship and PhD in Biomedical Engineering in NUI Galway, focused on using mathematical modelling to assess coronary stent implantation in a suite of arterial populations. I published recommendations for the United States’ medical device regulatory body, the FDA, on how to better simulate arterial environs in silico. In 2013, I was awarded an international fellowship in collaboration with the FDA to work with cardiologist Prof Elazer Edelman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to examine the complex clinical issue of stent fracture using a complementary mix of mathematical modelling, mechanical testing, and animal studies.
My four-year fellowship in MIT exposed me to new techniques, inspiring ideas, and a diverse range of sciences. My research interests expanded to include valvular prosthesis assessment accounting for dynamic cardiac conditions, considering both acute and chronic performance, and fundamentally accounting for pathological environs.
I returned to Ireland with a fixed-term lectureship in Biomedical Engineering in NUI Galway. I then secured a lectureship in Aston University in the UK in Biomedical Engineering. However, the Emerald Isle called with an opportunity I couldn’t resist.
This position offered an exciting new training through the Anatomical Society’s Anatomy Training Programme giving me the ability to teach Anatomy and would add a new perspective to my cardiovascular research. The supports to expand my research team, access to clinical colleagues, and multi-disciplinary research in Tissue Engineering Research Group made the decision to join simple.
The mechanics of soft tissue is complex but getting to handle physical specimens brings profound insight and using mathematical modelling as a digital reanimation tool for 3D cardiac structures will, I hope, add significant value to the anatomical sciences and the medical device community at large.
Reflecting on my career to date, I would ultimately say follow your interests, don’t be afraid of a challenge, and keep an open mind as to career options. A curious mind will always ask many questions and asking others what’s the most interesting part of their work can garner fascinating insights but also offer a glimpse of what a new door opens.