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Nefeli Chatzistefani

I'm currently undertaking a four-year research programme on the simulation of the Achilles tendon, for which I was awarded a full scholarship from the School of Engineering at the University of Warwick. The main objective is a better understanding of the tendon, ways to prevent injuries and how rehabilitation works through modelling of the tendon and its locality. The basic aim of this research is to develop a musculoskeletal model of the Achilles tendon using motion analysis data.

My research could potentially become a useful clinical tool, which could evaluate the way people walk. The modelling results could be used to study how particular muscles contribute to movement coordination and will hopefully allow recommendations for interventions to prevent foot injuries. This will help many individuals with Achilles tendon disorders that undergo short or long-term therapies to:

  1. understand the function of a healthy Achilles tendon
  2. realise what limitations they have due to their injuries or disorders
  3. assist their gradual and painless rehabilitation.

I’ve been at Warwick since October 2012, having studied Applied Mathematics and Physics (Diploma which is equivalent to a BSc and an MSc) at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) and Applied Mechanics (two year MSc) at the NTUA. I decided to study at Warwick because it is one of the best Universities in the UK and has a worldwide reputation. The fact that a group of doctors, engineers, professors and researchers work together towards common goals, promises excellent outcomes. I was also awarded a full scholarship, which made studying here possible.

I was very interested in doing a PhD degree in Biomechanics because I like research in general, but also because it would be a real contribution to the improvement of the community. The research I did for my undergraduate thesis (from attending seminars on biomechanics and talking to doctors) has made me realised the important role biomechanics play in the improvement of the quality of life people who suffer from musculoskeletal injuries. I was fascinated to undertake such a promising PhD on the Achilles tendon, since it aims at helping injured individuals and understanding the human body, the human movement in whole and has the ultimate objective of developing a universal ‘dynamic human’ model.

One of the best memories so far at Warwick has been the PhD comics lecture given by Jorge Cham (creator of PhD Comics) and hosted by the Graduate School. It was a memorable evening, extremely entertaining, where everyone was laughing through the whole lecture and also thought provoking. Jorge Cham delved into the possible effects of the current economic environment on global research and the role of PhD students in the coming social order.

When I finish my postgraduate degree I would like to work either in academia or in the biomedical field as a researcher. A PhD degree from Warwick will enrich my knowledge of my subject and of biomechanics in general, will help me acquire more experience by attending conferences and exchanging views with other people from different countries and will facilitate my networking.

Warwick has been a great experience so far, there are great facilities in the department, a friendly peer group to work with, I have easy access to books and journals from the library (which has assisted my research e.g. writing the literature review), a variety of training courses to improve my IT programming skills and the very knowledgeable supervisors have helped me improve my research skills and have channelled my research in the right direction. The very efficient and helpful secretaries have accommodated our needs and kept us updated with current research and conferences available at Warwick and other Universities.

A PhD degree is very demanding; it requires a lot of hard work and time spent on reading, self-training, conducting experiments etc. A typical day in my life at the University includes:

  • 8am: I wake up 9am: Office hours, when I conduct my research, experiments etc.
  • 12:30pm: Lunch break where I meet with other PhD students to have lunch, talk about our life and our research.
  • 1.30pm: Research continues to approximately 5pm, but I almost always stay longer!
  • 7pm: I go to the gym.
  • 8.30pm: I head back home.

Outside of the department I have found a nice and organised campus and large variety of interesting extra-curricular activities, clubs and societies to become a member of.

While at Warwick I have become a member of the salsa society and this year I participated at a charity dance competition. I like to dance a lot! I’m also learning different types of dance. I have started learning tennis and I have joined the photography society. I also enjoy swimming, cooking and baking, doing voluntary work, reading books and comics, going to the cinema, the theatre and travelling Alongside my degree, I also have teaching and demonstration duties which are conditions of the scholarship.

The Greek community here in Warwick consists mostly of undergraduate students. It is very well organised and it arranges a lot of gatherings and meetings so that Greeks can mix and mingle and talk about their studies and their life here at Warwick. It is open to all students regardless of their country of origin.

Title of research project: PhD in Biomedical Engineering

Supervisors: Dr. Mike Chappell and Dr. Neil Evans