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University of Ulster Researcher Reaches World Finals

31 January 2012

For the third consecutive year, a University of Ulster researcher has won the All Ireland final of the prestigious Institute of Materials World Lecture competition. Twenty six years old Cormac Flynn, who is a third year PhD student in the School of Engineering at Ulster’s Jordanstown campus, will now represent Ireland in the World Finals of the competition later this year.

Originally from County Clare, Cormac graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from National University of Ireland, Galway. He worked with medical device company, Brivant Medical Ltd. for a year before embarking on his PhD studies in the Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC) where he is part of the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine research group.

His research focuses on the innovative role that tissue engineering is playing in long term implants, skin growth and general improvement of well being. His winning presentation looked at how the success rate of biomedical implants could be improved.

“Many biomedical implants fail due to poor interaction with their biological environment. The biological response is driven by the materials’ surface properties. Plasma processing of biomaterials is a method of changing these surface properties to make them more favourable to a biological environment,” he explains. 

The lecture competition, which was hosted by the Northern Ireland Science Park (NISP), attracted entries from universities across Ireland. Each participant had to give a ten minute presentation on their research and then field questions from the judging panel which included representatives from Invest NI, Intertrade Ireland, Bombardier and the NISP.

Chair of the judging panel and Chief Executive of NISP, Professor Norman Apsley, said the presentations were of the highest level and served to highlight the exceptionally high quality of research being carried out in this area.

Cormac’s academic supervisors, Professor Brian J. Meenan and Dr George A. Burke said his success in the competition reflects the growing esteem of both the Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Group at NIBEC and the fundamental science required to underpin this hugely important discipline.

“It highlights the opportunities to bridge fundamental materials with the innovative role that tissue engineering is playing in long term implants, skin growth and general improvement of well being,” said Professor Meenan.

This is a milestone year for NIBEC as it marks the tenth anniversary of the highly successful School of Engineering’s Biomedical Engineering degree, which is now recognised as one of the leading courses of its type within the UK and Ireland. The programme, which attracts almost equal numbers of male and female students, has now generated over three hundred graduates.

Professor Jim McLaughlin, Director of NIBEC and the Engineering Research Institute said: “These well qualified individuals are currently in high demand by major medical device companies, as well as finding employment in local SME’s, hospitals and within regulatory organisations. Many have progressed to undertake Masters and PhD level qualifications with a significant number of our Biomedical Engineering graduations now leaders within their specialist disciplines.”

As part of the ten year celebrations, NIBEC is hosting a set of three open lectures on topics reviewing core advances in Biomedical Engineering and looking forward to the exciting future for this important subject area.