Dr Rylie Green
Dr Rylie Green joined the Bioengineering Department in 2016 and is a Senior Lecturer.
She received her PhD (Biomedical Engineering) from the University of New South Wales, Australia in 2008.
Dr Green’s research focuses on developing bioactive conducting polymers for application to medical electrodes, with a specific focus on vision prostheses and cochlear implants.
"On a usual day, once I’ve sorted out my dog and my one-year-old, I’ll be busy teaching and meeting with my students. If I’m very lucky, I might get the time to get into the lab and that is still my favourite part of my work: designing things, making them and seeing what they can do."
What did you study at university?
I chose to study Engineering at university because I wanted to keep making things and to use my problem-solving skills. My undergraduate degree was broad, covering a range of subjects including mechatronics and robotics. It also touched on biomechanics, which fit perfectly with my interest in medicine and the workings of the human body.
As part of my degree, I had the opportunity to undertake a research project. The project I had hoped to choose wasn’t available, so I ended up working with a team who were developing a bionic eye for blind patients. As the student in the team, my role was to take someone else’s plan and put it into action. In this case, it was following a step-by-step process in order to fabricate the electrodes needed for the bionic eye.
I loved working on the project, and it gave me a vision for a future career in research. I also had the chance to undertake commercial placements and discovered that I didn’t enjoy the industrial environment. I wasn’t keen on being told what to do, and I didn’t want to be constrained by other people’s ideas. So when the time came to graduate, it was a relief that I was offered a PhD before I received any job offers!
What did you PhD focus on?
With my PhD, I wanted to look at an area of bionics that no one else was exploring, so I decided to focus on polymer and living bioelectronics, which are both areas I continue to work on today in my role at Imperial College London. My lab works on a range of projects, from simple deployable technologies that might reach the clinic in as little as five years, to ‘blue sky’ ideas that may never be deployed in my lifetime.
What are some of your current key research interests?
Unfortunately, many implant devices currently available in clinics do some level of harm to the body, or at least there is a risk of the body rejecting them. One major area of my research is working with industrial partners to help them improve existing devices. For example, we might add a new coating to an implant so that it is safer and can better communicate with the human body.
Experiencing someone gaining something of their sight back thanks to a bionic eye we had developed was incredible. It motivates you to keep striving to make improvements."
Dr Rylie Green
Another project involves designing completely new devices, which we refer to as living bioelectronics. These are implants with stem cells built into them that can grow into the body. This can allow them to create a more intimate connection to the surrounding nerve tissue, meaning it has a chance of regenerating rather than being further damaged.
These could be anything, from bionic eyes and cochlea to devices that help with the control of robotic limbs and prosthetics. We also work on systems designed to interact with the nervous system in new ways, whether brain modulation or devices to help prevent the inflammation associated with conditions like bowel disease or diabetes. In the future, these could provide an exciting alternative to pharmaceutical treatments.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Occasionally I do get the chance to meet patients, and that is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Experiencing someone gaining something of their sight back thanks to a bionic eye we had developed was incredible. Patients do give you a reality check too though - they often have a much more ambitious vision for that they need the technology to do for them, and it motivates you to keep striving to make improvements.
However, most of the time I am not attending clinical trials. On a usual day, once I’ve sorted out my dog and my one-year-old, I’ll be busy teaching and meeting with my students. If I’m very lucky, I might get the time to get into the lab and play with things. That is still my favourite part of my work: designing things, making them and seeing what they can do.
Three reasons we need more women working in biotechnology
- There is absolutely nothing gender-specific about any science or engineering subject, and so no reason at all why women shouldn’t pursue them
- Women are exceptional problem-solvers and are brilliant at multitasking, so they make great engineers
- The more diverse our teams, in terms of gender and in every other aspect, the greater the chance we have of someone seeing things from a new perspective, allowing us to develop better solutions