Dr Melina Kalofonou is a Research Fellow and Cancer Technology Lead for Imperial’s Centre for Bio-inspired Technology. She represents the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Cancer Research UK Imperial Centre and the CRUK Convergence Science Centre. She is also a supervisor to Masters’ students across the Faculties of Engineering and Medicine.
Melina’s field is a great example of how two disciplines have come together to create an exciting and relatively new discipline in engineering.
The best of both worlds
Biomedical engineering is the application of the principles and problem-solving and innovation of engineering to biology and medicine; helping to improve health and healthcare. Some examples have been with us for a while such as implantable medical devices like pacemakers and artificial hips; and more recently we have seen ‘futuristic’ developments including stem cell engineering and the 3-D printing of biological organs.
I have been playing the piano since I was four years old. It has certainly shaped the way I think because music, just as engineering, has powerful structure, rhythm, follows patterns and offers you the chance to be creative."
Melina’s passion for combining engineering and medicine began quite early in her engineering story: “At school I was always fascinated by maths and physics and being inspired by my father who is a Professor of Medical Oncology, I was intrigued by the potential of applying these to solve medical problems towards a future I visualised where medicine and engineering were interlinked.”
Her research now focuses on using microchip technology to help cancer specialists transform the way cancer is diagnosed, monitored and treated.
Being able to try things out as engineers do has really opened up a new era of interdisciplinarity between biologists and engineers. “As an engineer you have the technical know-how to think through challenging problems, and innovate solutions which could make a difference.”
Like many of us, Melina manages a family life as well as research. “Recently I became a new mother, the beginning of an extraordinary phase of my life and I truly believe that having an engineering mindset has definitely helped me achieve a good work/life balance where you need to continuously optimise and be dynamic, so that I can pursue my passion for research but at the same time enjoy the wonderful role of being a parent."