- Department of Mechanical Engineering
- Supervisor: Dr Andrew Lawrie
- Group industrial project: Design of a prototype system to retrofit microscopes for automated manipulation
On the Mechanical Engineering course, fourth year projects are undertaken in groups, which gives a good representation of projects in industry which all engineers will encounter in their careers. It promotes strong teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills. It’s good fun as well as good experience working together towards a solution.
Our project (William Becker, Callum Moore, Pakapol Osatis, Ashutosh Rai) had a medical motivation in that there is a need to find a low-cost solution for automated diagnosis. When analysing pathological slides under a microscope, pathologists are routinely under time pressure to return a diagnosis. In many cases, such as in the specific case of a pancreatic condition affecting children that we were working on, the diagnosis is a statistical image-processing problem that lends itself well to computational analysis.
To achieve this, our solution involved fully actuating a microscope in three axes, and controlling movement, to find and analyse regions of interest on a pathological slide. A system using stepper motors and timing belts was fitted in the space-constrained region below the microscope stage, with an electrical system based around a Raspberry-Pi controlling them. A camera was fitted above the microscope and, with use of image processing techniques, commands could be sent to the motors to actuate the microscope based on real-time image information from the camera. Finally, Image processing techniques to statistically analyse the images were evaluated, which attempt to return a diagnosis automatically.
We achieved full automation of the microscope, and with partial system automation. The work will provide a framework for an automated diagnostic process for a wide range of medical conditions. Future work is required, particularly on software robustness and image processing in order to progress to an automated system which would be commercially viable for use by pathologists.
I went to Friends’ School, Saffron Walden, where I did my GCSEs and A-levels and my interest in engineering started there. My main strengths were in Maths and Physics, and being able to use them practically is the main reason I chose an engineering degree. Having studied German up to A-level, I chose to do Mechanical Engineering with Study in Continental Europe, which presents the fantastic opportunity to study abroad in third year.
I really enjoyed my time at Bristol both personally and academically. I’ve enjoyed being stretched intellectually and developing technical and practical skills and, even more importantly, I’ve made great long-lasting friendships. On the whole, the course is interesting, enjoyable and well taught. The tutoring system works well and I especially appreciated having one-to-one personal contact with my tutor right from the start.
For my time abroad in third year, I studied at the Leibniz Universität in Hannover. This was a really good experience that I’d recommend to anybody with an interest in language skills. Learning in a foreign language is at first daunting, but you get used to it really quickly and there’s a great feeling of achievement at the end of the year. My experience abroad really developed me as a person, and it also serves well on your CV!
I’m really happy to have graduated with a first, and I’ll be starting work for Atkins’ aerospace team in Bristol as part of their graduate scheme. Whilst I’m not from an aerospace background, this shows the breadth of a mechanical engineering degree and the many exciting careers in engineering that are available to you.