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Engineering grad student wins U of M’s first 3MT event

April 23, 2013 — 

How do you sum up countless hours of complex research in just three minutes? Just ask Mechanical Engineering grad student, Leah (Wong) Guenther. She recently won $5,000 for doing just that at the University of Manitoba’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis (3MT) event. The competition, originating in Australia, challenges graduate students to explain their thesis to a layperson audience in a succinct and digestible way.

In her presentation, Guenther focused on the people who will benefit from her research. Her efforts could lead to a Manitoba-born solution for the flawed testing of new artificial hip and knee joints. The number of joint replacement surgeries is on the rise but the artificial joints available today aren’t lasting long enough and some fail all together. “These joint replacements aren’t being tested properly” Guenther says. “There have been several recalls worldwide in recent years on artificial joints already in people’s bodies. These recalls cost billions of dollars and affect hundreds of thousands of people.”

To test the wear performance of new and existing joint replacements using machines the orthopedic industry replicates the joint movement and the surrounding synovial fluid which reduces friction when we move. Guenther is trying to improve on the synthetic version of the fluid so testing would better reflect the real thing and garner more accurate results. She says her analysis show the synthetic lubricant is actually “quite different” from synovial fluid.

“If we can screen these joint replacements more accurately, we can catch any problems beforehand so that we can make improvements to these products before they are implanted into patients.”

Guenther works at the Concordia Hip and Knee Institute doing research related to her thesis, as well as providing support for other research projects involving implant failure analysis and implant product development. She hopes to improve the quality of life for clients with disabilities.

Congratulations Leah!

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