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MTH is gaining momentum

Man with jeans jacket.
Sebastiaan Meijer, Head of department at MTH. Photo: Sabina Fabrizi, KTH
Published Sep 22, 2022

The major part of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Health Systems is situated in its own building by the Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge and has around 110 employees. One division, Environmental Physiology, is located by Karolinska Institutet in Solna. The department consists of parts from the former KTH school, School of Technology and Health, whose activities in Haninge and Flemingsberg were gathered in new-built, common premises in 2016. Since then, a lot has happened.

"What is most important is that we have found out more and more what we are actually doing. In this building, and also in Solna, we are working on three themes since six or seven years ago: Biomedical Imaging and simulation, A Sustainable Worklife and Digitalisation of healthcare. These are the core areas of our research competence. What is fun is that we discover more and more how certain technologies can be used within all of these three fields, but also how important it is to cooperate in order to achieve results. You can say that we work partly on the basic technologies, but mainly on the integration of new technologies in existing systems," says Sebastiaan Meijer, Head of department.

How do you mean?

”If you take computer engineering as an example, it is not us who invent the new theoretical algorithms, but the path leading from inventing an algorithm to changing a healthcare system requires a different kind of science that builds more on systems thinking and design.”

The course offering at the department is mixed. Besides master’s and bachelor’s programmes within biomedical engineering, basic scientific education is offered, as well as bachelor’s programmes in computer engineering, electrical engineering and engineering and economics.

“The department is actually a collection of education programmes which lay south of the city in order to broaden the choice over the Stockholm area, together with the technology and health orientation in Flemingsberg, which was supposed to work with the hospital. Here, there have always been very good research groups. But it has been hard to find internal synergies and to become a good player in the eco-system around research and education.”

According to Sebastiaan Meijer, a lot of work has been done to integrate education and research with each other.

 "For instance, we are now using our computer engineering students on bachelor’s level in health informatics research. We give them research projects that are related to the field," he says.

How is it going?

“Really well, they receive excellence in implementing things and looking at basic systemic issues and that is when it happens. And the field sports technology is something that is growing like crazy. There is a master’s programme which is very relevant for what we do within ergonomics, environmental physiology, health informatics and even biomedical imaging.”

Does it connect different areas?

”Yes, very much. We are also a young department. The average age is relatively low because an enormous wave of retirements, so there are many young people.”

What does this imply?

”There is a spirit of “do-it-yourself” and that everything is possible. There is an open-minded atmosphere and I don’t think I am lying when I say that. Of course, this also demands a lot of the individual to achieve quality.”

A lot seems to have happened in the recent years?

”Very, very much has happened. We have gained a lot more momentum in research, there is more synergy between people, we have got an economy in balance and our education has become even better. I was already good, but now it is really excellent. Not only the biomedical but also the broad-based.”

How does this show?

“Before, many previous students were found as consultants on the commercial side. Now, we increasingly find them in more developing roles, they find their way better into public healthcare and we sometimes meet them at conferences.”

Do you have any examples of interesting research projects?

”The is some very nice stuff. One example is Matilda Larsson’s and Xiaogai Li’s project, about childbirth injuries and the use of ultrasound and of mechanical models when it comes to vacuum extraction. My group is working on analysing production data from healthcare to try to shorten the time people spend in the emergency room. At Environmental Physiology, there is a project going on to determine physical combat value, if someone is suitable for participating in the army, based on objective physiological parameters.”

In what way is your research valuable from a societal perspective?

“A lot of our research leads to better healthcare, a better health or the prevention of ill health. One example is RAMP, Linda Rose’s project and method for determining how dangerous physical strain is at the workplace, primarily within industry. This tool is now used in the whole world – in 120 countries, I think. It is one of the few really research-heavy frameworks that are very easy to apply.”

How do you work with the results from the research assessment RAE?

“A reflection forward, based on RAE, was that we shall promote the collaboration with the proteomics and genomics side at CBH. There, we have work to do. What is clear when you think of health, is how the path looks from knowing that people have a certain disease risk based on their genetic inheritance, or that you have made an assessment that cancer may occur, to a healthcare system that can take care of such information. There, we really have a collaboration to build. This applies also to structures for the exchange of data, image data or other health data. There really exists a need there for collaboration with the part related to Data-driven life science, DDLS, at Protein Science and Gene Technology. Within this, we have now established contacts and it is working well. "

"Above all, the RAE showed that we as a department have made enormous progress when it comes to achieving a critical mass within research and a clear profile with quality. We were also confirmed that our locaiton in Flemingsberg has some advantages, but also a good deal of drawbacks which require active work to be turned into something productive,” says Sebastiaan Meijer.

Text: Sabina Fabrizi

Belongs to: School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health (CBH)
Last changed: Sep 22, 2022