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A few STEPS closer

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Looking back as a child, I was always fascinated with the world of mathematics and physics. When I was young, I would curiously watch my late grandfather (who was an engineer) build model planes with my cousin for hours on end. My true interest in engineering however, commenced in the summer of 2008, when I visited the dissertation project exhibition in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Malta. After seeing the robotic arm, eye gaze tracker and a number of other innovative projects I was set on becoming a biomedical engineer. At the time the University of Malta did not offer an undergraduate course in this specific discipline, so after much consideration I enrolled in an honours Bachelor degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with the hope of later undertaking an MSc in biomedical engineering after fulfilling the degree.

In the fourth year of my undergraduate degree I carried out my dissertation, which focused on human motion tracking, a project which involved image processing. Following the completion of this project and my degree I looked for biomedical engineering courses which promised to deepen my knowledge of image processing, specifically in medical image processing (such as MR images, ultrasound images, x rays, ct scans, etc.) as well as to strengthen my skills in electronics. The taught MSc in Biomedical Engineering offered at Brunel University in West London offered modules in all aspects of biomedical engineering, including medical imaging and image processing, mechatronics, human anatomy and physiology, and other interesting topics such as risk management and innovation. As a university, Brunel University ranked sixth in Engineering amongst British Universities established in the last 50 years.

The degree was carried out following the award of a STEPS Scholarship and that the scholarship is part financed by the European Union – European Social fund (ESF) under Operational Programme II – Chesion Policy 2007-2013, ‘Empowering People for More Jobs and a Better Quality of Life’. Living and studying abroad was a fantastic experience, which allowed me to make use of facilities that had not been exposed to in Malta. I was able to complete my dissertation in the area of implantable hearing devices, which involved the carrying out of a feasibility study on a new concept of implantable hearing devices. This project involved testing multiple piezoelectric actuators and their control circuitry using various sound signals inside ideal and non-ideal models of the human cochlea. This led to the completion of my MSc, which I achieved with distinction. During the duration of my MSc I was also able to carry out a shadowing placement at various National Hospital Service (NHS) hospitals in the London area allowing me to observe the use of various equipment during various surgeries and treatments. None of this would have been possible without the STEPS bursary.

Thanks to the good results achieved in my MSc I was able to obtain a scholarship for a PhD in medical image processing at the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal processing at the University of Surrey. This full time course will allow me to contribute to the field of image processing of infant brain MRI, specifically focusing on brain tumours. I now have the opportunity to make a change in the field of oncology, an opportunity which I would not have had if it were not for the STEPS bursary.

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