New feat for fresh-faced Flinders engineer

Flinders lecturer Laura Diment has just won a prestigious John Monash Scholarship to fund her PhD in biomedical engineering.
Flinders lecturer Laura Diment has just won a prestigious John Monash Scholarship to fund her PhD in medical engineering.

Laura Diment might look young, but behind her fresh face is a woman with a long history of success in the typically male-dominated domain of engineering.

A lecturer in biomedical instrumentation and a Research Associate at Flinders University’s Medical Device Partnering Program, Mrs Diment can now add a prestigious Sir John Monash Scholarship to her list of career accomplishments.

Announced at a gala dinner at the Sydney Opera House on November 26, the $180,000, three-year scholarship will help fund Mrs Diment’s PhD in biomechanical modelling and optimisation for the design of walking aids in developing countries based on mechanical, environmental and user constrains.

Mrs Diment hopes to undertake her PhD at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge; “the place to be” for her field of research.

MIT is ranked number one on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for engineering. Their D-Lab is the global leader in the design of appropriate technologies for developing countries and collaborates extensively internationally,” Mrs Diment said.

“The John Monash Scholarship will provide an amazing opportunity for me to study abroad and gain the necessary knowledge and international connections to make my PhD and ongoing research as beneficial as possible,” she said.

A first-class honours graduate of Flinders’ Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering, Mrs Diment has a strong interest in increasing the capacity of developing countries to design, maintain and use assistive technologies.

In January 2013 she trained a group of technicians in Port Moresby to build, fit and maintain wheelchairs through not-for-profit disability and development organisation Motivation Australia. As a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, Mrs Diment also develops partnerships with local Aboriginal communities and initiates research into low-cost assistive technologies.

Add to this, she is the brainchild of an innovative art program called Splashboard, which enables children with disabilities to create their own artworks without needing the dexterity and hand strength that is usually required for such activities.

Splashboard, which uses Microsoft Kinect software to sense and tracks movements, has received international recognition and media attention since its piloted release in 2012.

“The platform provides a means for children, whose participation in art activities has been otherwise limited, to express themselves freely and creatively through art,” Mrs Diment said.

“While it was initially designed as a leisure activity it could also be used as a progress tool because it tracks 3D information. A physiotherapist, for example, could use the data to see what limb the child is favouring and tailor a program to encourage more movement from their weaker areas.”

Mrs Diment said she hoped her success in biomedical engineering might inspire young women in high schools to consider a career in a traditionally male-dominated field.

“It is a great field to be in, combining the medical field and the desire to improve people’s lives with creativity, design and hands-on work.”

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