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NATIONAL SCIENCE WEEK – THE SCIENCE OF SMALL THINGS

9 August 2017

Small; def; of a size that is less than normal or usual. Miniature.

Miniaturisation is the trend to design and manufacture smaller technology. It’s a trend the medical technology industry has been investigating for decades – smaller devices that deliver meaningful patient outcomes.  But there are challenges and it isn’t always about making the same components smaller – it is about recreating an entire system and method for therapy delivery.

Achieving miniaturisation relies on computer science and disciplines including Artificial Intelligence [AI]. The application of AI in medical technology can provide patients and healthcare professionals with access to essential knowledge, in a timely manner, and assist informed decision making. AI is becoming so sophisticated that it can adjusting therapy automatically based on algorithms. Plus – the ability to deliver AI via  wireless technology means it doesn’t impact size.

Another factor impacting device size is the power source. Medical technology requiring power generally contains a battery.  Standard coin-cell batteries (used for watches) are now significantly more energy efficient. This science directly impacts the size of devices.

Smaller and compact devices can have a number of benefits. For example, delivery through smaller incisions leads the way for minimally invasive therapies which has the potential to reduce procedure time, infection and recovery for patients. Procedures such as aortic valve replacement once required open heart surgery can now be delivered through a catheter placed in the body through a keyhole incision in the groin.

This National Science Week we want to celebrate science, the difference it makes to the community, provide stories about some of our inventions and introduce you to members of our team. You can share your stories below, or on twitter. Tag #medtechscience, #natsciwk

MEET A MEMBER OF OUR TEAM:  Kelly Thorne

Kelly Thorne

Role: Senior Marketing and Education Manager, Cardio Vascular Group

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science in Biology, Masters of Business Administration

Tenure with Medtronic: 15 years

In your mind, what is impressive about the science of small things? The most impressive thing to me about this move to miniaturisation is that every part of the technology has to be recreated to make it work!  The batteries, capacitors, circuitry and every other internal part of the pacemaker, for example, has to be completely re-imagined after remaining largely unchanged for 40 years or so.  And in many cases the downsized versions have more capabilities than their larger counterparts.

What did you enjoy most about studying science? I really enjoy understanding the background behind things.  One of my favourite courses was anatomy and physiology because I found it really fascinating to understand all the cascade reactions in the body and how one thing leads to another.

What are the key learnings you have applied in your personal and professional life?Studying science has taught me to be a life-long learner and always ask how and why things work.  It has also taught me persistence and to not take no for an answer.  There is always a solution to every problem if you look at it from different angles.

Women in STEM – what’s your opinion? It’s great to see more and more women entering the science and technology fields.  Of course I think women are capable of doing anything they want to do so I’d encourage anyone interested in a STEM field to go for it!

What is your advice to future scientists? My advice would be never lose your sense of curiosity and continue to be a life-long learner.

To learn more about National Science Week visit https://www.scienceweek.net.au/

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