Kent Stewart

'I am able to develop new ideas which directly make an impact on people’s healthcare and ultimately their lives...'

  • Kent Stewart

Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Mechatronics Engineering

Studying towards a PhD in Mechanical Engineering

With research developing better treatment options for patients with diabetes, Kent has the opportunity to make a huge contribution to the health services industry.

‘The best thing about my research is I am able to develop new ideas which directly make an impact on people’s healthcare and ultimately their lives,’ he says.

Kent’s research project creates data algorithms to recommended insulin dosing, based on a patient’s individual, changing needs during their hospital stay.

‘What makes working with human physiology particularly interesting is that everyone is different and changes with time, whereas mechanical or electrical systems dynamics are more consistent.’

‘I create dynamic models which describe the behaviour of blood sugar levels and insulin in the human body, specifically for ICU patients and people with Type 2 diabetes. I work with clinicians in Christchurch Hospital and St George’s Hospital to set up clinical trials in which we measure specific dynamics of a person’s metabolism. These dynamic models are then combined with engineering control algorithms to create blood sugar level control protocols for clinicians to follow.’

The project has earned him a UC Brownlie Scholarship as a top research student, and ‘opened up many doors’ with six overseas conferences, and a six-month exchange to Hungary.

‘My PhD has allowed me to apply fundamental undergraduate engineering skills to the biomedical realm, intimately work with nurses and doctors in achieving a common goal,’ he says. ‘The ideas developed are based on engineering concepts learnt from my undergraduate degree.’

Kent had scoped out UC’s Mechatronics degree when first studying, due to a fascination with developing prosthetic limbs and robotic automation. Being such a practical degree was the perfect solution for him, and was fundamental to the knowledge he needed in his PhD.

‘Mechatronics is an amazing degree where you get to experience the electrical, mechanical and computational aspects of a system. A great degree for someone who likes to understand the complete system, not just one side,’ he says. ‘I enjoyed the courses throughout my Mechatronics Engineering degree having a very applied focus; creating projects which test your knowledge of the theory and undertaking labs which explore your understanding of a concept. All showing how the theory comes into reality.’

‘I think it’s great that UC makes it a requirement for students to undertake work experience, learning how the workplace environment works and an engineer’s role. This shows a very realistic perspective on how your skills will be applied in the workforce.’

Kent had enrolled at UC with an Emerging Leaders Development Programme Scholarship, which kicked off his passion helping the community through leadership projects and skills development.

He was also a Residential Assistant with Bishop Julius Hall for a number of years, helping other students settle in.

‘It’s a great Halls of Residence due to its small size and well-developed balance of study and social events. It definitely helped me in achieving the academic success I have had.’

Towards the end of his undergraduate degree, Kent also received a UC Summer Research Scholarship to work with UC researchers in the UC Centre for Bioengineering, Mechanical Engineering Department.

‘It gave me an understanding of what research was like and how it was undertaken. A great experience and the ideas I worked on were able to be published in a journal at the end of it.’

One of his best highlights from UC, however, was doing the 2016 21 Day Pacific Challenge and getting to implement a sustainability project in Niue.

‘It was an amazing experience working with people of different disciplines from UC and also members of the Niuean community, learning multiple skills and building great relationships. Would definitely recommend this and competitions similar to this to other students, to get themselves out there and involved with these amazing experiences offered.’

The experience tied in well with his passion for helping others and is something that Kent hopes to continue in his future career.

‘My dream job would be working in research and development of healthcare technology. Developing technology to help people either in the hospital or with a condition which affects their everyday life. I enjoy being challenged by the difficult healthcare problems and working cross-disciplines to realise a solution.’

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