Postdoctoral Research Associate

Biomechanical function and properties of carnivorous plant traps

I graduated in 2016 with a BEng in Mechanical Engineering, and during my studies developed a keen interest in biomechanical system. This interest in biomechanics lead me to study for an MSc in Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering. With a heavy emphasis on biomechanics and biofluid mechanics; my thesis focused on the biomechanics of soft tissue expanders. This involved the development of a finite element (FE) model of a hydrogel tissue expander. Stress and strain analysis was performed to calculate regions of high strain when the expander is placed under the skin, allowing a firmer understanding of the associated risks from rupture for paediatric burn patients.

Upon completion of my MSc, I pursued a PhD in the Cardiovascular Biomechanics research group in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath. Using a combination of experimental methods and high fidelity numerical methods, my thesis aimed to investigate the effects of red blood cells (RBCs) at transitional and turbulent Reynolds numbers. As a multiphase fluid, blood exhibits both shear-thinning and viscoelastic rheological properties, provided by RBCs, and understanding the influence of these rheological properties on fluid dynamics is important for the determination of blood damage mechanisms in blood-contacting devices.

Part of my research included steady shear viscosity and viscoelastic measurements of blood using rotational rheometry, as well as investigation of complex secondary flow fields. I have extensive experience with numerical modelling of blood flow using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), namely, high fidelity turbulence and rheology modelling, accomplished through open-source solver OpenFOAM.

In the Mechanical Ecology lab, I will apply my experience of working with viscoelastic biological fluids to the study of trapping fluids of carnivorous pitcher plants (Nepenthes and Cephalotus) and sundews (Drosera). My project is part of an international collaboration aiming to unravel the genetic underpinnings of functional trapping traits in carnivorous plants, with the ambitious aim of transferring these traits into non-carnivorous model plants and crops. Within a large, interdisciplinary team of molecular plant scientists, bioinformaticians and biomechanists, my role is to unravel, quantify and test the biomechanical function of sticky trap fluids and slippery trap surfaces in a wide range of carnivorous and (genetically transformed) non-carnivorous plants