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Campus News : October 2011
www.uow.edu.au University of Wollongong Campus News October 2011 7 RESEARCH The University of Wollongong's ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Sciences (ACES) has established an international collaborative research agreement with Irish wearable sensor company Shimmer Research. The partnership will lead to wearable bionic devices used post operatively to improve patient recovery times. Patients undergoing treatments such as orthopaedic surgery will be able to reduce their stay in hospital by wearing sensors strapped to their bodies which will feed vital rehabilitation information back (via a software program) to the patient and hospital. The collaboration brings together the new materials and fabrication expertise of ACES with the wearable wireless communication technology of Shimmer Research. A leading company in its field, Shimmer Research currently ships products to more than 50 countries worldwide. ACES Executive Director Professor Gordon Wallace, who is also Director of UOW's Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, said that with input from ACES members (including world renowned orthopaedic clinicians from St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne) the agreement will allow work on building bionics devices that will improve the quality of life for a large number of elderly people and those recovering from injury. "This is an exciting day, striking up this collaboration which I believe will work very effectively," Professor Wallace said. His thoughts were echoed by Shimmer Research's Vice- President of Business Development Dr Keiran Daly, who said the collaboration would be a long-term alliance that would have a tangible and direct impact for the quality of patient care. ACES Associate Director of Strategic Development Dr Bridget Munro said the wearable devices would be used in post-operative and diagnostic applications to improve patient recovery times, reduce hospital stay times and enable patients to be proactive about their own care. "This will ultimately allow older people to live their dream of being healthy while living at home, reducing the strain on government resources," she said. Professor Peter Choong, who is an international leader in the fields of musculoskeletal oncology and orthopaedic surgery also addressed the collaborative launch. Professor Choong is the Director of Orthopaedics and Head of Surgery at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne and Chair of the Bone and Soft Tissue Sarcoma Service at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in the Victorian capital. He said that St Vincent's was most enthusiastic to be part of this overall group highlighting how the need for orthopaedic surgery worldwide was growing rapidly. "I am glad to be part of a team which is helping to solve a global health problem," Professor Choong said. UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper earlier welcomed guests to the launch and highlighted how vast commercial market opportunities (such as the collaboration with Shimmer) are now available with the new federally-funded Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) Processing and Devices Facility coming on line at the Innovation Campus. It is the first facility of its kind in Australia. BG Green thumbs, good health and key learning performance are some of the main markers to be employed by a team of UOW researchers in their assessment of a novel in-school garden program. The Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) has recently won a bid to evaluate the renowned Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden National Program that aims to positively influence food choices among children. Implemented in over 100 Australian primary schools, the government-funded project teaches students from years 3-6 how to grow, harvest and prepare fresh food. Its philosophy centres on engaging and memorable food experiences to reinforce healthy, lifelong eating habits. Researchers evaluate schools garden program According to lead investigator Associate Professor Heather Yeatman, measuring the program's effective outcomes will be challenging. "It won't be easy, as there's a lot that goes on at the school level and many schools are involved in a number of programs," Professor Yeatman said. "We are currently developing our evaluation tools but are confident that if there are any changes underway, we will be able to identify the patterns and trends." Four years after the program's rollout into schools, the research team will visit 50 schools around Australia to assess a variety of factors including changes to food preferences, lifestyle, behaviour and cooking skills, to determine its positive reach. Broader implications for students' academic performance in reference to Key Learning Areas will also be considered. In keeping with the evaluation's wide terms of reference, AHSRI Director Professor Kathy Eagar said diversity was the research group's greatest strength. "UOW's nomination for this evaluation clearly demonstrates the advantages of cross disciplinary research teams -- in this case bringing together public health, nutrition and education expertise with the range of disciplines of the AHSRI staff," Professor Eagar said. The UOW research team will be led by Professor Yeatman, together with Senior Research Fellow Karen Quinsey. Research team members include Dr Deanne Condon-Paoloni (Health Sciences), Dr Wendy Nielsen (Education) and participating AHSRI personnel. MC Associate Professor Heather Yeatman. Wearable bionics to aid post-op recovery Signing the formal agreement between Shimmer Research and ACES are (seated) Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper and Dr Keiran Daly from Shimmer. Watching on are Professor Peter Choong (St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne - left) and ACES Executive Director Professor Gordon Wallace.