Kevin Gnanaraj, Mechanical Engineering Summer Internship Scheme student

Kevin Gnanaraj

Why did you decide to undertake an internship at the University of Leeds?

I wanted to gain some experience doing engineering work, especially research. This was a good opportunity to do so, and I was able to explore England as well, which also something I’ve wanted to do.

Tell us about your summer internship.

My project, working with two other internship students from the University of Leeds, was to design a mechanical force sensor for a gasless laparoscopic lift device, design a more accurate model of an abdominal wall for surgeons to practice on, and to optimise the design of the existing assembly for weight.

My team came up with a spring-based force sensor that indicated how much force was being exerted on the abdominal wall while it was being lifted. Three prototypes were made for testing in cadaveric trials with surgeons, with springs of varying strength. Two prototype abdominal wall simulations were also created, one using commercially available silicone sheets, and one with custom-cast silicone mould.

The design of the existing assembly has also been adapted to use commercially available components that are much lighter. After doing research into why there was so much displacement from bending when using the lift assembly, we found that it was the attachment point to the bed that was the problem, and not the strength of the components themselves. We also discovered that the spiral lift does need to be reinforced, however, as it underwent plastic deformation when subject to loads encountered in surgery.

During the cadaveric trial, we found that the tone of the cadaver is not the same as a living person, and so the results are not comparable since living tissue offers much more resistance. However, other valuable insights about the usefulness of gasless laparoscopic surgery were obtained from the trials and will be published in a journal paper.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

Leeds is a well-placed city in the UK with easy access to many facilities and shops. It is easy to get to various historic sites nearby and it offers a good range of museums to visit as well. There are things for students to do for entertainment, and they are easy to reach and relatively affordable compared to a city like London.

What are your ambitions for the future/what are you going on to do next?

I will be finishing my degree at the University of Saskatchewan and use the experience I gained as a summer intern at Leeds to pursue a job, and hopefully in the future, pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Leeds.

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

The research experience I gained at Leeds is very valuable and showed me that a career in research is something I would enjoy. It has also provided valuable work experience that I can present to potential employers as I apply for jobs.

What would you say to students who would also like to undertake an internship within engineering?

They should definitely do it, because real engineering work will look different from all the theory learned in class, much of which will not be used, but is taught to give you an appreciation for the materials, should someone you work with be involved in that, and to give a sense of what is physically happening.

In addition, a research internship also gives one a very good idea of what a postgraduate degree would look like, so it is a good way to test the waters.