Medical engineer secures prestigious double fellowship

An associate professor in the School of Mechanical Engineering has been awarded two leading fellowships, giving her the opportunity to deliver a double dose of groundbreaking medical research.

Dr Marlène Mengoni, an Associate Professor in Computational Medical Engineering, was awarded both the Royal Academy of Engineering Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship and an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Open Fellowship, through which she will apply her in-depth knowledge of computer modelling to deliver novel approaches that could help improve the rehabilitation of common joint problems. 

Dr Mengoni joined the University of Leeds in 2013 in a post-doctoral position, before being offered an independent fellowship in 2015 and a lectureship in 2019. She is a member of the Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and the Centre for Computational Engineering; last year, she was appointed an Associate Professor, recognising her dedication to her field. 

“I’m delighted to have been successful in securing these fellowships, and I’m very thankful to both funders for their flexibility in allowing me to start both at the same time,” said Dr Mengoni. “This is the outcome of almost eight years of driven work, with excellent support from a range of academics in the Faculty. I’m excited by the opportunities these two fellowships will provide over the next five years.”

Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship 

Awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the prestigious Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship is awarded to “outstanding engineering researchers working on a wide variety of engineering challenges.” Supported by the Leverhulme Trust, awardees are given time to conduct their research while costs are covered for a replacement academic to take over their teaching and administrative duties.  

As part of this fellowship, Dr Mengoni will use computational modelling to assess joint degeneration resulting from hemarthrosis – articular bleeding caused by trauma or diseases such as haemophilia, and a systemic disease resembling osteoarthritis.  

Given there is no targeted treatment for these issues due to a lack of mechanistic understanding of the disease, Dr Mengoni seeks to develop mathematical models of how bone remodelling is affected by articular bleeds, which she hopes will assist the development and evaluation of new treatments.

EPSRC Open Fellowship 

The EPSRC Open Fellowship is a personal, career-development-focused award for PhD holders who have several years of additional research experience in their field and can be held for up to five years. The fellowship focuses on research in one or a combination of discovery science, innovation, instrumentation and technique development, and software engineering. 

Dr Mengoni will use her EPSRC Open Fellowship to develop novel testing methods and tools to combat musculoskeletal disorders – long-term conditions that affect one in five people in the UK. Combining laboratory simulation with computer modelling and imaging, she will focus on three musculoskeletal disorders and associated repairs, namely: 

  1. The injection of biomaterials in the intervertebral disc, personalised to assess potential treatment optimisation; 

  1. Meniscus repairs in the knee, developing guidance on the types of cartilage defects that need repair for a meniscus replacement to be successful; and 

  1. Optimisation of custom wrist repair, using patient-specific approach to reduce the damage in tendons and ligaments in the wrist. 

Professor Sophie Williams of the School of Mechanical Engineering said: “We’re delighted with Marlène’s recent successes. To have followed a recent successful New Investigator Award from the EPSRC and promotion to Associate Professor with the award of two fellowships is fantastic. 

“We recognise the huge amount of hard work that Marlène has put into these applications, and the tenacity that has led to the award of two fellowships. It will be exciting to see how her fellowships progress and research develops, as her work will undoubtedly provide real benefits to patients, both as a direct result of her work and through the methods she develops.” 

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