October 2016 | Issue 26
ESOF delegates get a feel for NTU and LKCMedicine

What do the Industrial revolution, graphene and the discovery of the atom’s structure have in common? Manchester City, UK. Now for something slightly trickier: What do Manchester, a cup of coffee, a rectal examination, and NTU, Imperial and LKCMedicine have in common? The European Science Open Forum (ESOF), one of the world’s most prestigious scientific events that brings together leading thinkers, innovators, policy makers, scientists, business people, students, and the general public to discuss and find out how science is shaping our lives. Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, was the host city of this year’s biennial event, proclaiming the motto “Science as Revolution”, which ran from 25 to 26 July 2016.

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Manchester Central - ESOF 2016 venue

The presence of NTU, along with its partner Imperial and their joint medical school, at ESOF was crucial in attracting prospective international students and early-career scientists to one of the best universities in the world. NTU Chief of Staff and Vice President for Research Professor Lam Khin Yong and LKCMedicine Vice-Dean of Research and Nanyang Institute of Technology in Health & Medicine (NITHM) Director Professor Russell Gruen presented the successes of NTU and LKCMedicine to conference delegates.

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(L-R): LKCMedicine Vice-Dean for Research and NITHM Director Prof Russell Gruen; NTU Europe Representative and Research Integrity Officer Mr Tony Mayer; LKCMedicine Visiting Associate Professor and Imperial College Centre for Engagement & Simulation Science Dr Fernando Bello; and Imperial Research Associate Dr Alejandro Granados

Billed as an interactive, hands-on public engagement with science, it was only fitting that LKCMedicine and NTU’s booth showcased some of the latest innovations in medical education. LKCMedicine Visiting Associate Professor and joint Director of Imperial College Centre for Engagement and Simulation Science (ICCESS) Dr Fernando Bello and ICCESS Research Associate Dr Alejandro Granados showcased the ‘Seeing Through’ collaboration between Imperial’s medical school, LKCMedicine and NTU’s Institute of Media Innovation (IMI), along with a haptics-based ‘Robotic Rectum’ simulator developed by Dr Granados at Imperial College London. The ‘Seeing Through’ project is a research-based collaboration that provides real-time visualisation during rectal examination training on standard benchtop models using virtual reality, positioning and pressure sensors mounted on the examining finger. Medical students will not only be able to visualise their performance and better understand the internal anatomy, but also get feedback and assessment from their tutors. NTU’s IMI and LKCMedicine’s Medical Education Research and Scholarship Unit (MERSU) are working together with ICCESS’s Simulation and Modelling in Medicine and Surgery group to improve the teaching and learning of rectal examinations.

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NTU’s exhibition stand showcasing the haptic rectal examination simulator developed by Imperial (left) and the ‘Seeing Through’ virtual reality interface developed by Imperial, NTU’s IMI and LKCMedicine (right)

Although there have been numerous opportunities to demonstrate these simulation tools at international scientific conferences and various public engagement events, this was the first time Dr Bello and Dr Granados demonstrated these tools as part of an exhibition to support a university. It was a fascinating experience for attendees from diverse backgrounds, who were very enthusiastic about trying these learning tools. Visitors to the NTU booth included A Level students looking into starting a degree in science, consultants in science policy supporting governments, research council delegates, public relations professionals, early career scientists and experienced researchers, among others.

NTU Research Director of Strategy & Biosciences Dr Kristen Sadler said, “NTU’s presence at ESOF was very well-received. It was a time for us to catch up with existing acquaintances and meet new people who were keen to hear the latest news from NTU, and there was a lot of interest in our Nanyang Assistant Professorship scheme. The ‘Seeing Through’ project was perhaps the most popular attraction at ESOF 2016!”

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The NTU booth drew many interested visitors with its interactive and hands-on demonstration

Participating at the booth was an experience that highlighted the power of simulation as a tool for engagement and discussion. Simulation helped establish a common ground of a problem that is relevant to everyone. It was evident that it serves as a brilliant warm-up exercise for a discussion that can take any direction. Just like having a cup of coffee with someone while discussing a topic in a very relaxed environment, simulation provides an active agent of participation through interactivity. Conference delegates learnt about the challenges associated in learning physical internal examination skills and experienced technology-supported solutions that address these challenges. Most importantly, visitors left knowing that NTU’s IMI and LKCMedicine are agents of innovation and are addressing societal challenges. Mixed with brilliant staff, excellent academic programmes and a tasty cup of coffee, this blended into a successful stand at ESOF 2016.