KURF Experiences: Sarah Alshalhoub on Lego catheters

Sarah Alshalhoub is a current third year student pursuing a BSc in Biomedical Engineering. She worked as part of the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (KURF) scheme with Dr. Kawal Rhode (Professor in Biomedical Engineering and the Head of Education at the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences) where one of the projects she worked on was the design of a Lego catheter. 

Why did you apply for KURF?  

I applied for KURF for the opportunity to explore what things I enjoy doing and what things I do not enjoy working on to help me make my master’s degree decision. It was a great way to apply all the knowledge I learnt in year one and two on a real-life project. I learnt a lot from my teammates and supervisor, and I am currently applying all that knowledge in my year 3 BEng project. 

What kind of research did you do during the application process that allowed you to choose a suitable project for yourself?  

I went through all the projects and assessed what project I wanted to get into based on my strengths and weaknesses. I purposefully picked a project that was fun yet challenging to improve certain skills of mine. 

What prior experience did you have in relevance to this project? What new experiences did you take away from it?  

Truthfully, I have not had any previous experience prior to the KURF project. However, I came out of it with a lot more confidence and gained a new skill set. 

What was your day-to-day like on KURF?  

My day-to-day was spent mostly in St.Thomas’ Hospital EW3 Lab where my teammates and I discussed and worked on our project and created a lot of failed prototypes until we got to the right one. Our project was extremely special for me personally as I knew it could potentially benefit people. It is the first Lego catheter to be made thus far. There was a lot of assembling and de-assembling, looking for new parts online, constantly redesigning the catheter on a LEGO CAD software, coding the control centre and what not. 

What was the highlight of your experience?  

The highlight of my experience was when our last prototype worked exactly how we imagined it to. After trying time and time again, seeing all our hard work come to life was certainly an extremely rewarding experience. Our supervisor, Dr. Kawal Rhode, posted our efforts on LinkedIn after the catheter was displayed in Scientists Live and it was almost a euphoric feeling that pushed me and motivated me to work on more projects. 

What’s the progress status of the project you were working on now?  

The project was displayed on Scientists Live and was tried by plenty of people. 

Has KURF given you the notion to continue towards research and academia as a career? Or are you looking towards other career paths currently?  

I already have a set plan of my career plan so I will be going on to do my master’s degree and hopefully a PhD where maybe I can revisit this project and do more research on it. 

Any last words? 

I would absolutely recommend and encourage anyone that is thinking about applying to apply to KURF. It is an amazing experience which will teach you a lot about yourself and improve your skills. It is an extremely rewarding experience, and it is always nice to be able to apply what you’ve learnt to deepen your knowledge and understanding of how things work.