Dr Simon Roe

Q&A with Dr Simon Roe an alumnus of UNSW’s Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering who applies biomechanics knowledge to teaching orthopaedic surgery.

What drew you to biomedical engineering?

I was very interested in orthopaedic surgery and learning more about the engineering side of that science was really exciting! A past mentor told me about the great research at the UNSW. At the time they were looking for a surgeon to work on a project that delved into the modification of collagen crosslinks in a ligament allograft. It was a perfect match of my surgical and biomechanics training!

What are your fun memories of studying here at the school?

I remember getting my first computer - a 286 PC with the large floppy discs. I learnt DOS, and did my statistics for my thesis using Minitab. I remember developing testing methods for cruciate ligaments, and seeing how incredibly strong they are when they’re healthy. I made many good friends. They helped me celebrate my 30th birthday in style! I quite enjoyed going to the beach to bodysurf at lunchtime whenever I could.

I also loved how the degree itself was structured. Students could come from either a biological background or and engineering background and they were able to get the same degree by doing different course work. I did engineering courses to strengthen my weak side, while engineers did anatomy and other biological courses. Then, in the lab, we all came together to problem solve and work on projects together.

To what degree do you still use the information from your biomechanics degree?

I use my biomechanics knowledge and training every day as I teach orthopaedic surgery. I lecture at a number of courses on engineering principles applied to orthopaedics. I am also the Deputy Editor for a veterinary orthopaedic journal, and review most of the papers that are submitted that relate to biomechanics which allows me to apply a lot of what I’ve learnt.

What contributions to the world of science are you most proud of? 

I did a number of studies evaluating orthopaedic wire and how it is tied, and most new surgeons use the techniques that I found to be superior. I also evaluated sutures used for cruciate ligament injury in the dog knee. Related to that, I studied the isometry of that suture when placed in a patient. Most recently, I've been involved in understanding the stability of total hip prostheses in dogs. I do this surgery frequently, and have used the information we developed to help ensure more successful outcomes from the surgery.

What advice might you have for graduates in finding their first job?

The advice I’d like to give graduates is to focus on what makes you unique and try to find the niche that suits. For me, adding my biomechanics skills on top of my surgical skills made me highly sought-after for academic positions at veterinary schools around the world. It was a pretty amazing journey that led to a position in one of the best veterinary schools in the US.