Student Spotlight  - Lewis Woollin  
PhD Update 2020-2021

Supported by JointMedica, and investigating our new and unique concepts in Total Hip Replacement (THR) technologies (Compass Taper™ THR system), we wanted to catch up with Lewis to understand the impact COVID-19 has had on his progress to date…

Now in the latter half of my PhD, I have completed the first of my key experiments and have another two ongoing, scheduled to be completed in April 2021. In August 2019 I performed a pin-on-plate tribological investigation into the wear behaviour of modern crosslinked polyethylene articulating against cortical bone. This was a preliminary study, intended to determine if modern polyethylene performs better than its historical counterpart. The results of this study were presented via E-poster at the 11th World Biomaterials Congress 2020 virtual conference (https://virtual.wbc2020.org) and are due to be published in full in early 2021.

 

Currently I am focussing on running the key hip simulator experiments mentioned in my previous student spotlight updates. The first of these is underway and proceeding well, which is exciting in itself, but it also showed that the design and manufacturing work I undertook in years 1 and 2 was a success. The first hip simulator experiment will conclude in February 2021, followed by a second concluding in April. Alongside these experiments I am also conducting a series of pin-on-plate studies to investigate the influence of bovine serum (the facsimile for synovial fluid used in in-vitro tests) degradation on wear of metal-on-polymer bearings. This is intended to determine if serum breakdown alters the lubricant's properties such that it changes the tribology of the bearing couple. This will be used to determine how regularly bovine serum should be replaced in lab tests, with the final aim to influence current orthopaedic implant testing standards.

Although the above work has all been positive it is necessary to discuss the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on my PhD. Due to the associated lockdowns and campus closures the project has suffered from significant delays; the hip simulator experiments were postponed by numerous months. Secondly, the resulting time constraints of these delays, forced changes to planned experiments. I had originally intended to validate a novel pin-on-plate machine that I developed in the final year of my Mechanical Engineering degree, then use this machine to perform novel research. This has instead been scaled back so that I can focus on the core experiments of my PhD. If time is available once my other experiments are completed this is something I will return to.  Several conferences I was due to attend were also postponed because of the pandemic. I am still scheduled however to present at ISTA 2021 and will be presenting at other major conferences once my hip simulator experiments have concluded.

 

In summary, this has been a tumultuous year for the project, but after returning to campus in September, progress has been rapid and I am confident that I am still on track for success.