Natural Sciences at Leicester


Thursday 17 November 2022

Autumn Interdisciplinary Research Lecture: Engineering Tissue - a materials scientist's approach

  • Speaker: Dr Jenny Shepherd, School of Engineering, University of Leicester
  • Time: 5.00pm – 6.00pm (GMT)
  • Location: TBC (email for further details) 

As a materials scientist the influence of structure on properties is key, yet when it comes to materials applied to support in tissue repair and regeneration there is a much greater emphasis placed on chemical and biological cues than structural ones. In this talk, Jenny presents how she sees the role of materials science and engineering in tissue repair and drug discovery, with a focus on the influence of structure. The talk will highlight the importance of multi-disciplinary research and the role really great role supervisors, team members and collaborators play. 

Dr. Shepherd's biography

At school, Jenny loved the idea of becoming a doctor but, painfully shy, she was utterly terrified by the idea of engaging with patients. Instead a multiple choice test offered in year 12 suggested a degree in materials science with the possibility of specialising in biomaterials (materials engineered to interact with biological systems for a medical purpose). Her teachers thought there was no chance of her getting into Oxbridge but with a stubborn wilfulness (and Oxford being one of only 6 or 7 places to offer a degree in materials science) she applied; then followed a MEng in Materials Science from St Catherine’s College Oxford. She had to wait until the third year for a module on biomaterials, but at that point she knew what she wanted for the future; her undergraduate degree was followed by a move to Cambridge for a PhD focussed on the production of carbonate substituted hydroxyapatite (bioceramic) scaffolds for bone repair.

Her early post-doctoral career concentrated on the application of synthetic collagen structures in the repair of load-bearing soft tissues such as tendons and the meniscus. This work included a 12 month knowledge transfer secondment to biopharmaceutical company Tigenix UK Ltd. Attempting to replicate the structure of these tissues led to a desire to investigate the natural tissues further and Jenny joined QMUL as part of a Wellcome Trust Project considering the mechanics and biology of developing tendinopathy. In 2013 she returned to Cambridge and the biomaterials field working on an ERC project on 3D Engineered Environments for Tissue Engineering with a particular emphasis on structurally and chemically graduated scaffolds for ex vivo blood platelet generation.

In 2019, Jenny became a Lecturer in the Mechanics of Materials Group within the University of Leicester’s School of Engineering. Despite slow progress due to COVID, Leicester has provided a unique environment for the development of an independent research career in biomaterials and bioengineering. She’s collaborated with orthopaedic surgeons in assessing the risk of refracture in scaphoid waist fractures; Gareth Miles from the Leicester Cancer Research Centre to develop support structures for increasing the viability of tumour explants; and is shortly to begin a project with Mustafa Zakar from Cardiovascular Sciences looking at the application of a collagen scaffold for the controlled delivery of dexamethasone for treatment of vein graft disease. Through this time she’s also become heavily involved with the support of postgraduate researchers as Postgraduate Tutor for the School of Engineering, and Deputy Director of Postgraduate Research for the College of Science and Engineering. Jenny also enjoys sharing her love of all things materials science with undergraduate engineers.



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