Futureland: Meet Dr Nyein Chan Aung

Forging the future of design

Monash Life | Thriving communities | 2 minute read

If you want your ideas to be loved, you need more than tech brilliance - you need design.

Every day, researchers at Monash make the most incredible breakthroughs. They create technologies with the potential to transform our lives. But to make those technologies really work for the people who use them, you need one more thing: design.

Take my research into the world’s smallest brain CT scanner, designed for treating people suffering a stroke on-site. We know that early diagnosis and treatment in the first hour after a stroke can hugely improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. But the conventional CT scanner found in hospitals, with its rotating X-ray tube, is very large and bulky, so you have to get to it rather than the other way around. Imagine if it could come to you?

Dr Neyin Chan Aung operating his compact CT scanner prototype
Dr Aung with his innovative mobile brain CT scanner.

In collaboration with Australian X-ray technology company Micro-X, we’re working on a mobile brain scanner for use in road and air ambulances that relies on a series of miniaturised carbon nanotube electron emitter X-ray tubes. Micro-X’s X-ray tubes are the size of two golf balls stacked together, so we can get a large number of X-ray sources in a very tight package and generate great images as well as increase portability.

As with any built object, your first interaction is emotion-based. How a product first appears to a user, be it a paramedic or radiographer, needs to represent everything about it. And the patient experience must also be positive and effective. Stroke patients are often more aware than we know about their situation.

I’m also working with Micro-X on a redesign of self-service airport passenger security checkpoints. For most passengers, the security area is the least enjoyable part of the airport experience. I applied my design experiences to the challenge of how we might preserve people’s dignity in security checks, and designed a self-service system that combines scanning of the person and their baggage into one.

With the help of the Monash XYX Lab, we have a design solution that empowers passengers of all genders, as well as those with medical implants, allowing them to discreetly declare and be automatically absolved of any alarms that might be set off by their bodies, medical implants or their devices.

The main driver for all my humanitarian design work is my upbringing in Myanmar.

Dr Nyein Chan Aung checking his tablet in the lab

My wife, Dr Thinn Thinn Khine, and I grew up without adequate access to healthcare, and saw how this not only impacts the person involved but so many of the people around them.

That’s why I am focused on a user-centred design approach, such as the palliative care project. It’s a guest bed module and a communications module that can be wheeled into any subacute room to turn it into a palliative care unit, developed by Thinn Thinn and me thanks to funding from Creative Victoria.

As a result of the increasing recognition for what I do, and with more people supporting my work at Monash, I’m thankful I get to focus on projects like this that not only inspire me personally but also have a real-world impact.

Dr Nyein Chan Aung (PhD, 2018) is an internationally award- winning industrial designer and researcher at the intersection of mobility and health. He is a chief investigator and a lead designer at Monash Design Health Collab (within the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture).

stretcher from Nyein Chan's CT scanner leaning against a wall with drawings of backpack designs

Welcome to the Monash Design Health Collab

Discover how the Monash Design Health Collab uses a people-centred design approach to understand and activate significant, high-impact healthcare services and products in the world.

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