Student Profile - Phil Lewis

Phil was a PhD student with the Department of Surgery, co-supervised by Professor Jeffrey V. Rosenfeld. He successfully completed his PhD in 2014. Phil works as an adjunct senior research fellow in Surgery at the Alfred Hospital. You can read more on his research here. This interview was originally published in 2013.

What is your thesis about?

My thesis looks at the brain and its ability to regulate the amount of blood that it receives. Often after trauma such as a head injury or a stroke, the blood flow control mechanism is disrupted and the brain can’t control how much blood it receives. So if you have low blood pressure, the brain loses the ability to pull m ore blood from the body to try and maintain its perfusion a nd if you have high blood pressure the brain loses the ability to stop the blood vessels from swelling inside under pressure where ordinarily they would contract and keep the blood flow steady. I’m looking at how that mechanism works and how we can produce a number that shows how well it is working.

How far into it are you?

I’m on the home stretch, thankfully! I started in 2006, so I’ve been doing my thesis part time, and trying to squeeze it in around getting married, having children and working so it’s been tough. I’m doing it by publication so I’ve published a few papers already and I think that will make the job of putting a thesis together a little easier. I am working on my last chapter now and will hopefully have that written up in the next few weeks, then I just have to finish up my discussion and my conclusion and then go to the bookbinders and get it reviewed. So it’s an exciting time,

Before your PhD what did you do?

I did an applied Science degree in Biophysics but I actually had a career prior to this one. I used to work as a biomedical engineer. It wasn’t the glitz and glamour of designing and making medical devices; it was cleaning them and fixing them, so it was more of routine day to day maintenance. I did that for a while and then I wanted to move on to something a bit more clinical because the degree I did was a combined Physics, Physiology degree. I ended up getting a job here, doing brain ultrasounds, which led to my interest in blood flow in the brain. After that I went to Cambridge and did some study there as a travelling fellowship so I got to meet one of my current supervisors there.

What are your plans when you finish?

I would like to do a post doc I’ve spent so much time up skilling in this area so it seems a bit silly to just stop. Whether I stay clinical or move to the technical side is probably the decision I need to make. Other than that, I still have a job here and I might try and get a part time clinical fellowship.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Well the question of what I like to do has been taken over with what I have to do! I spend a lot of time looking after my five year old boy, which is very time consuming, but when I have time I like to play the occasional computer game, ride my motorbike, do a bit of bike riding and watch some movies. I just like getting out and about.

You have developed a software for data collection, what is that about ?

Yes, the other thing that I am interested in is computer programming. I started writing the software in Cambridge, and it’s a program to speed up data analysis. The software that I’m using to write my PhD at the moment leaves you with lots of files full of data and if you want to make some sense of those, you have to summarise it all and tabulate the results. Then if you want to do something with those numbers, you need to send it to a statistics programme which is time consuming and repetitive. To try and combat this, I wrote a program in Excel. Now what was taking me a day or two, ended up taking me a minute or two. Once I wrote this program quite a few people started using it and I am working on commercialising it so people can buy it.