Young researcher working to fight foetal mortality with the help of the Len Stevens Scholarship

Electrical Engineering PhD student Faezeh Marzbanrad will work with a top research team in the USA, looking at improved methods for evaluating foetal wellbeing, thanks to a prestigious scholarship from the Melbourne School of Engineering.

Faezeh is the third recipient of the Len Stevens Scholarship, and the school’s first female winner of the prize.

The Len Stevens Scholarship is an award for high-performing graduate engineering coursework and research students, currently offering $15,000 in financial support in order to fund a local or international project or experience.

Faezeh’s research is looking into improved and cost-effective methods of foetal heart assessment in order to apply these techniques in developing countries, where foetal mortality is high.

“The major cause of foetal mortality is congenital abnormalities. Assessment of the foetal heart enables us to evaluate the foetal well being in general,” said Faezeh.

She said that currently, the most effective way of foetal heart assessment to detect congenital heart disease was via echocardiology.

“There are highly specialised and expensive techniques, but they are only performed in special cases and high risk pregnancies.”

“In developing countries these tests are very expensive and require a medical specialist. There are not enough centres that have those facilities.”

Faezeh said that at present there were cheaper methods of foetal monitoring that were available in developing countries, but that these techniques were not as accurate, often failing to catch abnormalities in otherwise “low-risk” pregnancies.

“We are looking for alternative techniques that are inexpensive and accurate enough and will give us sensitive markers of foetal wellbeing.”

“I hope that in the future I will develop some new devices that can be used in developing countries.”

Faezeh will travel to the Children’s National Health System in Washington DC, in order to work with a leading research team in the area of foetal heart assessment. She said the scholarship would give her an opportunity to view the latest technology in the field, and to collaborate with world leading researchers, which would be invaluable for her future work.

“I had a dream to go and work with other top research teams that work on this problem and now I see myself closer to those goals.”

Faezeh completed her Undergraduate and Masters studies in Electrical Engineering at Shiraz University in her home country of Iran, before travelling to Australia on IPRS and APA Scholarships in order to pursue her PhD with the Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing (ISSNIP) group, in the Department of Electrical Engineering.

She said that she first became interested in engineering as a career path thanks to her father, also an electrical engineer.

“When I was a child, my father had a room full of electronic components. He made things for me, and could see how exciting things could be created from these components.”

Faezeh said that her mother, a doctor, also inspired her to apply her engineering knowledge in a medical field.

“I was really interested in making and developing new things, and engineering facilitates that for me. But then at the same time I really wanted to help other people, especially babies, and now I see how I can use my engineering knowledge and skills to contribute to the health of babies.”

The Len Stevens Scholarship Appeal was established in 2011 during the 150th anniversary of engineering education at the University of Melbourne and named in honour of former Dean of Engineering, Emeritus Professor Leonard Stevens AM.

The Scholarship was established in perpetuity thanks to generous donors to the school, and with the support of the Melbourne School of Engineering Foundation.

Professor Stevens was himself the recipient of financial support during his studies; support he has said changed his life, enabling him to complete his undergraduate studies in Civil Engineering in 1950.

For further information about the award, and to make a donation please visit our alumni website.

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