Christy Wells

While studying for her Master’s in Design Innovation, Christy was part of an international, multidisciplinary team designing an upright, head-only MRI system.

Christy Wells Master of Design Innovation

“A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an indispensable tool for the imaging of the human body for diagnostics and guided interventions. However, traditional MRI imaging has limitations, such as installation costs, the heavy weight, being a permanent fixture, and the restriction of the body in a prone position,” explains Christy.

“My Master’s project addressed the design and manufacture of a patient-handling system for this new MRI scanner to situate patients comfortably, upright, and accurately in the bore of the scanner.”

The project was formed through a grant from the National Institutes of Health in the United States and led by the University of Minnesota in collaboration with Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, the University of São Paulo, and Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Robinson Research Institute and School of Design Innovation.

“Something that drew me to this project was the opportunity to be involved in the development of a device at the cutting edge of MRI technology, something that would make a real difference to many people’s lives. This device has the potential to change the way MRI systems are designed and the variety of things they can be used for. It was very exciting to be involved in a real-life project.”

Christy got involved with the project through her supervisor, Edgar Rodríguez Ramírez, who runs a research group that focuses on design for medical applications.

“Edgar gave me the support to work on this project, as well as supporting me to apply to travel to national and international conferences. I also got the opportunity to present my Master’s thesis internationally at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s conference Desform: Beyond Intelligence in Boston. This conference was an invaluable opportunity to network with some of the leading researchers in innovative design and get a personal insight into the work being developed in the MIT design labs.

Studying for her Master’s gave Christy an understanding of the real-life process of designing and manufacturing medical devices.

“Seeing and experiencing the development and manufacture of this medical device for real-life application, alongside professional industry partners, has been invaluable for my development as a designer.”