Modelathon 2020

By Marco Sensale (ESR 5)

In January (12th – 15th), together with other two Spinner fellows (Jennifer Fayad and Cameron James), I spent an intense week in Sheffield for a non-standard workshop: Modelathon.

Modelathon is an event that brings together researchers in bioengineering to challenge a clinical burden through computational modelling. The focus was on osteoarthritis, an ageing-associated disease characterised by the degradation of the cartilage, and its surgical treatments. The goal of the workshop was to develop a multi-scale model to study the effects of osteoarthritis on the biomechanics of the knee and to compare a total knee replacement with an osteocondral plug. Five teams challenged each other in an amazing venue, the futuristic computer room at the Diamond (University of Sheffield). After two days only one team won, having provided the best scientific and technical answer according to a panel of experts.

As a PhD student based in industry, I am learning how coordination and harmony in a team are essential to achieve goals. The Modelathon gave me the possibility to put into practice those soft skills that are essential to start and deliver a project. In fact, in my team it was challenging to optimise the distribution of tasks according to everyone’s backgrounds and motivations. When you have 48 hours to start a project from scratch and to deliver it, everyone must bring his/her best skills and expertise and perform on his/her strengths more than weaknesses. In this sense, communication represented an important factor that influenced the performance of the team, which was composed of six researchers that have met there for the first time. It was amazing to try to keep the motivation high and create a positive work environment in a team with six different nationalities and ways of doing.

Modelathon was such a constructive experience to practice project management skills and to acquire insights about how a multi scale approach and the best software on the market could provide a model to study a pathology that is an economic burden in our ageing society. Participating in these workshops and trainings is what makes doing a Phd a unique experience.

Nice group picture of participants with some of the organisers as closing of the workshop