‘Engineering’ might conjure images of hard hats or basement coders, but it’s gaining recognition as a creative and incredibly diverse field where people can make a meaningful impact.
Gregg Suaning is doing just that. He’s engineered revolutionary bionics that have the potential to improve the lives of people living with vision impairment.
Improving lives with bionics
It’s called the Phoenix 99 bionic eye, and it’s set to be sight’s answer to the world-famous Cochlear implant that has improved the lives of over 300,000 people worldwide. Gregg’s worked with Cochlear too, and quickly realised the power he had to help people with his career.
“Once, I sat next to a woman on a train who was wearing one of the Cochlear implants I helped to design. I introduced myself and we had a wonderful conversation – a perfectly clear conversation because the device worked so well.”
The University of Sydney Engineering and IT
Gregg has lived and breathed biomedical engineering for more than two decades. Now, he’s putting his expertise to work as a Professor in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Engineering and IT.
His main teaching philosophy? Fun comes first. His students get to explore the serious concepts of engineering robotics for remotely operated surgery, for example, with a hands-on focus.
“Students were laughing, clapping. Well, did they learn anything? I guarantee you yes, but the fun comes first,” he says.
Producing world-changing grads
Students don’t have to wait for graduation to put these skills to use. They’re preparing themselves for groundbreaking futures on home turf, with real-world industry projects, student-led societies and hackathons that bring the exciting possibilities of engineering to the fore.
“I feel like most universities give you all the technical skills required to enter the industry, but USyd goes a step further,” says one of Gregg’s engineering students, Isabelle van Vuuren.
“Our lecturers have a lot of industry experience that they are more than happy to share, and there are so many societies for students to get involved with to get a taste of tackling real-world problems.”
Getting the most out of uni with student societies
One of those societies is SUABE: the Sydney University Association of Biomedical Engineers. “It’s hard to imagine studying biomedical engineering at USyd without SUABE by my side,” says current student, Daniel Landro.
Student-run societies like SUABE can mean free pancakes, therapy dogs at exam time, and chances to network in industry, or finding new friends to do your homework with. But, does it really prepare you for life outside of uni?
“Absolutely, yes,” says Gregg. “It’s fostering the students to become extraordinarily special, so that they are much better equipped to make a difference in the world.”
The bigger picture
For Gregg, engineering is essentially the pursuit of devising solutions to problems that affect people at their core. Graduates of his have taken their careers overseas to developing countries to ensure clean drinking water, or safer medtech, for example.
“They’re basically seeing the world and fixing it.”
“Students were laughing, clapping. Well, did they learn anything? I guarantee you yes, but the fun comes first.”
– Professor Gregg Suaning
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.