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21 June 2021

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Congratulations to St Hugh’s alumna, Professor Rebecca Shipley, recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

Professor Rebecca Shipley

We are delighted to announce that Professor Rebecca Shipley, who matriculated in 2001 and completed both her MMath and her DPhil at St Hugh’s, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 with an OBE for her services to the Development of the Continuous Positive Airways Pressure Device during the pandemic, nationally and internationally.

In 2020, Professor Shipley (UCL Mechanical Engineering and UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering) co-led a team of engineers from UCL and Mercedes-AMG HPP and clinicians from UCLH to design and manufacture at scale non-invasive breathing aids for COVID-19 patients. Working together in the department’s MechSpace student hub during the lockdown in spring 2020, the team reverse-engineered an off-patent Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, optimised its design and secured regulatory approval within just two weeks. Together the team’s effort produced 10,000  CPAP devices for the UK. These breathing aids, known as UCL-Ventura, have been deployed to over 130 NHS hospitals.

Recognising that the humanitarian need was global, the UCL Ventura team enabled the licensed release of the device’s design and manufacturing instructions at no cost. The instructions have since been accessed by over 1900 manufacturers, non-profits and governments in 105 countries.

UCL-Ventura devices are now helping patients in hundreds of hospitals in over 15 countries including India, South Africa, Peru and Pakistan. Most recently, Shipley worked with the UK government and UCL-Ventura’s logistics partner G-TEM to send over 1,200 UCL-Venturas to India and Nepal to support the countries’ fight against recent surges. The UCL Ventura team were awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering President’s Special Awards for Pandemic Services (Summer 2020) and the Health Service Journal (HSJ) Awards 2020: Acute Sector Innovation of the Year.

During her DPhil studies at St Hugh’s working on multiscale mathematical models of blood flow and drug delivery in vascularised tissues, Professor Shipley developed a passion for interdisciplinary research around the application of mathematical models in medicine. In 2008 she took up a Junior Research Fellowship at Christ Church College, Oxford, to develop mathematical models that describe biomechanical and biochemical stimulation of tissues.  She also gained practical experimental experience through two concurrent Visiting Research Fellowships at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Bath, and Tissue Repair and Engineering Centre, UCL. Her research on integrating mathematical models with experimental data inform the design of bioreactors for tissue engineering led to the award of Young Researcher of the Year for the UK Tissue and Cell Engineering Society in July 2011.

In May 2012, Professor Shipley took up her Lectureship (now Professorship) position within the Biomechanical Engineering Group at UCL Mechanical Engineering. Her research interests lie in mathematical and computational modelling in medicine and biology, including in cancer, tissue engineering, and human physiology, and with an emphasis on multidisciplinary approaches which integrate data from biological experiments, imaging and patients. In 2016 she was awarded the Rosetrees Trust Interdisciplinary Prize for research at the interface of mathematics, computer science and medicine. In May 2017, she established the UCL Centre for Nerve Engineering with Professor James Phillips (UCL School of Pharmacy).

In 2018, Professor Shipley took on the roles of Vice Dean for Health within the UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences and also Director of the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering. In these roles, she coordinates interdisciplinary research activities within healthcare engineering across Engineering, SLMS and the UCL Partner Hospitals at UCL.

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