Rebecca Pullon



School in New Zealand. Then a Bachelor of Engineering (biomedical engineering) at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.



Work History:

CollerIP (intellectual property company), Orion Health (design hospital software), Auckland Bioengineering Institute (research organisation)

Current Job:

PhD student in biomedical engineering. Tutor and lab demonstrator for engineering undergraduate students.


University of Oxford (Institute of Biomedical Engineering)

Me and my work

I provide doctors with mobile phones and tablets to help them monitor patients in clinical trials

I am in a mobile health research team. This means I work with doctors at the hospitals to design mobile technology (smartphone and tablet applications, and websites) for clinical trials. I work on a clinical trial in pregnancy – we are collecting vital sign information (heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate) from women during pregnancy and for two weeks after the baby is born. For the period after the baby is born, we given the women a home-monitoring kit so that they can measure their own vital signs every day. the midwife visits them twice during this period, but we are able to get even more rich information using this home monitoring kit. Their readings get entered onto a tablet which are immediately sent to our servers.

Remote monitoring is becoming an important part of healthcare since the doctor can keep track of how the patient is doing, without lots of time-consuming visits to the hospital. If we can get the smartphone/tablet application to predict when the patient is getting more sick, then we can treat patients before their disease has become life threatening. This is what we are aiming to do from our clinical trial. Pregnancy is a time when the mothers body changes, and sometimes changes too much that it threatens the life of the mother and baby. Complications in pregnancy can affect the child and mother for many years to come, so if we can predict when the mother is getting sick before it is too bad, we can improve their long term health.

My Typical Day

I meet with doctors at the hospital, examine and plot data, and get equipment ready for clinical trials

My typical days are varied. Most of my work involves being at a computer. I am working on a clinical trial in pregnancy, and I am the first person to see all the data that is collected. I make sure the data is complete, and if not I contact the research midwives to ask what happened. I plot vital sign information (heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, blood pressure) over time so we can see what trends are normally expected in the mother during pregnancy and after the baby is born. I also develop mathematical models to fit to the data that give us more information about where the population mean would be. This part of my work involves writing code and looking at plots. We get a lot of information from our clinical trials, and sometimes it takes time to get it to its final form.

When I am not at my computer, I am ordering and preparing equipment for use in our clinical trials. This involves installing software on tablets and smartphones, buying blood pressure machines, hospital grade thermometers and other equipment. I take this to our research midwives at the hospital for them to use in the trial. They give me feedback about how easy/hard the software is to use, and I will work with our software engineering team to make changes if needed. I also meet regularly with our clinical team – this is made up of doctors and midwives and a lead engineer. Every trial has a principal investigator who sets the direction of the trial and deals with any issues in recruitment or data collection.

What I'd do with the money

Hold a medical technology workshop at Oxford University

I would use the money to run a medical technology workshop at Oxford University. There are lots of cool gadgets that are used to help people get better in hospital – stents to hold open blood vessels, mechanical heart valves, pills that know when they’ve been swallowed, microbubbles that are attracted to painful areas, robots used to perform surgery, and many more! Not many people know about these.

A particular interest of mine is mobile-health – where mobile phones are used to monitor a patient’s health from their home. This is becoming a breakthrough for providing high quality health care to rural areas, especially to parts of Africa and South America. A company started from my research group – Medyc – have developed a blood pressure cuff that plugs into your mobile phone, so no more expensive devices are required to monitor blood pressure.

This workshop would allow young people to engage with medical technology. They may develop a health mobile app, or perform (a fake) surgery using a robot!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

active, musical, contemplative

Who is your favourite singer or band?


What's your favourite food?

Chocolate, without hesitation. Particularly New Zealand chocolate.

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Been on a jetboat ride (Buller river, New Zealand. Absolutely exhilirating!)

What did you want to be after you left school?

I always thought I would be a medical doctor

Were you ever in trouble at school?


What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths. I also really enjoyed P.E.

What's the best thing you've done as an engineer?

Being in research, things are a bit more long term so ask me in 10 years time! Part of my group designed software to enable nurses to record hospital bedside observations on a tablet rather than paper. It is satisfying to see change in hospitals.

If you weren't an engineer, what would you be?

A graphic designer

Tell us a joke.

I’m afraid I’m no good with jokes.

Other stuff

Work photos: