The University of Newcastle, Australia

Mathematical Modelling Driving Research into Premature Birth

Friday, 13 May 2016

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dr Peter Sokolowski
Dr Peter Sokolowski

This is the quote that inspired a University of Newcastle (UON) graduate to work to develop mathematical modelling in order to help predict premature births.

Dr Peter Sokolowski, a graduate of UON’s Bachelor of Mathematics degree, is working in collaboration with the John Hunter Hospital and UON’s Mothers and Babies Research Centre to develop mathematical modelling utilised for preterm prediction.

“I originally was going to research ‘smart structures’ used in aircrafts. However, I didn't want to just ‘tinker’ at the edges of a research space,” he said of his chosen field of research.

Currently, there are no accurate screening methods to identify women at risk of premature childbirth, which can often lead to the child developing a disability.

The data collected so far has helped Dr Sokolowski and his team model and analyse the trajectories of uterine stretch, which is believed to be an important factor in the onset of labour. This analysis has challenged the belief that uterine stretch may trigger labour.

Unfortunately, there is still much to be done in this area.

“I believe our work has only touched the tip of the iceberg. Bringing meaning to this data is where the challenge lies. Using concepts from measure theory and then ranking may bring new insights,” he said.

Dr Peter Sokolowski says he always had a strong interest in Mathematics, which led him to undertake the degree at the University of Newcastle.

“Mathematics has been my enabler, not only in shaping my career, but giving me the ability to change as industry and the needs of the community changes, without needing any retraining; being nimble and agile!”

Dr Sokolowski currently works as a research fellow with RMIT’s School of Engineering, and in 2015 was elevated to a Chartered Fellow of Engineers Australia, making him among the youngest to be recognised as a leader in his industry.

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