Agnes d’Entremont

Instructor
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Research and teaching:

As a part of the Educational Leadership faculty stream, Agnes d’Entremont’s work focuses on student learning and curriculum development in mechanical engineering. She teaches courses in orthopaedic biomechanics (musculoskeletal system disorders and treatments involving engineering, like total knee replacement for arthritis), injury biomechanics (injury research and protective equipment design, like helmets to prevent skull fracture) and mechanical design (creating mechanical devices that meet a complex set of requirements). She also studies aspects of engineering education, such as how students make the decision to start an engineering program, and the role of gender and personality type in peer evaluation during group projects. This type of research is important in learning how to increase diversity and maintain fair evaluations in engineering programs.

Recently, Agnes has been working on the development of a course about engineering for students without a science or engineering background. When citizens have little understanding of engineering, it can be difficult to fully participate in important public discussions about engineering-related matters, such as building new rapid transit, adding pipeline capacity, or recalling defective products. Agnes is leading a group of interested faculty in creating a new course that will help non-engineering students understand engineering decision-making and technical trade-offs, so that they can knowledgeably engage in determining the directions we take as a society when it comes to infrastructure, technology, and the environment.

Agnes’ area of technical specialization is human joint biomechanics, which is the study of the movement, loading, shape, and properties of joints like knees and hips, and how they are affected by physical disorders and treatments such as surgery. To study joints in living people, Agnes uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is a type of medical imaging based on magnetic fields rather than X-rays. Recently, she has focused on childhood hip disorders in collaboration with surgeons at BC Children’s Hospital.

One disorder, called Perthes disease, can cause severe deformity of the ball of the femur (thigh bone), which is part of the hip joint. People who develop this disorder as children can have lifelong hip problems, sometimes needing hip replacements as early as their 20’s and 30’s. There is a connection between how severe the deformity is and how likely these patients are to develop arthritic cartilage damage in their joints, but the details are not well understood. One reason is that the severity is determined through a simple visual rating from two-dimensional images, and the cartilage damage often has to get quite bad to be seen on standard X-rays. Agnes and her colleagues are working on new, more complex methods for measuring the deformity in three dimensions using joint models created from MRI scans and for measuring cartilage damage using MRI before it can be seen on X-rays. They are hoping that, by identifying which aspects of the deformity are related to more severe cartilage damage, targeted treatments can be developed to reduce the damage and disability caused by this disorder. 

Prior to UBC:

Agnes completed her BEng in Mechanical Engineering at McGill University before coming to UBC to complete her MASc and PhD. She also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Orthopaedics at BC Children’s Hospital.

Accolades:

Agnes' technical research has been published in academic journals such as the Bone and Joint Journal, Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, and the Journal of Paediatric Orthopaedics, and her educational research has been presented at annual meetings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association and the American Society for Engineering Education. She received major graduate trainee awards from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

Personal interests:

Agnes enjoys trying new bean-to-bar chocolates, going on canoe trips and cycling tours, volunteering with Girl Guides, playing boardgames, and singing from her extensive repertoire of East Coast folk songs. She has co-created two MRI music videos (including composing music using sampled scanner sounds), and once constructed an award-winning scale model of an MRI scanner out of pasta.