Torbjörn Lundh is a mathematics professor who wants to find solutions to questions and problems by using the strength of formulas. He and his family will travel this summer to Stanford in California for a one-year Sabbatical. "Approaching medical problems from the perspective of a mathematician – a lot can be done here. I believe the breeding ground is particularly good at Stanford," he says.
As he opens the highly adorned door to his office, Torbjörn Lundh, who is a professor of mathematical sciences, says they are currently looking for housing in Silicon Valley, the area in California where Stanford and Palo Alto form one of the centres. The door gives an idea of his background and academic achievements. His Värmland roots are visible in Arvika Nyheter newspaper clippings that are mixed in with Swedish National Committee for Mathematics printouts, posters from ECMTB European Conference on Mathematics and Theoretical Biology, other conferences, and various diplomas and awards. Torbjörn Lundh defended his thesis on pure mathematics at Uppsala University, did post docs at Cambridge and Stony Brook University on Long Island near New York, and has several assignments at Chalmers, for example in the Life Science Area of Advance.
Products in MedTech
In his research, he aims to work on the basis of the actual question, need or problem. He quotes his role model John Milnor who is a mathematics professor at Stony Brook University when he says, "The most important thing is to find the right question."
"You don't generally stand around with a screwdriver wondering what to use it on. Rather, you have a problem and then try to find a tool," says Torbjörn Lundh.Together with Erney Mattsson, who is a vascular surgeon currently working in Trondheim, and The Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås, he has developed several different products within medical engineering, MedTech.
Torbjörn Lundh gets an elastic bandage with blue stripes out of a desk drawer. It all started with a call from Vascular Surgeon Erney Mattsson with a question about a problem he was experiencing. He wanted a pressure bandage that would ensure even and exact pressure when applying a bandage after varicose vein surgery, for example. One important aspect of the healing process is specifically even and appropriate pressure. This kind of help and bandage were not available on the market. Medical staff were forced to wrap patients' legs after varicose vein surgery as best they could, and had no way of knowing how hard the pressure was on the wound.
"It's a bit like not knowing how much medicine you are giving a patient," says Torbjörn Lundh.
The bandage, which is now CE marked and patent pending, is based on Torbjörn Lundh's mathematical formulas that take the bandage's overlap and the leg's different bends into account, amongst other things such as the specific elasticity properties of the textile material.
He hopes that the bandage can be launched soon in medical care to help medical staff in their work and above all to reduce the patient's discomfort and healing time.
Meeting researchers, students and surgeons
Torbjörn Lundh's research is of interest at Stanford as regards using mathematics to find solutions to medical problems.
After Torbjörn Lundh had visited the highly innovative university in November 2014, Chris Cheng, a Stanford researcher at The VIBE Lab (Vascular Intervention Biomechanics & Engineering Laboratory) discussed with Chalmers professor if he would be interested in doing a Sabbatical at Stanford.
He was able to accept after getting approval from the Chalmers head of department and receiving a scholarship from the Pro Suecia Foundation.
His wife and two teenage children will accompany him.
The scholarship was necessary for him to be able to enter the U.S. and spend a year at Stanford.
"This became very clear in conjunction with the visa process, where showing that you can support your family is very important," says Torbjörn Lundh.
He will spend a third of his time at VIBE and the cardiovascular laboratory where research is done on how different MedTech products in blood vessels are affected over time. Torbjörn Lundh has previous experience of this type of research, including bypass surgery for example. He hopes to write several articles together with the team. One third of his time will be spent in biodesign training where one of the courses is health economics.
"And it not merely an issue of the finances in medical care; it is also a matter of soft values and their effects. How can the effects of medical care be improved? What would society as a whole gain in terms of both reduced suffering and financial savings if the patient can return to work one week faster, for example.
Take part in rounds
The idea is for him learn how the MedTech innovators of the future are being trained.
"Stanford is probably the best place imaginable in this respect," he says.
The remaining third of his time will involve entirely changing his environment – from the lab and university hallways to hospitals, patients and surgery.
"I will accompany surgeons on their rounds at the hospital in Stanford and participate in their work," he says.
He hopes this will lead to cooperation with physicians and the development of new products in MedTech, specifically because he wants his research to be used to solve a real need.
"Imagine being able to help reduce someone's pain," he says.
Some of Torbjörn Lund's various assignments
Professor, Mathematical Sciences
Inspector, Chalmers Student Union
Vice Chairman, Faculty Senate
Board Member, Chalmers Foundation
Deputy Member of the Board, Folkuniversitetet, West Region
Vice Chairman, Gothenburg Centre for Systems Biology
Profile Manager, Mathematical Biology in the Life Science Area of Advance
Vice Chairman, The European Society for Mathematical and Theoretical Biology
Plays the trombone in the mathematics quartet da Möbius Band at Chalmers
Text and photo: Ellen Andersson