Martin Fagerström

New co-director for Health Engineering

​He is a solid mechanics researcher with an interest in sports and health. With his broad – and somewhat different – perspective, Martin Fagerström is now starting his new assignment as Co-director of the Health Engineering Area of Advance.
Hi Martin! Why did the position as Co-director appeal to you?

For a number of reasons, but mainly because of its driving force in that research results very often, and in a concrete way, contribute to improved quality of life for many people. It feels great to be able to join and develop Health Engineering Area of Advance, with all the existing power and energy among a large number of researchers, teachers, students and other staff at Chalmers. This, paired with the fact that our combined expertise is so clearly in demand, from both the healthcare system and medical research, simply makes it very exciting. I would very much like to contribute to building and shaping a broad, but welded, Area of Advance. I also value Chalmers’ investment in sports, which I think is a fantastic arena for education, utilisation and research. Chalmers Sports & Technology, and Chalmers’ commitment as one of the country’s National Sports Universities fits well into Health Engineering, I think.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you work with and what’s your background?

I came to Chalmers in 1998 to study the Mechanical Engineering programme. Right from the start, I took a great interest in mechanics and solid mechanics, and after I graduated from the bachelor’s programme in material and structural mechanics, I continued as a doctoral student at the Department of Applied Mechanics. After finishing my thesis on numerical methods for predicting crack propagation and failure progression, I left Chalmers to test my wings as a CAE Engineer at a consulting firm. But pretty soon, I realized that I wanted to be in research. Since 2009 I am back at Chalmers, at the division of Material and Computational Mechanics, which is now located at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science.

What’s your research about?

In my current research I’ve continued to focus on describing the mechanical responses of materials and structures, with the main focus on describing fracture processes in lightweight materials and structures, mainly fiber reinforced polymeric materials. Within this area, I have a fairly wide range of interest with several areas of application, from light weight applications in industrial sectors such as the automotive and aerospace industries, to applications in sports and health.

So that’s how you connect to the area of health?

Yes. I am very interested in sports and love all kinds of training, and this has also led me to be involved in Chalmers Sports & Technology for quite many years now. My involvement in S&T has increased my interest in research challenges that are closely related to sports, with a focus on health, especially when it comes to sports injuries. In addition, I have recently been able to ascertain the strong driving force in working with challenges that, in one way or another, contribute to increased societal well-being.

Why is it important to have an Area of Advance like Health Engineering?

Going forward, I believe we are facing major challenges in the area of health. Several of these are probably also difficult to solve if the scientific and engineering perspective is missing. I believe that initiatives such as our Area of Advance make it easier to identify and combine different important competencies, and to address challenges that no individual researcher or research group can handle on their own. As an individual researcher, it is also difficult to always have a good overview of what supplementary competencies exist within Chalmers. Coordination through an Area of Advance is an important enabler. In addition, in my own interaction with researchers from Gothenburg Sports Trauma Research Center within the Sahlgrenska Academy, it has become clear on several occasions  that a close contact and understanding of each other’s research can create ideas and opportunities that had not even been deemed possible in the perspective of an individual field. In this, the Area of Advance also plays an important role in identifying and enabling these meetings between researchers.

What will be your main contribution to the AoA?

In terms of research, my own ambitions and projects currently lie mainly in sports technology and sports injuries. Apart from that, I am a positive and happy person with a lot of energy, and I believe I have a relatively good ability to engage people to work together and towards common goals. In projects, I like to have everything in order, which can always come in handy. However, it does not appear that way if you were to visit my office…

What’s your first priority as Co-director?

My first priority will be to get to know all the fine work in building and defining the Area of Advance that has been conducted by our Director Ann-Sofie Cans, the profile leaders, the AoA staff and all committed researchers at Chalmers, and try to get an overall picture of what health at Chalmers really means. For the Area of Advance to be successful, we need to identify and understand the whole picture, as well as ensure that everyone who wants to contribute is included in a good way.

What’s most important to do as a newly started Area of Advance?

To continue the internal work of constructing and anchoring the AoA, by identifying all the different dimensions of the health area represented at Chalmers. Here, the dialogue with the staff at the AoA, and the profile leaders is a good starting point. It is also important to work actively to meet the evident and great interest, and demand of our competences, from other universities – primarily the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg but of course also others – and from the healthcare providers and the region at large, from companies and from society as a whole. Continuing to establish and strengthen our contacts with these partners becomes an important activity in parallel with internal work.

Text: Mia Malmstedt
Photos: Marcus Folino, Carina Schultz

Published: Tue 30 Jun 2020.