Polish PhD student receives „Student Nobel Prize”

Michał Cichowicz, a PhD student from West Pomerania, has gained recognition for his pioneering work on an innovative lower limb prosthesis. His invention, honoured in esteemed competitions such as the „Student Nobel Prize”, aims to restore the sensation of natural movement for amputees.

Michał Cichowicz stands out as the only student from West Pomerania who secured a prestigious award in the nationwide „Student Nobel” competition this year. His commendation stems from his extensive research efforts, primarily centred around the innovative design of a lower limb prosthesis. The ambitious goal of Cichowicz’s creation is to enable individuals to reconnect with the tactile experience of the ground beneath their feet, reminiscent of their pre-amputation sensations.

He is currently a PhD student at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering at the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin, specifically in the Department of Electrical Machines and Drives. From the very beginning of his academic journey, he has been captivated by the fields of bionics and biomechanics.

Cichowicz recalls that his initial studies focused on automation and robotics. However, he realised that he needed to enhance his mechanical knowledge and expertise. As a result, he made the decision to pursue additional studies in electrical engineering, mechanics, and machine construction. This choice was driven by his deep fascination with these subjects and a strong desire to delve into topics that were closely aligned with his research interests.

In 2021, Michał embarked on a project involving the development of a lower limb prosthesis. The inspiration for this endeavour came when he stumbled upon a post on a popular social networking site where his fellow student of the year was seeking financial assistance to acquire a new prosthesis. 

„It turned out that he is an amp football player at the Warta Poznań club and needs money for a new prosthesis. I figured I’d call one of my colleagues and ask if he could help me with the prosthetic design. Another friend joined the team, and when we wanted to start working, we decided that we needed a mentor.”

They approached engineer Paweł Herbin for support, who expressed his willingness to assist under one condition: the young scientists needed to establish a Student Science Club. Embracing this opportunity, they established the club and embarked on the journey of creating a prototype for the prosthesis within its framework.

Unlike conventional devices of its kind, Michał’s invention possesses enhanced mobility. By utilising EMG (Electromyography) electrodes, the prosthesis can receive signals from the muscles, enabling it to respond and move in a manner akin to a natural limb. Furthermore, the inclusion of a spring system allows for the stabilisation of the prosthesis’s movement, even on uneven surfaces.

Michał explains –„This prosthesis can move not only backwards and forwards but also sideways. With uneven edges, there is a chance of the foot bending. In the case of a patient with a rigid prosthesis, there is a risk that the knee or hip joint will become deformed. We try to prevent this, which is why the prosthesis is additionally spring-loaded”.

Michał and his team have garnered multiple accolades for their prototype of the prosthesis, with the most notable recognition being awarded by the Independent Students’ Association as part of the 14th edition of the „Student Nobel Prize”. The young scientist from Szczecin received the prestigious honour in the 3W category, which encompasses water, hydrogen, and coal. The competition’s jury acknowledged his comprehensive research efforts, placing particular emphasis on his groundbreaking work in developing an innovative prosthesis.

Participation in the competition involved 840 students from all across Poland. In the initial stages, meticulous and extensive documentation was required to validate the scientific achievements.„Mine ended up being 44 pages long.” – Michał laughs.  The final phase involved preparing a multimedia presentation through which the top 10 winners were selected.

As a recipient of the award, the young scientist was presented with a statuette and a prize of PLN 5,000. Michał remains optimistic that the prosthesis will soon be available for commercialisation. He emphasises – ” If we manage to commercialise it, we believe that people will be able to feel the ground under their feet as they felt it before.”

 

Author: Patrycja Bodzek-Kurzyńska

Photo: Patryk Wikaliński / Twitter @kawecki_maciej

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