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About Us

Dr Margaret Saunders - Consultant Clinical ScientistBIRCH logo

In March 2004, I took over as Biophysics Group Head following the retirement of Professor Alan Preece.  

During this time we established the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health (BIRCH) which was involved in the study of environmental toxin exposure and child health, specialising in both in vitro and ex vivo placental barrier models. The research focussed on the mechanisms of placental transfer and toxicity of chemicals to which the mother may be exposed during pregnancy.


With clinically relevant research a priority for the Trust, we decided to merge the Biophysics Research Unit and the Clinical Engineering Group in April 2012 to form the Bioengineering, Innovation and Research Hub, giving BIRCH a new identity and logo to reflect the breadth of expertise and knowledge encompassed by the new team. 

Combining the strengths of the team which cover a broad range from clinical applications of ultrasound and MRI to high level computer diagnostics and clinical trials, we are in an excellent position to act as one of the areas for research, innovation and development within the Division of Diagnostics and Therapies. This will help to ensure our contribution to the high quality research that takes place within this Trust for direct patient benefit.

BIRCH also plays a key role in providing scientific support for non-ionising radiation i.e. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Ultrasound across the Trust and beyond.  The team members carry out acceptance testing when new MRI or ultrasound equipment arrives to ensure that it is functional and fit for purpose, alongside colleagues from the Clinical Engineering (MEMO) teams.  Regular quality assurance (QA) checks are then undertaken by BIRCH staff to ensure that the equipment continues to function as it should and generates accurate diagnostics results for patients. The team also gives support and advice for the safe management of MR services such as MRIs and ultrasounds to ensure patient and staff protection.

The team also has a role in teaching and training through the Scientific Training Programme (STP) in Medical Physics run by the National School of Healthcare Science and contributing to the FRCR lecturesgiven to Radiology students as part of their training.

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