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Engineer shortlisted for honour recognising ‘exceptional achievements’

12 February 2015

Peter Wells as St David Awards announcement

A University engineer who pioneered medical ultrasound scanning has been shortlisted for an award which recognises exceptional achievements by people in Wales.

Professor Peter Wells, of the School of Engineering, has been nominated in the Innovation and Technology category of the St David Awards.

Introduced by the Welsh Government in 2014, the awards celebrate the achievements of inspirational people who have made a difference in Wales.

Peter Wells and other St David Award nominees

Professor Jonathan Shepherd from the School of Dentistry was shortlisted in the Innovation and Technology category last year.

Professor Wells said he was delighted to be shortlisted, and his nomination was "completely out of the blue".

The winners will be announced at an event in March.

Professor Wells' work in developing medical ultrasound scanning has contributed to huge improvements in healthcare and has continued from the 1960s to the present day.

He is currently involved in developing a new type of ultrasonic CT scanner which could be used for ultrasonic breast screening, and in the early stages of trying to develop a much faster form of ultrasound scanning.

An ultrasound scan uses high frequency sound waves to create an image of part of the inside of the body.  

Professor Wells described how his research had come to revolutionise clinical practice. 

"Ultrasonic scanners were only just being introduced and a lot of them used water baths," he said.

"Mine was cheaper and easy to use, replacing the water bath, so mine was the one that was adopted.

"It was used around the world for about 15 years."

Today, ultrasound scans are the second most commonly used diagnostic imaging technique after X-rays.

"I never really realised that I had made that sort of impact until I started getting medals for it!" he joked.

Professor Karen Holford, Pro Vice-Chancellor, College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, said: "I'm absolutely delighted that Peter's work has been recognised by the Welsh Government. This nomination reflects the substantial contribution Peter has made to medical ultrasound scanning and the positive impact his work continues to have today."

In 2013, Professor Wells received a Royal Medal from The Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, in relation to his research, and last year was presented with the Sir Frank Whittle Medal by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Professor Wells, whose early career was spent in Bristol, said Cardiff University was a hugely supportive environment.

"Cardiff is very supportive of innovation. It encourages free thinking innovation rather than asking people always to work along pre-planned lines," he said.