Professor Hugh McDermott (1986 - current)

Prof McDermott is Chief Technology Officer of the Bionics Institute, and has worked with the Institute from its inception, initially in a part-time role, joining full-time as a Deputy Director in 2010.

Hugh always had an interest in electronic engineering and completed a degree in this discipline at the University of Melbourne. After finishing his degree, Hugh started research as a PhD student in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne. His doctoral work involved developing an improved clinical cochlear implant, and one of Hugh’s PhD supervisors was Professor Graeme Clark. Hugh reflects that he has had a very productive relationship with Prof Clark over many years. Hugh has had employment related broadly to this area ever since, mainly at the University.

Hugh has had various roles with the Bionics Institute since the day it was created, like many other researchers who had been working in the Department of Otolaryngology. One of Hugh’s earliest achievements was a custom-designed chip that went into an advanced cochlear implant. This was evaluated with several patients and led to improvements in the commercial device. Another project that Hugh led aimed to improve the ability of cochlear implant recipients to hear and appreciate music. Graeme Clark specifically suggested that project, which was of particular interest to Hugh as his father was a professional musician.

There are many things that Hugh has enjoyed about working with the Bionics Institute, in particular the freedom to pursue projects of interest in biomedical engineering. Building on the world-renowned success of the Cochlear implant, Hugh and his colleagues have used the same underlying techniques to create innovative devices to treat other challenging health conditions.

Hugh also enjoys the direct involvement of clinicians in the work he does. He appreciates that Australia has a more streamlined approach to clinical trials in comparison with other countries, and this is of particular interest to international researchers, clinicians, and companies.

One of Hugh’s aims has been to grow the Institute’s capabilities and reduce dependence on grant funding, particularly by developing innovations with strong potential for commercial success.

“One thing that is distinctive about the Bionics Institute is that we bring very sophisticated engineering techniques to solve challenging health problems, which is so different to what is done in drug development.”

Prof Hugh McDermott

Parkinsons Disease Research Team