visiting professor  

From pure mechanics to biomechanics
Ray Ogden’s research studies
Interview to Ray Ogden by Elisabetta Nones


Ray Ogden is one of the major international experts in the mechanics of solids. He was invited by Davide Bigoni, head of the Department of Mechanical and Structural Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering, where he taught a two-week course. We met him during his stay in Trento and asked him a few questions on his research studies.

Professor Ogden, you have done research in the mechanics of solids, in rubber mechanics and in biomechanics. What is the correlation amongst these different fields?
The common feature amongst these different areas is the use of similar mathematical tools in the study of the phenomena. My main fields of interest are: the nonlinear elasticity theory and its applications, particularly to modelling the material properties of rubberlike solids, the study of the elastic wave propagation, and finally biomechanics (including the modelling of the mechanical properties of soft biological tissues). The applications of my research are linked to everyday life: deformation of car tires, mechanics of vibration isolators in buildings to protect from earthquake shocks and biomechanics of soft biological tissues, such as arteries, and development of ultra-sound devices for medical applications. I am presently developing mathematical formulations to explain changes in arterial wall structures due to high blood pressure.

What do you think about the professional level of the Italian engineers involved in your research area? Do you have any collaborations with Italian universities?
I think that compared to the international standard, the professional level of Italian researchers in this area is quite high. In Italy and in particular in Trento there are a number of very good researchers. In addition to Trento, I have had collaborations with the universities of Lecce, Padova, Perugia and I have taught three advanced course at the International Centre for Mechanical Sciences in Udine (CISM). I also have contacts with Italian industries, including Pirelli. 

How did you come in contact with the University of Trento?
I met Davide Bigoni when he was still teaching in Bologna. When Davide moved to Trento he invited me to give two seminars in 1999 and one of his Ph.D. students spent five months working in Glasgow under my supervision. Subsequently, I was invited to give a two-week course on the nonlinear theory of elasticity with application to structural mechanics. I am enjoying the course quite a lot since the students are good and are interested in the topic.

A last question: prof. Bigoni told me about your book, which has gained a great success. Could you tell me something about it?
The title of the book is Non-linear elastic deformations. It was published in 1984 and then re-printed in 1997 by Dover. It is used by many European and American universities to teach graduate courses. I think the key of its success is that it addresses a very technical and specific subject area which has not previously been covered in such clear detail. Part of the aim of the book was to provide a general theory that has several engineering applications. In fact, a good theory is needed in order to interpret results from experiments and to design suitable experimental protocols.