Justin Cooper-White is a chemical engineer. He began his career designing petrochemical refineries, drawing on his knowledge of how single components function within large interconnected systems.

That was until Justin decided to apply his engineering strengths elsewhere. Instead of working on petrochemical plants, he wanted to engineer and design human tissue.

While this may seem like a radical career change, Justin explains that in many ways petrochemical plants and human bodies are similar. They are both extremely complex systems that are made up of a multitude of intersecting processes and rely on many small parts coming together to achieve a function.

Instead of pumping crude oil through pipes, you’re pumping blood throughout your body.

Now Justin is applying his engineering skills to the fight against heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Australia. His aim is to be able to engineer heart tissue and use it to replace dead tissue that has been damaged. Essentially, he’s trying to learn how to mend a broken heart.

In this Tedx talk in Brisbane, Justin describes the journey that changed his career direction and outlook on life.

Justin is a global leader in using engineering to solve problems in biology. He is a professor of Bioengineering at the University of Queensland and an Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader at CSIRO.