3-D models for undergraduate education

Where art meets science: development and evaluation of innovative 3-D models for undergraduate education

Team members: Tobias Schwarz, Catriona Bell, Andrew Gardiner, Joan Smith, Andrea Roe, Eoghan Clarkson, Jessie Paterson, Susan Rhind


Veterinary medicine by definition requires students to develop a deep understanding of tissue and organ structure and function. A major challenge in linking theory to practice comes in supporting students to develop spatial understanding of key anatomical structures. This has relevance not only to understanding of the underpinning structure and function of normal body systems but also to understanding of the 3D development of pathology and disease.

Veterinary students on day 1 after graduation are expected to be able to carry out basic surgical procedures so it is perhaps more essential than for any other subject, that they develop a sound understanding of 3D surgical anatomy. An additional relevant point is that veterinary medicine today is predominantly a female occupation with some studies showing that women find it harder to comprehend 3D anatomy from 2D displays than men. There are also important ethical issues which mean that educators wish to explore alternatives to the use of animal tissues in teaching whenever possible.

In this project we will develop and evaluate 3D digital images and 3D printed models for undergraduate student education. Students will be heavily involved in both the development and the evaluation of all the resources.

By collaborating with academics embedded in ECA, this will allow an opportunity for ECA students to work alongside the veterinary students and additionally explore the artistic possibilities of the models selected.

This will build on existing strong collaborations between the disciplines and open up an exciting opportunity for ECA students to consider the artistic potential of the objects and for veterinary students to ‘view with fresh eyes’ the normal and abnormal objects that we create.

Success following this PTAS

Our 3-D project has recently led onto successful award of a Principals Career Development PhD Studentship. The student will start in September and will be working with the 3-D models and exploring their use further in vet education including trying to understand better how we support the acquisition of spatial awareness skills. The pilot work through the PTAS grant was central to this proposal and indeed the candidate took along some of the newly printed models made through the project to her interview!

Additionally, through the collaboration with ECA which was central to this project, we recently hosted a small exhibition at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival 2014.

Final project report

The final report for this project may be downloaded here.


Other Project Outcomes 

  • Schwarz T, Smith J, Roe A, Collins R, Bell C, Gardiner A, Clarkson E, Paterson J, Mather B, Rhind S (2014)  

        Where art meets science: development and evaluation of innovative 3D models for undergraduate education.

        Veterinary Education Symposium, Bristol, UK, July 10-11, 2014      abstract in: Proceedings p. 62.

  • Schwarz T, Bell C, Collins R, Rhind S (2014)

        Generation of 3D printed models from animal CT scans for clinical and teaching purposes.

        2014 EVDI Annual Meeting, Utrecht, The Netherlands, August 27-30, 2014 (oral presentation) abstract in: Proceedings p. 23; Vet Radiol Ultrasound 56 (2015), 699.

  • Stendahl A, Schwarz T, Collins R, Mosley C, Rhind S (2016)

        Creation and evaluation of a 3-D printed model to support otoscopy skills in veterinary students.

        Veterinary Education Symposium, Glasgow, UK, July 7-8, 2016  (poster) abstract in: Proceedings p.39.

        Download poster here.

  • Stendahl, Amanda (2016) - awarded prize for the best presentation at the Veterinary Education Symposium, Glasgow, UK, July 7-8, 2016