Celebrating the 40th Student Research Conference (ToBE)

photo credit:
Qin Dai

The Toronto Biomedical Engineering Conference (ToBE), since its inception in 1985, had solidified its reputation as the longest-running student-led conference in the field. Held annually at the University of Toronto, ToBE was renowned for fostering the exchange of cutting-edge knowledge and innovative ideas within the biomedical engineering community. Each year, the conference attracted esteemed speakers from around the globe, enhancing the experience for attendees and inspiring future leaders in the field. Additionally, it offered a vital platform for students to present their research, engage in meaningful collaborations, and contribute to the advancement of biomedical engineering.

This year’s conference welcomed more than 250 registrants on May 10th at the Hart House was particularly notable for featuring three distinguished keynote speakers.

Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist recognized for her groundbreaking work in developing CRISPR-Cas9 genome-engineering technology, delivered a keynote address. Her contributions had revolutionized genetic research and opened new possibilities in medicine and agriculture. Dr. Doudna was also known for her advocacy on the ethical implications of genome editing.

Another highlight was Dr. John-Ross Rizzo, a leading physician-scientist from NYU Langone Health, who directed initiatives in disability inclusion and innovation in rehabilitation medicine. Dr. Rizzo’s research focused on motor control and the development of advanced wearables to assist patients with visual impairments and those recovering from strokes.

The third keynote speaker was Dr. Andrew Pelling, a professor at the University of Ottawa known for his pioneering work in using plant-based biomaterials to engineer human tissues. His innovative approach had garnered international acclaim, particularly after his TED talk on growing human ears from apples. Dr. Pelling’s lab had translated numerous discoveries into practical applications, founding several companies in biotechnology and medicine.

In addition to keynote addresses, ToBE 2024 featured a robust lineup of student presentations, where participants from the University of Toronto’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering showcased their research. These presentations were a cornerstone of the conference, providing students with the opportunity to share their findings with a diverse audience of peers, faculty, and industry professionals, fostering a vibrant academic discourse and networking. Here are the winners from the poster and oral presentations this year:

The conference also included workshops aimed at enhancing professional skills and entrepreneurial acumen. One workshop, led by Dr. Lydia Wilkinson, focused on effective communication strategies for engineers, drawing on techniques from theatre and performance studies to build creativity and confidence. Another workshop, led by entrepreneurs Garry Lee and Aaron Rezaei, addressed the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship in the biomedical field, offering insights into navigating regulatory landscapes and scaling innovative startups.

ToBE had continued to be a pivotal event in the BME community at U of T, inspiring and equipping the next generation of engineers to make significant contributions to the field.