Faces of BME – Soowan Choi

MASc candidate at Elaine Biddiss lab

I would define a biomedical engineer as an individual with a versatile skill set that works well with other specialists within an interdisciplinary environment. This is what I am striving for, as I would like to use my background in mechanical engineering, within the field of biomedical engineering, to help increase the quality of life of less fortunate individuals. Specifically, I want to give children the same opportunity to pursue their dreams without being limited by their physical conditions.

I work with Dr. Elaine Biddiss at the Possibility Engineering and Research Lab (PEARL), which is located within Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. The PEARL lab creates interactive video games to track clinical exercises performed by children with cerebral palsy. My research thesis involves the analysis of the 3D depth sensor, or simply, the camera used in the games to capture changes in movement characteristics over time. Using video games as a rehabilitation tool has the potential to increase accessibility for children with cerebral palsy and complement standard therapy at a reduced cost.

In 2013, I had the opportunity to travel overseas to Ghana, Africa. Although it was a volunteer trip, my initial motive at the time was to explore a culture that I had never encountered before. This trip changed my perspective of the world, as there were children the same age as me that lacked access to basic healthcare and education. Education and healthcare were two things that I had been taking for granted all my life. Returning to Canada, I became more involved within the school community, as I was more confident in my ability to positively influence the world around me.

Photo credit: Qin Dai.

Before coming to the University of Toronto, I finished my undergraduate degree at Queen’s University. During my time at Queen’s, I would spend a portion of my summer visiting my family in South Korea – which is where my love for hiking started. There are many hills and mountains within Seoul, which are ideal for escaping the constant stimulation of city life. Once you reach the top of the mountains, the view that you get of the city is breathtaking. The skyscrapers and concrete buildings reduce to the size of lego blocks, putting your life into perspective and washing away the accumulated stress of daily routine. I would capture these pleasant memories of hiking and visualize them back in Canada, when desktop tables and laptop screens become the norm of my everyday life.

In a way, I always believed that being able to focus in class was a luxury for those that were physically and mentally healthy. I still live by this statement, as spending time in nature has helped me clear my brain during the many ups and downs that research entails. Through my research within the field of biomedical engineering, I hope to provide children with the same physical freedom that would allow them to spend time in nature and view the world at its peak.