Graduate Tales: Fall 2014

Congratulations to all of our Fall 2014 graduates!

What are IBBME grads doing post-graduation?  Meet some of our newest alumni…

Padina Pezeshki (PhD): Padina has already made a name for herself in some influential circles: Padina was a finalist in TedTalk’s 2012 talent search for her talk on how the research in her lab is affecting the fight against metastatic breast cancer.

David Rees (MASc): As last year’s BESA President, David has been invoking school spirit among his fellow students…and advancing science. Named the winner of IBBME’s Scientific Day 2014 Podium presentation, David has been advancing the study of wound healing through the study of zebra mussels.

Gillian Cook (MHSc): A 2013 Milligan Scholar, Gillian was IBBME’s Clinical Engineering student representative for two years while she’s studied the intricacies of hip replacements.

Mario Kovacevic (MASc): For Mario, also a 2013 Milligan scholar, entrepreneurism goes hand in hand with biomedical engineering research. When he hasn’t been playing soccer for the University of Toronto, he has worked hard to move his graduate research on techniques for treating overactive bladder syndrome to the marketplace.

What are you doing post-degree?

Gillian: I am currently job-hunting at a number of forensic engineering and management consulting firms, writing a research paper, and applying to conferences.

David: My partner Chloe and I are capitalizing on the rare school/work junction to gallivant across Australia and South-East Asia for a few months. We’re both wanderlusts and eager to explore as well as enjoy some genuine ‘R&R’ before really digging into our careers. After being consumed with my project for a few years, it will be cathartic to relax the mind before the next step!

Mario: As of September, I have started a six-month internship at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in the Tech Transfer Office. Beyond that, I have applied to medical school (again!) so hopefully a successful application cycle this year will help solidify my long-term plans.

Padina: I’ll continue to teach at UofT engineering. I started teaching the fourth year MSE course (MSE442 Surgical and Dental Implant Design), which is a very interesting, grad-like course for students who have some interest in the biomedical/life-sciences type fields. It was a fun and meaningful experience the first time and I’m going to repeat that.

What are your plans for the future/your career?

David: Once I’ve gotten travel out of my system, I aim to find employment overseas. Many Biomedical/Life Science manufacturing companies are located in the States and the EU – I feel it would be rewarding to experience engineering abroad and bring some fresh perspective back to Canada. Long-term I hope to settle in Canada – ideally with a budding Biomedical Eng. company – and be a part of the growing Canadian sector.

Mario: Somehow finding a way to combine my education in Biomedical Engineering, and a career in medicine would be the ideal scenario.

Gillian: After I work for a while and get my P.Eng., I hope to pursue an MBA, which will allow me to focus more on the management side of engineering.

Padina: Although my plans could change as I move forward in my career, at this time I plan to stay in academia and continue collaborating with more schools and universities.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge you face post-graduation?

Gillian: To me the biggest challenge is determining which career path to follow. A Biomedical Engineering Master’s degree from U of T opens so many doors and opportunities that it can be difficult to choose just one path. I think sometimes you just have to take a risk and start down a path, as it is only through trial and error that you can find out whether a career is truly right for you.

David: Bridging the gap from school to work is intimidating. Post-graduation, you seemingly turn from ‘student’ to ‘unemployed’ overnight. After spending a few years in the lab, it’s tough getting back in the mode of hitting the pavement and getting your CV out there. But, I’m optimistic! I’ve made some important networking contacts while at IBBME that I will definitely be looking to for guidance and opportunities.

Padina: Well since I’m interested in academic positions, the biggest challenge is justifying myself as a potential candidate straight out of a PhD and without completing a post-doctoral fellowship.

What’s the most important lesson you learned during your degree?

Gillian: No one can work in a silo. I would not have been able to complete my thesis without the help of numerous people: from fellow labmates to accommodating sales reps. Work gets done much faster and better when you collaborate, and I will in turn be happy and willing to help out future students and colleagues.

David: As cliché as it sounds, time management. Graduate studies are a unique time in life as you have incredible control over your time and resulting experience; you are in the driver’s seat. If you work smart and hard, you can make a significant scientific contribution while simultaneously developing professionally and personally. I’ve seen students (and experienced) the ‘research slump’, usually resulting in less-than-productive days in the lab. Avoid this mode at all costs. I won’t be so bold as to say I’ve mastered time management, but I definitely achieved more than I thought possible in the last two years due to proper time management.

Mario: Over the course of my degree I feel as though I’ve better learned how to deal with stress. I’ve come to the realization that “my basket is never going to be empty.” That is to say, when one item on my to-do list is finished, there will always be another two items looming ahead (i.e. a midterm, a grant deadline, a large project at work). You’ll likely never be at a point in your life or career when everything is done and you can “finally” relax, there will always be more to do. And to steal a quote (by Vivian Greene) that is hanging over my lab-mate, Parisa’s, desk “Life’s not about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Padina: I really understood why high-level management people get paid the most. People management, setting goals and visions and liaising and directing people, colleagues and comrades is a really tough undertaking and sometimes more impactful than any technical work. So I guess people skills/EQ is quite important I learned.

What will you miss most about IBBME/your graduate degree?

Mario: Tough question. Firstly, I’ll miss the lab itself. I’ve spent so many hours there that I can’t help but feel like it was my second home. I’ll also miss my supervisor, Dr. Paul Yoo, who was a perfect mentor throughout the entire process. Finally, I’ll miss the ultimate flexibility that comes along with being a graduate student. The ability to come in and leave the lab at all times of the day was truly something I took for granted….something which I appreciate now that I’m working in a more formal/structured setting (i.e. a nine to five job).

Gillian: The thing I will miss most about my graduate degree is the flexibility it provided with regard to a work schedule, as I found I was at my most productive during the afternoon and evening, and was therefore able to tailor my schedule accordingly; a privilege I will not be afforded once I start working. I will furthermore miss the people and events that are integral to the IBBME faculty, as I was the Clinical Engineering Representative for two years, and thus IBBME was a large part of my life.

Any advice for current IBBME students?

David: Get involved with the IBBME community, and explore/shmooze other labs! Inspiration for many of the ideas I implemented came from casual yet fruitful conversations with other IBBME students and staff at speaker series events, after class, at the gym, pub, etc. Gabbing about my work with other students in a completely separate field usually resulted in a unique question or fresh approach to my problems, which can lead to major breakthroughs. IBBME and BESA create many opportunities to interact with your peers I highly recommend taking advantage of them.

Mario: Try and find a balance between school and work. Obviously, going out to party every night and only showing up to the lab twice a week isn’t the ideal scenario but neither is working twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Keep doing great work, but find time to see friends, play sports and watch Netflix.

Padina: Most IBBME students are too smart to need any advice. But I’ll remind them that they are really fortunate to be part of IBBME and the UofT community. There is much to take advantage of and expand the breadth of one’s education here.

Gillian: Enjoy this time, as it is not often that you will have the opportunity to learn something new every day, and be surrounded by other intelligent, driven colleagues.

Last Thoughts?

David: Create knowledge, and remember to engage with your peers at the Institution!

Gillian: Don’t be afraid to take risks with your research and career, as you never know what will happen until you try!

Mario: Smile 🙂