IBBME’s Annual Scientific Day Wows Students, Companies, with Professional Turn

Student professionalization takes top priority at career-oriented events

The Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) lived up to its long-standing spring tradition with this year’s Scientific Day, a one-day conference that gives the University’s biomedical engineering students an opportunity to showcase their work.

This year the organizing committee of Scientific Day went a step further with the introduction of a second half-day events to help students professionalize. A Career Fair and Career Panel, held on May 2 nd at the Medical Science Building, introduced those students looking for jobs to 19 hiring companies, including ThermoFisher Scientific Canada, Vivosonic – a company that originated at IBBME – and Mynd Tec, the company created by IBBME core faculty, Professor Milos Popovic , among many others.

Students were given an opportunity to speak with research scientists, HR personnel and managers at the event, which focused on companies looking to hire skilled biomedical engineering students and graduates. Many students arrived armed with CVs and business cards in hand, ready to capitalize on opportunities.

Career Panel

“There was a palpable sense of energy and enthusiasm from the companies involved in the now-expanded Career Day events – from the panelists to the exhibitors who were eager to talk to our students about career opportunities,” said IBBME’s incoming Director, Professor Christopher Yip . “Engaging our alumni on the career panel was a terrific idea as they provided real-world context about how their training in IBBME prepared them for their careers,” he continued.

The hour-long career panel featured IBBME alumni Jorge Silva, co-founder of Komodo OpenLab, an open-source assistive technology lab; Aaron Steinman of Vivosonic; Rohin Iyer of Tissue Regeneration Therapeutics (a spin-off company started by Professor Jed Davies, as well as Stephen Perelgut from IBM Canada and Linus Leung from Baylis Medical.

For those students considering the job market the panelists had sage, and sometimes unexpected, advice.

“We really appreciate people who aren’t afraid to fail and learn from their mistakes,” Jorge Silva offered the over 200 audience members. Silva, whose company, Komodo OpenLab, is founded upon crowd-sourced technology and “wikinomics,” pointed to the ever-evolving democratization of production.

Rohin Iyer suggested that there are a remarkable number of jobs available to emerging biomedical engineers who aren’t afraid of wearing many hats. Canada is known for ‘keystone companies’,” argued Iyer, “smaller companies where you can land those first jobs.”

IBM panelist Stephen Perelgut likewise noted that Canada had more than a fair share of “keystone companies”: “In the global world,” he said, “investments happen regionally.” Mentioning that 77% of jobs in Canada are now service jobs, Perelgut also argued that “really great R & D jobs” are available in Canada, a country that is beginning to attract more industry investment.

Stephen Perelgut, though, brought another important dimension to the discussion on career paths: gender. “You get a male applicant who has one skill out of three, he’s going to apply for the job.,” Perelgut insisted, whereas, “A female applicant with 9 out of 10 of the skills listed won’t.”

Scientific Day

The May 3 rd Scientific Day event began with a keynote address by Princeton Associate Professor Celeste Nelson, who argued for greater collaboration among the disciplines. “There’s not enough dialogue between tissue engineering and developmental biology,” she stated.

Over 100 of IBBME’s graduate students, as well as biomedical systems engineering Undergraduate students, displayed their posters in the annual research competition in two different sessions. As in past years, there were also 8 oral presentations; this year’s winner, Kenneth Ng, presented on focal thermal therapy to treat localized cancers – using heat to induce cell destruction.

But it was the Innovation in Emerging Fields keynote, Dr. Bradley Strauss , who brought the message home again that IBBME is a place where things are happening.

“You’re a unique group,” he told the crowded Bahen Centre lecture hall as he walked through the many years and steps involved in the emergence of the first product of his company, Matrizyme Pharma. “I think the best way to go into medicine these days is through engineering,” he cited, noting the necessity of close partnerships between engineering and medicine.

His product, Collagenese, is going into a second round of clinical trials later this year. The product has shown remarkable success rates in softening the cellulose known to block artery walls in operations to chronic total occlusion – a condition that occurs when arteries in the heart become completely blocked.

Dr. Strauss, a Senior Scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute, as well as a Professor in the Department of Medicine (Cross-appointed to IBBME), guided students, Alumni and faculty through his personal process of arriving at his product, something he first started thinking about in 1968.

“We have an amazing culture here,” stated IBBME Director Paul Santerre in his opening address.” Evident from the days’ events is that IBBME’s culture is one increasingly serious about spinning innovation, discovery and entrepreneurism from its doors into the wider world.

Scientific Day Winners

Podium presentation winner: Kenneth Ng – Honorable mention: James Stewart

Biomaterials, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine poster winner: Nika Shakiba- Honorable mention: Yasaman Delaviz

Neural, sensory systems and rehab poster winner: Jaclyn Obermeyer – Honorable mention: Elias Abou Zeid

Nanotechnology, molecular imaging and systems biology poster winner: Jessica J. Li – Honorable mention: Gillian Vanderlee and Petro Czupiel

Engineering in a clinical setting poster winner: Charlie Wu – Honorable mention: Katherine Chan

IBBME Scientific Day and Career Fair – 2013