Amir Reza Meysami Fard, BASc '18, Chemical and Biological Engineering
"What I have learned from engineering is that it is possible to find solutions for all problems, but each problem requires time and effort. Success stories are made through putting in that extra bit of work. "
My journey in bioengineering began in the summer of 2014: in my first-year bio class, I realized I had a passion for biotechnology. I followed up on an idea I had in that class with Dr. Vikram Yadav, and that led to my first co-op job at Dr. Piret’s lab working on 3D cultures. After my co-op, I was even more enthusiastic and passionate about biotechnology, so I joined UBC BIOMOD (Biomolecular Design). In 2017, I started my second co-op at STEMCELL Technologies with the bioengineering group and I also became the captain of UBC BIOMOD. Our club goals in 2017 were to provide an environment for all members to grow and enjoy and to work on a project that can improve people’s lives. We created an assay for quantifying cancer biomarkers directly in serum. Our assay was designed with considerations of its need for financial sensibility, so we also submitted and presented our project to the Innovation OnBoard competition where we got third place. I have personally been continuing the research on this assay and I am hopeful that our work would help facilitate a future where blood tests are used for early detection of cancer. In September, I will take my next step in my bioengineering journey; I will join the University of Toronto to start my PhD in biomedical engineering.
Why did you choose engineering?
I was initially very unsure about my choice, but all my doubts went away on Imagine Day. One of the professors speaking to us said that if you like solving real life problems, then engineering is the right place for you. Being blessed with a great family and great opportunities, I have always felt responsible for my blessings, so my aim has always been to solve problems and help people. The professor’s statement made me realize the great choice that I had made.
What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?
The people! There are three groups of people I’ve met at UBC who have been a source of inspiration, fun, love, and everything great for me. First: my best friends who I’ve known since second-year; they’ve always kept me humble, been real with me about everything, and we’ve had a lot of great times together throughout the years. Second: my UBC BIOMOD family; I joined BIOMOD in third-year because I wanted to do more with my time at university, and what I got were friends who have inspired me with their hard-work and helped me become the best version of myself. Spending so much time working together made us became a family and I love every single one of them. Third: the professors who supported me, inspired me and believed in me. Specifically, Dr. Vikram Yadav and Dr. Steven Hallam (from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology) and many others who were willing to give me all the resources and honest criticism I have needed to grow. They have opened many doors for me and I will be forever thankful to them.
What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?
Engineering has been incredibly challenging; throughout these five years, there have been many long nights and stressful periods. But I feel like it has all been worth it. What I have learned from engineering is that it is possible to find solutions for all problems, but each problem requires time and effort. Success stories are made through putting in that extra bit of work. Also, as cliché as this sounds, failures are just part of life and they should be thought of as opportunities to learn.
How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?
I am currently continuing the project we started with UBC BIOMOD in 2017, which was on the development of an assay for early detection of cancer through blood tests. The project is showing a lot of potential and I am very excited to see where I can take it. Afterwards, I will be going to the University of Toronto to start my PhD in biomedical engineering. I’m sure I will continue using my skills learned at UBC there as well!
What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?
Going to San Francisco twice with UBC BIOMOD, specifically the nights after we had presented our research and were finally done with the competition. It takes a special kind of effort and people to meet each week and work in the lab or on computers: some nights we worked till 1 AM while having mid-terms and assignments piled up on us, or while working full-time. In both years after the competition, we all felt proud, happy and appreciative of each other and we danced like no one was watching!
How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?
Studying in engineering has given me the “engineering” mindset. Because of this mindset I can dissect problems very well and find solutions. I can make assumptions with confidence and I can correct my assumptions when needed. I am also very comfortable with starting new projects, because I know I can learn anything I need to complete the projects. Finally, I have learned that when problems are overwhelmingly undefined, you should just start from one point and try to go full circle. These skills are essential for the next chapter of my life, and I am so grateful to UBC, my co-op employers and my student team for teaching me these.
What advice would you give a student considering engineering?
You do you. I think we are all unique and we have our own way of looking at things, our own way of solving problems, and our own attraction to the type of questions that excites us. If a student wants to solve problems that directly affect people, then they should come to engineering.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration in the people around me. My family first and foremost, for their resilience to the many problems they have faced in their lives and the many blessings they have given me. My friends, because they are courageous, persistent and hard-working; and my BIOMOD family because they have an incredible passion for helping the people around them and they also have incredible hustle and hunger for success.
What are your plans for the future?
My long-term goal is to start my own company in the biomedical field.
How will you go on to make a difference in our world?
I hope to first complete our BIOMOD project, aiming to make measurement of a specific type of biomarker in blood much easier. Hopefully completion of this project will take us closer to blood tests being used to diagnose cancers and will result in earlier detection of cancers and improved survival.
Then, I hope to make accurate in vitro models of cancer that should lead to better ways of understanding and treating cancer through my PhD. After that, I hope to continue doing things that interest me and are beneficial to society.