Bulmaro Valdes, PhD '17, Biomedical Engineering
...the fact that UBC is such a multicultural and diverse university gives everyone the opportunity to enrich their learning and personal experiences both inside and outside the classroom/lab.
I am PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering whose research focus is to use technology to help people with disabilities. During my time at UBC I have been employing robotic devices, commercially available motion tracking cameras, and video games as tools for the physical rehabilitation of stroke survivors and teenagers with cerebral palsy. The multidisciplinary nature of my work allows me to collaborate with therapists, neuroscientists, kinesiologists, and engineers, which gives me the opportunity to learn and apply concepts from different disciplines. In addition, I have been able to travel around British Columbia’s Lower Mainland to present the results of my work and to recruit potential participants for the studies we conduct at UBC.
Why did you choose engineering?
Since I was a kid, I was always interested in learning how things worked. This curiosity drove my decision to enroll in an engineering program, as I knew that this area of knowledge could give me a better understanding of the inner workings of things. After finishing my degree in Mechatronics, I worked on developing automation projects for manufacturing companies. This was an amazing experience that gave me the opportunity translate my knowledge into practice. In addition, I soon came to realize that I was deeply motivated to use engineering as a tool to help people instead of just working with machines. This realization was the reason why I decided to specialize in Biomedical Engineering.
What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?
The opportunity to collaborate with people from different disciplines and cultures. I think the fact that UBC is such a multicultural and diverse university gives everyone the opportunity to enrich their learning and personal experiences both inside and outside the classroom/lab.
What have you learned that is most valuable?
That it is not only about the “nuts and bolts” when you are solving engineering problems, because most of the time, the focus will be in designing for people.
What advice would you give a student considering a graduate degree in engineering?
Follow your heart and find what motivates you. If you are doing what you love, you will always be motivated to move forward and do a great job.
Where do you find your inspiration?
In the people that come to the lab to participate in our studies. They really inspire me to do a better job in creating new tools to help them regain their motor function.
How will you go on to make a difference in our world?
In some ways, a PhD is all about making a really small contribution to our current understanding of a really specific topic, which can sound a bit discouraging. However, the work we do tends to be at the frontiers of our knowledge as human beings, which I find really fascinating. Regardless of the passage of time, every product, publication, and dissertation that comes out of our PhD’s will contribute to building a better world and increasing the chances of creating new solutions for problems that we encounter on our planet. I believe this is the difference that every PhD student will make in our world.