Clinton Large, BASc '17, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Clinton Large
The world is facing some of its most complex problems to date, with world hunger and sustainability as just a couple of examples. We need unique and creative solutions that are only going to come about by thinking in new ways.

Clinton Large is a recent graduate from Chemical and Biological Engineering. During his time at UBC, he was heavily involved in the engineering community. He completed all five Co-op terms, one of which was in Sweden working with organ transplant technology. He organized an inaugural gala for National Engineering Month that raised over $8000 for student awards and gender diversity in engineering. Large is on the Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST) working on a stroke rehabilitation device, and he designed a process to turn human and food waste on cruise ships into heat and electricity for his capstone design course, and is a member of the 30Network addressing housing affordability in Vancouver. It’s not all work for Large though! He plays trumpet in the Jazz Ensemble at UBC, runs triathlons and half-marathons, and swing dances. You can’t miss him — just look for the guy singing as he’s walking down the street.

Why did you choose engineering?

This is a really funny story! So when I was applying to UBC, you had to select two programs to apply to. I really wanted to become a doctor, so I put my first choice as Science, but I was completely stumped on what to put as my second option. I saw “Applied Science,” and thinking it was the same thing, put it as my second choice, and that was what I got into! To this day I don’t understand how I got into pre-medical path engineering and not sciences, but it has been such a happy mistake! I figured out that “Applied Science” meant engineering a couple weeks after accepting my offer to UBC. I planned on switching to Science after my first year, but I fell in love with engineering, the problem solving and open-ended problems, so I decided to stick with it!

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

I’ve been a part of so many groups and projects during my time at UBC, some local and some abroad, but what it really boils down to is the people I’ve met and the adventures I’ve gone on with them. In this way, taking my field course in Iceland, working in Sweden, and organizing the NEM Gala were all the same. I launched myself completely into the unknown, went on an adventure I’ll never forget, and came back with such amazing friends. These connections are different, they’re made in a time of vulnerability that allows for a very full friendship to develop. So to answer the question, what has made my time here at UBC memorable was all the adventures that allowed me to make these kinds of connections.

What has been your most memorable or valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?

My summer in Sweden was the best time of my life. I made amazing friends and went on unforgettable adventures. I went to the Eurovision finals in Stockholm, by myself, and made some friends in the crowd. Six months later they came to Vancouver just to visit me. I spent my 22nd birthday weekend exploring ruins in Prague. I took a weekend trip to Barcelona and ate so many tapas I felt sick. I built a life for myself where I was dancing four nights a week and playing in two bands. I did all of this while working on organ transplant technology. We built machines that would heal lungs outside the body so more lungs were available for transplantation. I travelled, danced, and played music in a foreign country with unforgettable people, while getting paid to save lives.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

To get involved as quickly as possible! Commit! I came from a town where not a lot of people went to university, so much so that I almost didn’t come myself. About 2 weeks before first year started, I was looking into how to defer my acceptance. I am so glad I didn’t, but once I got here, I told myself I would take a year before getting involved in anything. I had it in my head that I needed to transition to university, that taking 7 courses in my first semester was insane (it was) and that I couldn’t handle doing more on top of it (wrong). What I realize now is that it was just a wasted opportunity. I like to think I’ve done a lot with my time here, but how much more could I have done if I had gotten involved from the beginning? The people who get involved have such a strong community that help each other. Engineering is a team sport, you need community to help you, and the people who were the busiest and took on all these roles were still able to do well academically because of their community.

One last tip, you can do it. You really need to believe that. The application to UBC Engineering is long. UBC knows who you are now, and if they’ve offered you a seat, it means you can do it, you just need to keep working. I’ve failed tests, I’ve called my mom crying, but I made it, and so can you.

Where do you find your inspiration?

I have two main driving factors in my life. The first is my motto of “what will I be happier about in two weeks’ time?” Am I going to be happier I signed up to volunteer, or would I have wished I gave myself some rest? Sometimes it is rest, but a lot of the time it is taking advantage of a new opportunity! This balance is different for everyone, but asking that question can be a great way to figure out your balance to really make the most of your time here. The second driving factor is “FOMO,” or the fear of missing out. This sounds sad, but it was the reason I joined Co-op! I didn’t know I applied to engineering, let alone that there was more than one type. So when people started asking me if I was going to join Co-op, I didn’t even know what that was! I joined because everyone else was and I had FOMO. This FOMO however, is what let me go to Sweden so, I’m pretty happy about it.

What are your plans for the future?

This summer I’ll be writing my MCAT! My most challenging and yet most exciting test yet! I hope to eventually go to medical school and become a Paediatrician. My brother is 8 and my sister is 5 so I love kids. My dream would be to combine my engineering and medicine skill sets to create devices or medicines to help children. After my MCAT, I hope to work for a biopharmaceutical or medical device company! However, part of me wants to pursue a career in music, singing, or acting. So I’m still trying to figure out how I can be a doctor-engineer-pop-star.

How will you go on to make a difference in our world?

The short answer is talking! I absolutely love talking and love having discussions with new people. What I found I really love is being part of discussions with diverse groups of people. I saw this a lot in BEST where I had to communicate with patients, music therapists, engineers, medical students, and business students. This collaboration is what made our device ready to be tested on patients. The world is facing some of its most complex problems to date, with world hunger and sustainability as just a couple of examples. We need unique and creative solutions that are only going to come about by thinking in new ways. Multidisciplinary discussions and teams are an available and untapped resource that we can use to create these solutions. I believe my skills in promoting these discussions can be a catalyst to real change.