Marcus Cheung, MASc '17, Biomedical Engineering

Marcus Cheung
Always remember that learning is fun, not dreadful. You can get two very different experiences out of them.

I began my undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at UBC in 2010. While completing my degree, I served as the Chair in Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society in the UBC IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) student branch to expose students to both engineering and medicine. I was also the treasurer in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Student Society. Furthermore, I was a member of the Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST) and helped develop a mesh network-based electronic medical record system for the Ebola epidemic in Africa. This was a very unique experience being in contact with physicians in Africa and from Médecins Sans Frontières. I then joined the Biomedical Engineering program as a Masters of Applied Science (MASc) student through Engineers in Scrubs in 2015. I am a student at the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre and my research looks at a non-pharmacological and non-invasive method to treat resting tremor in Parkinson’s disease (PD). I am interested in using Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation to modulate pathological oscillations in the brain that characterize PD resting tremor. The end goal is to generate a personalized stimulus for each individual to reduce PD tremor and thus, improving the quality of life for the Parkinson’s community. Research aside, I currently volunteer at a residential care home on a one-to-one visit with patients as well as the Parkinson’s Society BC to help fundraise for Parkinson’s research. I also enjoy the sport of badminton and paint occasionally. 

Why did you choose engineering?

I have always liked to apply ideas and theories in a practical sense, especially with math and physics. When it came to choose what faculty to study in during the last year of my secondary school, engineering seemed to be the default and best choice. I can tell you right now, it was definitely the right choice. 

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

I think it would have to be the learning experience and the collaboration with others in student organizations. I really enjoyed the Co-op program during my undergraduate years. It allowed me to have a taste of what working in the industry is like and what a company’s expectations are. It definitely widened my view. I also had a chance to serve as the Chair of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) in the UBC IEEE student branch. It was an amazing experience to be able to take part in bridging the gap between engineering and medicine. The society served as a medium to expose students to medical companies through tours where they had an opportunity to see how engineering plays a part in medicine in the industry. The different people I met and the challenges I faced definitely influenced how I think. 

How do you feel a graduate degree in engineering has benefitted you compared to a different field of study?

Graduate school nurtures you to a different set of skills. It requires more independence from oneself and pushes you to think critically. These are transferrable skills that are valuable to have whether you are pursuing goals in academia or in the industry. The technical skills that I am learning in my graduate degree expand my knowledge and the behavioural skills contribute to the way I think.

What advice would you give a student considering a graduate degree in engineering?

Pursuing a graduate degree requires dedication and passion in the field you are interested in, so it is important to find out what those are for you. This passion can hold the key to exploration in different opportunities where you meet new people and gain new knowledge. Some may think that graduate school in engineering is going to be even more demanding and difficult than in undergrad. Some aspects of it can be difficult; however, I don’t think it should be seen that way. Remember that graduate school can also be fun. What I mean is, it’s fun to learn new knowledge, it’s fun to meet new people, it’s also fun to solve the problem you are passionate about. When you perceive the learning experience to be fun, there will be a strong drive to work through any obstacle. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

Biomedical engineering is a path to enhance the quality of life in different aspects of medicine. I can see this particularly well in my current project. The nature of my research requires contact with patients. Every time I describe the purpose of my research to them, their eyes light up and are filled with hope. This is more than enough to serve as an inspiration. I can’t imagine how much it would mean to them if there is a new treatment that can successfully enhance their wellbeing.