Enriching Health Through Engineering: Madhini's Story

"UBC Engineering really prepares students to interface professionally after they graduate."

Madhini Vigneswaran

Madhini Vigneswaran

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Program:
  • Campus: Vancouver
  • Year: Going into 5th year (as of August 2023)

Why did you want to study engineering?

I grew up in Sri Lanka and witnessed the aftermath of civil war, including the lack of medical equipment and an increase in cancer diagnoses as a result of coming into contact with chemicals used in the war. This sparked my interest in chronic disease and my desire to figure out how to integrate advanced technology in ways that could improve the lives of those affected by chronic disease. For me, engineering is the best path for doing that.

Why did you choose UBC?

One thing that attracted me to UBC was the number and variety of design teams active at the university. There are so many opportunities to apply the skills you learn in classes. I was also attracted by the co-op program. Particularly as an international student, co-op seemed to offer a great way to make connections, gain work experience and learn about my career options.

Design Teams Co-op Program

How did you choose your specialization in biomedical engineering?

Even before high school, I knew I wanted to be applying technology to improve health care. When I started here, the Biomedical Engineering specialization was a new program at UBC, and I knew it directly aligned with what I wanted to do. There are four streams you can choose from, and I chose the systems and signals stream.

Biomedical Engineering

What are some of the highlights of your education so far?

The biomedical engineering design projects in second and third year were definite highlights.

During COVID-19, we designed a vaccination storage box that could be used in remote areas that did not have access to refrigeration. You work as a team on these projects, because that’s how engineers work in the real world. It was rewarding to be working on such an interdisciplinary project.

Are you involved in any clubs or teams?

In first year I was a part of a design team called UBC MIST. It was a great way to get an idea of how project management works and a chance to apply skills outside of my academics. We were working on a powered wheelchair that could be used in marginalized regions.

Toward the end of first year, I co-founded a research organization called MEDIC Foundation.

The goal is to research innovative solutions to improve the lives of those affected by chronic diseases.

Getting to come in as an international student who didn’t know anyone and developing an organization of over 25 people has been one of my biggest highlights at UBC. We have three ongoing projects – focusing on diabetes, cancer and Parkinson’s disease – and we are partnering with faculty members here at UBC and international clinics.

One project we completed was focussed on anxiety and depression. We developed a wristband that applied vibration therapy when the wearer’s heartrate variability deviated away from their normal threshold. We actually pitched the idea at competitions and won.

In January 2023, I co-founded a non-governmental organization called the Global Outreach Project with the goal to improve healthcare access for individual living in low-resource regions.

For our first project, we have partnered with the Rotary Club of Banana Island (RCBI) and are focused on raising funds to donate medical supplies for individuals living in Agaja, Nigeria. This is a dream project come true, as I am able to help out the community where I grew up! We are planning to extend our partnerships with international service organizations.

MEDIC Foundation

Madhini at Medic Foundation

Tell us about your co-op experiences.

At one of my co-op terms with Seahawks Robotics I designed drones, and for the remaining co-op terms, I worked with Kadant Carmanah Design as a digital transformation and automation co-op student. I am continuing to work there part time. Although it is not directly related to biomedical engineering, the co-op experience has increased my knowledge and skills of how to use data analytics and programming for real-life applications.

Seahawks Robotics Kadant Carmanah Design

Have you developed new skills or ways of thinking over the course of your degree?

UBC Engineering really prepares students to interface professionally after they graduate. It also prepares you to work in a team. Group projects are very important – it’s how things get done in the real world! In biomedical engineering, you have to connect and work with medical professionals, as well as engineers and other.

Knowing how to communicate, be part of or lead a team, resolve conflicts – all those skills are really enhanced over your engineering degree.

Where do you see yourself going from here?

I have really big plans!

My goal is to enter industry directly and make important contributions and improvements.

I’d also like to do a master’s degree to pursue my own research interests.

With the MEDIC Foundation, I’m very keen to advance detection device technologies. We’re working on this for our diabetes project and determining how we can detect diabetic ketoacidosis earlier on so that patients can get access to treatment, earlier.

Any advice for other students?

If you’re trying to decide between universities, it’s really important to compare the resources they offer, both academically and in terms of extracurricular activities. Take a look at the curriculum to see if it offers the kinds of technical projects you are interested in. For the extracurriculars, see what’s available in terms of design teams, clubs and organizations.

Biomedical Engineering student looking at a medical imaging scan

Biomedical Engineering

As a Biomedical Engineering student, you’ll take a series of core courses aimed at building a strong foundation in engineering, biology, math, chemistry, and design.

Biomedical Engineering

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