Creating UBC's very own Spiderman

"Don't be afraid to step out and see what's out there, but remember your roots."

Russel at night in Downtown Vancouver.
Downtown Vancouver at night, in all its beauty!

Russell Sumarno

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Program: Biomedical Engineering
  • Campus: Vancouver

Year: 3rd Year

Chat with Russell

Coming into my third year at UBC Engineering, I can safely say that I have had the best time of my life here. From first receiving the International Major Entrance Scholarship to speaking as a panelist to prospective international UBC Engineering students, UBC has given me so many opportunities to learn, unlearn and learn again. As an international student, making the move to Vancouver was not easy and UBC was there every step of the way to make that transition as smooth as possible. At UBC, I have been given the opportunity to join design teams and clubs, one of which is GISAU, which is the Gado-Gado Indonesian Students Association of UBC. Having a piece of home in Vancouver ensures that I get to explore all that UBC Engineering has to offer, but still stay grounded and rooted in my culture. 

How did you decide your current UBC Engineering discipline, or why did you choose UBC Engineering?

My interest in Biomedical Engineering first started when I watched the Amazing Spiderman as a kid. Despite its rather unrealistic and gruesome storyline, the prospect of self-regenerating limbs and genetically modified spiders intrigued me. My interest in biomedical engineering was further cemented while taking BMEG 101 with Professor Tim Salcudean in first year. Through this course, I became particularly fascinated about the future of minimally invasive surgical robots in the medical field and the effects that minimally invasive surgery has on the elderly population. I took it upon myself to delve further into these topics, specifically into Professor Salcudean’s research on the use of the da Vinci Surgical System in prostate cancer treatment. His paper on said topic provided me with many insights on this field and also exposed me to the limitations that still exist at this time. As such, I applied to the BMEG program in second year.

What has made your time at UBC Engineering memorable?

Although my entire time at UBC Engineering has been memorable, one thing that stands out is the cardboard project in APSC 100. Having been the first large-scale project in my university life, it undoubtedly made a mark on my university life as I truly realized the impact that engineers have in this world. Through this project, I was not only able to learn how to work with and trust my team, but also learned the importance of understanding the culture of the people we will be working with. Through the guidance of the APSC 100 teaching time, in particular Dr. Pete Ostafichuk, Dr. Jon Nakane and Dr. Carol Jaeger, my team was able to successfully build our chair. We also stayed friends after, so that was a huge plus to the course! 

Tell us about your experience in your program. What have you learned that is most valuable?

Although the technical skills that I have gained throughout these three years have been undoubtedly important, my most valuable takeaway from my time at UBC Engineering was learning how to face my greatest weakness: letting go of my past mistakes. I used to often feel that I could have done better in an exam, or done more to contribute to a certain project. This has led to self-depreciation and loss of motivation to do any work. To combat this, I now take the time to reflect and review the positive things I’ve done in every project and task instead of focusing too much on the negative. I’ve also learnt to look at the bigger picture of what I’ve done, instead of focusing on the minor mistakes that have eaten me up in the past.

What resources or events organized by UBC Engineering have helped you in your academic, professional or entrepreneurial journey thus far?

As a biomedical engineering student, I have the utmost gratitude for the Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Student Association (BMEUSA) for their continuous efforts in ensuring the welfare of all biomedical engineering students. Through their barbecues, I have been able to meet and become good friends with other biomedical engineering students. Through their exam prep sessions, I have not only been able to pass but also do well in my midterm and final exams. The BMEUSA has provided all biomedical engineering students with social and academic opportunities to further our professional growth and I am eternally grateful for that.

What is one piece of advice you would share to a student entering UBC Engineering?

One piece of advice that I would give an incoming UBC Engineering student is to not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and see what the community has to offer. UBC Engineering is filled with the most wonderful people that you'll ever meet and you will regret if you don't try to join a club or participate in events. Get to know people and make friends because you'll never know how much they can impact your life in the future. 

At UBC, we are creating highly impactful solutions that aim to radically transform health and wellness, and shape a society and economy where people are more connected, empowered and effective. How has UBC Engineering inspired your entrepreneurial thinking, and helped you make a difference in your own community or beyond?

In high school, I was fortunate to be able to initiate a non-profit organization in Indonesia that has helped over 60 children further their education in STEM. Although the organization has now been passed on to my juniors, my time at UBC Engineering has allowed me to help them in growing the organization even outside of Indonesia and has helped me to realize the importance of remembering our community in everything that we do. This year, I hope to be able to join other non-profits on campus such as Engineers Without Borders and be able to make an impact on the UBC Engineering community, no matter how small of a change it is.

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