Alumnus, PhD (2015), Biomedical Engineering
“Find your strength and weaknesses, your passions and dreams, and then go after them full force.”
I am a bioengineer and recent PhD graduate from the University of Toronto, where I also obtained my degrees in Engineering Science (2008), as well as an MASc in Biomedical Engineering (2010). My decision to do my graduate work here was based on the fertile, dynamic, and collaborative atmosphere at U of T. The adjacency of teaching hospitals and close collaboration with industry was a huge bonus.
I’ve also been active outside of U of T. While an undergraduate, I interned at Harvard Medical School, which resulted in a number of scientific publications. During my graduate program, I also participated in a number of other international industrial internships. For example, in 2012, I interned with Stryker Navigation’s Research & Development (R&D) headquarters in Germany. Stryker is one of the top five global medical corporations designing, marketing, and selling surgical navigation products.
For my PhD thesis, I focused on design and fabrication of an image-guided surgical navigation consisting of a sensor on the end of a surgical drill kit. The device used ultrasound technology to give surgeons a clearer picture during delicate operations where screws are inserted into the spine. The technology built a platform for long-term prevention of navigational errors and potential reduction in the rate of revision surgeries.
In the past three years, with the support of my advisors, my research has been awarded a total of more than $400,000 in R&D funding from sources such as Ontario Centres of Excellence, Connaught Innovation Awards, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), MaRS Innovation, and Graduate Enterprise Internship resources. In addition, I am the recipient of The Ontario Brain Institute 2013 Entrepreneurial Fellowship.
Outside the lab, for the past four years, I have been actively teaching medical imaging and mentoring engineering students; I made it to the shortlist for the Teaching Assistants’ Training Program Teaching Excellence Award in 2013.
What’s next? I’m keeping my options open. During my PhD and in order to commercialize the fruits of my inventions, I started a company, which now has two full-time staff and a number of part-time interns. My hope is to build on the results of our efforts. If a potential investor emerges, I hope to bring this product to market and make an impact on society. I am also considering postdoctoral positions in the US.
Whether considering your time during graduate school or your life, we are all given a limited time to find our purpose. My advice would be to find yourself first, your strength and weaknesses, your passions and dreams, and then go after them full force. Hear advice, but don’t let it override your gut feelings. As Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Amir was named the University of Toronto 2015 Inventor of the Year and also received an Ontario Graduate Scholarship.