Student co-op stories

Lutfi Ahmed (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)

Lutfi Ahmed

Lutfi Ahmed had the opportunity to spend an 8 month co-op term working at NZ Technologies Inc. (NZTech). NZTech is a medical technology company that works in the field of Human Machine Interaction, specializing in 3D Machine Vision and learning algorithms. As a Biomedical Engineering student, Lutfi worked directly with their core product TIPSOTM, a touchless navigation system to interact with radiology images inside the operating room. His focus was to create a USB device to allow wireless interaction with radiology images that would be compatible with any imaging workstation, without the need to install drivers and software. The ideal scenario would be to enter any operating room, plug in a USB key to the workstation, and start using TIPSOTM. Lutfi was responsible for all aspects of project development; component selection, Arduino programming, electrical assembly, 3D modelling/printing, and reporting of the prototype. This co-op allowed Lutfi to develop valuable hands-on experience in a real-world setting, as well as insight into how medical professionals and engineers are bridging the gap between their two fields. Working at NZTech has offered a multitude of learning opportunities that will prepare Lutfi for his future career as a Biomedical Engineer.

Thomas Ottewell (Spring 2017)

Thomas Oterwell

As a biomedical engineering student Thomas spent 4 months working at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). The AIBN is an integrated multi-disciplinary research institute that amalgamates the skills of world class researchers in the areas of bioengineering and nanotechnology. Thomas worked with silica nano-particles for the Drug Delivery group with most of his work being in research and design. Thomas worked in the lab to help create an alternative method opposed to calcining organic RF-silica nanoparticles and develop a safe and efficient DNA delivery nano-carrier based on rough silica nanoparticles. Through his work Thomas was exposed to various biological systems, the ability to study specimen on a nano-level, and the opportunity to be a part of cutting edge research.

Tara Styan ( Spring-Summer 2017)

Tara Styan

As a Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Victoria Tara worked within the Willerth Laboratory. In the Willerth laboratiory, Tara conducted experiments with human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to turn them into neuronal cells.  These experiments took weeks to complete and the cells required constant care.  At the end of the experiments, Tara would use antibodies to mark the cells for specific neuronal precursors.  The antibodies could be detected using special lights bulbs on microscopes to make them fluoresce and take photographs or they could be used to numerically count the amount of cells marked for the antibody.  Tara would then analyze the results to determine how effectively the stem cells were turning into neuronal cells. Tara was responsible for assembling the components for the experiment and conducting the tests.

Craig King

Craig King

Biomedical Engineering student Craig King spent an 8 month co-op term working at STEMCELL Technologies. STEMCELL Technologies is a global biotechnology company headquartered in Vancouver, BC specializing in cell culture media, cell separation products, laboratory instruments and other life science reagents. Craig worked within the Bioengineering Group, a subset of the Research and Development Department, gaining valuable experience on confidential products that improve cell separation. Craig was exposed to the intricacies of biological systems by working primarily in the lab, testing and evaluating new prototypes in development. Part of this work involved analysing and interpreting data to determine the course of action for the next iteration of designs. From this experience Craig received first-hand exposure to the importance of proper experimental design and statistical analyses. Craig also gained valuable insight and perspective on the development cycle of a product in the life sciences.

John Edgar

John Edgar

Biomedical engineering student John Edgar spent a four-month co-op term at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) at the University of Toronto researching a potential HIV therapy. The IBBME is an organization comprised of over 50 research groups who collaborate with local research hospitals to transition basic research into clinically viable treatment options.

Recent clinical trials have had tremendous success treating HIV by transplanting T-cells that are genetically engineered to be HIV resistant into an infected patient. However, there are no robust systems that can produce HIV-resistant cells in quantities sufficient enough to combat a disease that affects over 35 million people worldwide. John was doing research and development of such a system that combined hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) with a novel biomaterial engineered to mimic the cells’ natural microenvironment. By incorporating specific chemical cues into the biomaterial, HIV-resistant HSCs could be induced to become T-cells, which could later be transplanted into patients.

“This co-op taught me to apply the problem-solving skills I learn as an engineering student to design systems that control stem cell behavior. Its exciting since one day this may be used to treat patients with HIV,” says John. In addition to experience in cell culture, the co-op provided him with experience using sophisticated analysis tools like flow cytometry, transfecting cells to change their gene expression, and fabricating peptide-functionalized biomaterials for experiments.

Sarah Wong

 Sara Wong

For her third co-op work term as a biomedical engineering student at the University of Victoria, Sarah Wong was hired by the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre to run a project studying visual deficits in Parkinson’s patients. Working with the PPRC was an excellent opportunity to experience all aspects of project management in a biomedical setting. As a research assistant, Sarah was responsible for recruiting, scheduling, and testing control and Parkinson’s patients. When testing was complete, she was encouraged to begin the analysis of the test results. This gave her the opportunity to learn how to program in MATLAB, a computational language that was completely new to me. By the end of the four-month work term, Sarah was comfortable interacting with patients over the phone and in person, organizing scheduling, paperwork, and reimbursement, operating test equipment and software, and analyzing data in MATLAB. Her work term with the PPRC was an incredible experience that exposed her to important non-academic aspects of working in the biomedical research field.

Azra Rajwani

 Azra Rajwani

As a Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Victoria, Azra was hired by Dr. Naweed Syed, a Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy. Working alongside a PhD Candidate, she learned how to culture neurons from Lymnaea Stagnalis (Garden Snails) to detect action potentials. In this process, two neural cells are lined on a microelectrode array (MEA) and allowed to grow. Once the process is complete, Azra analyzed the data, input it into a template to better understand the growth process, and presented the data to my team. To further justify the data, she began working with Comsol, a multi-physics software platform for simulating physics-based problems. By the end of this work term, Azra had a good working knowledge of this software as well as being more comfortable presenting data to a large crowd.

Sara Douglas

 Sara Douglas

Working with the Island Health Authority (previously known as Vancouver Island Health Authority) has given Sara both a technical and management perspective of clinical engineers in a hospital environment. This opportunity was amazing as she was able to work hands on with medical devices, communicate with medical companies all over the world and solve exciting problems; all towards benefiting the lives of others.  Her co-op including working with teams of technologists and engineers at three different hospitals: Royal Jubilee, Victoria General, and Saanich Peninsula. Some of the exciting devices Sara worked on were a bypass machine, anesthetic machine, defibrillators, blood warmers, ultrasound machines, ventilators and newborn jaundice meters. The knowledge she gained about medical devices, information technology and hospital project management will certainly prepare her for her next co-op and future career. Sara would definitely recommend this co-op to any one curious about working in a hospital or with medical equipment.

Alexander Burden

Alex Burden

Alexander Burden spent an eight-month coop with Recon Instruments, a Vancouver-based Tech company that makes heads-up-displays for sports like snowboarding and cycling. As part of their R&D department, I worked on a variety of projects, including investigations into different types of health information sensing. This included research into currently available devices for measuring heart-rate and other vitals, as well as testing heart-rate development kits to see how they could be integrated into Recon's future designs. Additionally, I tested several different forms of hands-free control for use with the HUD. The reason for those investigations was due to the company's interest in expanding to the medical environment, so that a surgeon could pull up vital patient information on the HUD during an operation, without having to touch and potentially contaminate a controller.

Natalie Smith

Sam Pollock 

Natalie’s second co-op was with Dr. Dechev’s Biomedical Design and Systems Lab at UVic. The work involved completing literature searches on medical phantom technology as well as high intensity focused ultrasound and then using the results of the literature search to begin the process of creating a medical phantom. The purpose of the phantom was to mimic the ultrasonic properties of the human wrist so that it could be used to test an ultrasound tendon-tracking program. This involved extensive materials testing and visual tests by taking actual ultrasound scans of the phantoms. Overall this co-op was a great introduction to the research side of engineering and offered valuable hands on experience with imaging techniques.

Kieran Armstrong


Softworks Group Inc. executed a research and development project to evaluate the technical and commercial feasibility of wearable biometric devices to monitor and manage heart disease. Research and development is a big part of determining whether or not these types of systems are clinically significant. As a biomedical engineering coop student Kieran’s focus was to determine if the commercial development of this system is feasible. In particular, clinical trials are required to better understand how the solution can best integrate with clinician workflow.  A key concern identified in the project was the integration of existing systems and particularly electronic medical records. Some of his tasks included biosensor hardware selection and configuration, software UX design, testing protocol design, software development, evaluation, and reporting. All of these tasks were essential to success of this project and they are valuable to a biomedical engineering student as they get to consult with healthcare professionals, while adding and developing valuable technical skills. Kieran was exposed to bridging the gap between health care and engineering. The goal of any biomedical engineer.

Henry Coll

Henry Coll

Henry Coll was fortunate to complete his final Coop by working for Biomedical Engineering Development Project (Biodev) on a prototype of their vanguard project the Emergency Vitals Monitoring (EVM) Device.  Having started as team-lead for the pulse monitor he was upgraded to prototype development team-lead and Acting President.  This put Henry in a position to be active with all aspects of the project development; blood pressure monitor, pulse-oximetry monitor, Arduino programming for the Pinocco micro-controller and organization of the business and financial aspects of Biodev.  During the prototyping process Henry was able to design electronic schematics, printed circuit boards and study higher level wave transform theory to assist in programming an algorithm for the project’s microcontroller.  With the research and planning Henry has done with the Biodev team he has helped set up future Coop students to take this project to the next level or begin something new.

Michael Peirone


Michael completed his second co-op work term as a biomedical engineering student in the Biomedical Design and Systems Laboratory (BDSL) at the University of Victoria. The laboratory focuses on designing the mechanical and electrical systems involved in upper-limb prosthesis. The project which Michael worked on designed and built low-cost, 3D printed prosthetic hands for those in developing countries who cannot afford their own. Working in the BDSL allowed Michael to gain experience in two of the best 3D printers on the market, the Ultimaker 2 and the FormLabs Form 1+. He also learned how to use the NextEngine 3D scanner and ScanStudio, the software associated with the scanner. A typical day in the laboratory for Michael as a co-op student involved using the 3D printers, designing parts with SolidWorks, assembling printed parts, and using the 3D scanner. Michael also worked along-side many brilliant undergraduate students and recent graduates to develop the device. Every day was full of excitement and various learning opportunities that will help him in his future career as a biomedical engineer.  Michael is very grateful that he was able to work on such an amazing project and help those who cannot easily afford a proper prosthetic device.