Biomedical engineering grad credits the co-op advantage

Engineering, Co-op

- Ivan Watson


Victoria Hartman originally wanted to be a doctor, and earned a UVic Bachelor of Science in preparation for that path. Increasingly intrigued by the emerging field of biomedical engineering as she pursued her studies, she changed course and took a second UVic degree in that area. 

Now, on the cusp of graduation, she is excited to start her career in a rapidly expanding field at the cutting edge of research and innovation in the medical sciences, with several co-op work terms under her belt that have both expanded her mind, as well as her job prospects.

“I found out a few years into my education that I wasn’t as interested in going to medical school as I thought I was,” she says. “What I was interested in was the technology of medicine and working on treatments, therapies and regenerative medicine—that’s what led me to pursue biomedical engineering, which I didn’t even know previously was a possibility.”

Biomedical engineering combines mechanical and electrical engineering with the study of human anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. UVic’s biomedical engineering program was the first program of its kind in Western Canada when it was launched in 2010. It’s part of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, and helps position the university at the forefront of biomedical research and education. Faculty and students are developing technologies that are improving human health and healthcare, locally, throughout Canada and around the world.

The really great thing about this field is that it is niche and it is also broad. What I’m doing isn’t what you’d think of as traditional engineering. I’m not designing or building a device, but I’m working in a lab, doing research and problem-solving and applying my skills in the areas of biology, chemistry and material sciences, and working on life-changing things like next-generation vaccine technologies.”

—UVic biomedical engineering graduate Victoria Hartman

During her degree, Hartman participated in several co-op terms, and she credits the opportunities they gave her with providing hands-on, real-world learning that is essential to career success, and even allowing for international work experience and travel.

“I am definitely pro co-op,” she says. “I did a co-op here at UVic where I worked in a lab bioprinting tissue, and I also travelled to Japan for a co-op term working in biosensor development—and it was amazing to travel around the country and get paid to do it! In Vancouver, I worked for a company called Precision Nanosystems working on nanoparticles and technologies for the creation of vaccines and got introduced to all the really cool, cutting-edge medical research they are doing.” 

Two years after this co-op experience and with her freshly minted degree, she was recently hired back by the same company in a full-time, permanent capacity.

“Since my co-op term, the company has nearly doubled in size,” she says. “This is a fast-growing industry and there are tons of opportunities, but they need skilled people. I wouldn’t have gotten this job without my co-op experience and it’s a huge opportunity to be working in the area of research and development which I love, and out in the working world right after my degree.”

Hartman believes that her unique UVic education and real-world co-op experience was a potent combination for people aspiring to a career in her field.

“The biomedical program at UVic is a small program. Everyone knows each other and helps each other, and we get so much attention and support from our professors who care about us as individuals and want us to succeed,” she says. “I’d recommend it for anyone considering what type of engineering they’d like to get into.”


In this story

Keywords: convocation, co-op, health, employment

People: Victoria Hartman

Publication: The Ring

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