"A long-term goal is to work with people commercializing technology and being the bridge between the technology innovators and the people on the business side."
- Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
- Grad year: 2022
- Campus: Vancouver
Job title as of 2023: Co-Founder and CEO, Clarivent Medical Inc.
Why did you want to study engineering?
There were a lot of influences. My initial plan was to do civil engineering and then go into architecture, which is a graduate degree, afterwards. Since I was always interested in math, science and problem solving, engineering seemed like a natural degree to pick. My dad is also an engineer, so I had a sense of his work and thought it could be a good path for me.
Why did you choose UBC?
I’m from Vancouver, which influenced my decision as I wanted to be close to family. I knew UBC was a top university with a great engineering program and professors.
Why did you choose Biomedical Engineering?
I learned so much in my first year, but I wasn’t as excited about civil engineering as I was chemistry, biology and physics. Then halfway through that year, the Biomedical Engineering specialization started up. I talked to some of the professors that were running it, and they were very excited about the program, which inspired me. I took the risk and decided to join.
What were some highlights of your undergraduate experience?
The design teams I was a part of were a lot of fun. I joined a design team called BIOMOD, where we were looking at ways to use DNA to make micro scale and nanoscale structures.
I could apply what I was learning in class with a lot of creative freedom.
We entered a competition where we had to identify a problem and use a DNA-based nanostructure to solve that problem, which was really cool.
I also did co-op, and for my last term I moved to Switzerland where I worked in a nanophotonic lab, getting to see how light interacts with nanoparticles. It was great to learn first-hand how labs function in different parts of the world. Another highlight was working with a non-profit in Vancouver to build medical devices to help treat COVID.
Tell us about your career since graduation.
I co-founded a startup company called Clarivent Medical, which is a spin-off from the nonprofit I was involved with as an undergrad. We were able to formalize one of the devices we were developing and are now partnering with Vancouver General Hospital and BCIT to get it ready for commercialization and patient use.
The device, the Bubble Helmet, is a clear, single-material helmet that provides non-invasive ventilation to patients who would otherwise need an oxygen mask or require intubation. A clear bubble goes over the patient’s head to create a positive pressure environment that helps the patient breathe easier. It has other benefits as well, including reduced ventilation time and decreased time spent in the ICU.
Everyone is surprised at how comfortable it is. Once you have it on for a few minutes, you quickly get used to the helmet, partly because the materials we chose are incredibly clear.
What are your near-term goals for the company?
Although the Bubble Helmet is quicker to use and less invasive than other ventilators, it is a new product and there is still a learning curve associated with it, which is why our research and advocacy work is so important.
We're currently focused on the impact side and trying to build as much awareness of the device as we can.
We're not the first to make a bubble helmet ventilation device, although we are the first Canadian company to do so. There is a real need for this product: each year in the US alone, there are four million people on ventilators. Near term, we want to generate a lot of research and evidence for this device and to bring them to patients. Even just capturing 10% of the market share would be significant.
What would you like to achieve as an engineer?
A long-term goal is to work with people commercializing technology and being the bridge between the technology innovators and the people on the business side. There are a lot of business people who don’t necessarily understand the tech and can’t always offer the deep insights that someone can who has experience with engineering and technology.
Any advice for students considering engineering or just starting out in their studies?
I think it would be great to see more engineering students going into entrepreneurship.
Incorporating entrepreneurial thinking into programs much earlier on would show students that they can start innovating on their own much earlier. Looking back, I feel like I could have began building a startup in first or second year if I’d had the confidence and support to do so.
So, if you have a few side projects you're interested in, focus on those and see where they end up. Even if they don't become a commercial success, you're going to learn so much that will help you out throughout your career. There are also resources at UBC, like entrepreneurship@UBC, that can expose you to the ideas behind getting a product to market and connect you to a network of mentors.