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Patricia O’Neill

During a high school chemistry class, my teacher talked about artificial limbs and organs and something called biomedical engineering. I had never heard of it before and when I found out more about it, I was fascinated by the possibilities and knew that this was what I wanted to do.

Patricia O’Neill is a professional engineer with over 20 years experience in rehabilitation research and development and product evaluation. She is currently a Research Engineer and Leader of the Rehabilitation Engineering group at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre (TOHRC). TOHRC specializes in the physical rehabilitation of those who have experienced a disabling physical illness or injury. Before joining TOHRC, Patricia was a Project Officer at the Bioengineering Institute at the University of New Brunswick where she had previously received her Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering. She also holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering (Computing Option) from Queen’s University.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, what is your current job?

I am a Research Engineer and Leader of the Rehabilitation Engineering group at The Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre (TOHRC). I lead a team of engineers and technologists who primarily create custom assistive devices for persons with physical disabilities and other equipment for research and clinical care. As a Research Engineer I evaluate new mobility devices for the Ontario Assistive Devices Program with a focus on quality and safety. I am also involved in various product development and commercialization activities.

What made you want to pursue a career in engineering?

During a high school chemistry class, my teacher talked about artificial limbs and organs and something called biomedical engineering. I had never heard of it before and when I found out more about it, I was fascinated by the possibilities and knew that this was what I wanted to do.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I have the opportunity work with so many amazing and talented people, from the highly skilled members of our engineering group to all of the different health care professionals that make up the interdisciplinary rehabilitation team. I am always learning. I also enjoy the diversity of projects and seeing the direct impact of our work on our patients’ lives.

How do you celebrate National Engineering Month?

This year our team is hosting an open house for the hospital and university community on March 26. It will showcase recent projects and offer tours of our fabrication and research facilities to increase awareness of our contribution to rehabilitation and patient care.

What advice do you have for young women who hope to pursue a career in your field?

My father always told me “You can be anything you want to be.” And I believed him. Believe in yourself and make it happen. Don’t be afraid to seek people out and ask for information or guidance along the way.

Through outreach and professional development activities, research, partnerships, thought leadership and online initiatives, we work with industry and academia to educate on the value of diversity for innovation, to inspire women to thrive and to celebrate the contributions of women in science and engineering.
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