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Jennifer Boger

#iAmBiomed because it changes people’s lives at a fundamental level
Jennifer's Biography

Dr. Boger has been an active researcher in the field of intelligent assistive technologies for enhancing the health, safety, well-being, and independence of older adults and people with disabilities for more than a decade. Jennifer employs transdisciplinary collaboration throughout her research to advance theory and create operational technologies that reflect the needs, abilities, and contexts of the people using them. A central theme to her research is the development of ambient zero-effort technologies; technologies that blend into people’s environments and operate with little or no effort perceived from the people using them.

Assistant Professor in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo and Schlegel Research Chair in Technology for Independent Living. I lead research teams in creating innovative technologies that address challenges that some of us face as we age. I work in academia, so in addition to engaging in research, I mentor students both as a graduate supervisor and as a course instructor.

Working with people from different disciplines to pushing the boundaries of how technology can support aging, not only by addressing physical and cognitive needs, but by changing how society perceives aging.

My undergraduate and Master’s degrees are in Biomedical Engineering and my PhD is in Life and Health Sciences. I use what I learned in my engineering and science training every day. In particular, critical thinking, innovative proactive problem solving, rationalised analysis, communication, and leadership skills.

How difficult it can be to define the problem you are working to solve; there’s rarely nice, tidy delineated problems. Executing research projects often reveals as much about what we didn’t know that we don’t know than what find out – but that’s the most exciting part! Discovering new questions as well as answers.

This is a hard question to answer. I’d have to say the creation and testing of a semi-autonomous device for promoting engagement in creative arts (in this case, “painting” on a large touch screen) by older adults who have dementia. It was a fascinating project from beginning to end. Computer scientists, engineers, and arts therapists worked together to create the device before piloting it with people who have dementia. Seeing people with dementia interact with the device in new and positive ways to create art was incredibly rewarding.

I’ve always loved figuring out how things work, solving puzzles, and helping people. My grandmother had early-onset dementia and being part of a family who needed to support her and each other convinced me that there is much that can be done to support aging. Moreover, aging is complex and individual journey that everyone takes – people have a right to experience feelings of independence, confidence, and wellbeing regardless of ability. The combination of these factors led me into developing technology to support aging.

That, globally, the field will keep progressing in the same direction it has in Canada – equal opportunities to excel for anyone who’s interested in being an engineer or scientist.

By being a role model – providing equal opportunities for the people I train and mentor as well as participating in engineering and science events at the elementary school and preschool level.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything” (bonus marks for knowing the movie that the quote comes from)

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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