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Brigitte Potvin

#iAmBiomed because I want to improve people’s lives in new and creative ways
Brigitte's Biography

I am originally from Toronto but later went to Ottawa for university as they had options to study in French. First I completed an undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences with a minor in Spanish, then a second one in biomedical mechanical engineering and finally recently finished my Masters degree in biomedical engineering. Throughout my life I had the opportunity to explore many interests and hobbies as well as had the privilege to travel all over the world which, of course, has taught me so many things! Having a bit of experience in many different skills and a few languages has definitely been an asset to my career in engineering as well as life in general!

I am currently the research engineer for the Injury Prevention and Mobility Laboratory led by Dr. Stephen Robinovitch at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. My job involves maintaining and operating various pieces of equipment in the lab as well as designing additional systems for new and ongoing research projects. I also have a hand in developing new research protocols and helping graduate students with their work.

Every day is different in the lab! Each project brings its own technical challenges and it is great to be able to figure out solutions to them and see them through. It is definitely a very hands-on job! I have learned so many new skills since I started working here!

My degrees in science and also in engineering have taught me a lot about how the world works. They’ve also helped me to develop creative problem solving skills, which has definitely been an asset to me in this job. Taking a few extra unrelated classes was also beneficial in this. I think it is very important to get a well-rounded education in various fields to be a good engineer!

There are so many potential careers in the field of biomedical engineering! You will be working with all sorts of people from all walks of life and educational backgrounds. Its very exciting and rewarding to be part of these teams.

In the last year I’ve worked on multiple projects in our lab. We worked with some assistive exoskeleton devices to see if they would help prevent falls in older women. It was pretty cool to work with the tech gear but also a lot of fun to interact with our participants who were all really excited to help advance our research.

I’ve always liked to make things and do crafts growing up so I knew engineering would be a good choice for me to put those interests in action. Choosing biomedical engineering specifically stemmed from a career workshop that I was volunteering for in high school. One of the guest speakers worked in biomedical engineering prosthesis design for individuals with amputations. He showed how they could be customized for anyone including adding decorative designs which spoke a lot to me with my interests in visual arts. I think that is when I first started to be interested in the field and thought it could be a pretty cool career!

There has been a lot of talk about how to recruit more women to STEM fields in the last couple of years. I hope these efforts continue and that women everywhere will realize that science and engineering is definitely not just for men. I hope that STEM subjects will be reinforced and highlighted in schools for everyone from a young age and that it will help young girls realize they can do anything and it doesn’t have to be all pink and glitter (I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but other colors are cool too!).

I’ve done some volunteer work with Let’s Talk Science in the last few years and tried to promote an interest in science and engineering with young children. I’d like to do something similar here in the Vancouver area in the next little while. I also try to set an example for others by not being afraid to tackle challenges outside my realm of expertise and show people that women can and should have a strong role in science and engineering.

Be confident in your talents and your potential to learn and do extraordinary things (or at least try to do them – sometimes plans need revisions and a few prototypes). Don’t be afraid to play with tools, get creative, maybe get a little dirty in the process and have fun! Biomedical engineering work can be so varied and also very rewarding, there is something in it for everyone.

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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