Arya Amiri, a PhD student at the University of Waterloo's department of Systems Design Engineering, and a trainee in the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology's Training in Global Biomedical Technology Research and Innovation program, has been awarded a prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship for 2023.
Arya came to Waterloo from Iran in 2022 after completing both his bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering, determined to make an impact as he transitioned to the field of biomedical engineering.
When I moved here, I felt like I couldn't show my abilities and skills very well and that [Vanier Scholarship] was an opportunity for me to prove that I have abilities to my group and to my supervisors.
The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship awards $50,000 per year for three years to up to 166 doctoral students in the areas of health research, natural sciences and/or engineering, social sciences, and humanities annually.
Amiri's research aims to understand the mechanical behaviour of soft tissue on the body, specifically skin and aorta, to accurately re-generate the tissue affected by various diseases and conditions.
His desire to break out of the mechanical engineering world turned personal when Amiri was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in his first semester of his master's degree.
Undergoing cancer treatment, Amiri realized the difference he could make on people's lives by bettering the current understanding of the human body and used his own experience as motivation to immerse himself in biomedical engineering.
In between chemotherapy sessions, Amiri continued his research, writing papers from his hospital bed, and participating in classes after he lost the remains of his hair.
Maybe it was a key for me to be able to combat this time. Maybe that was what helped me to be able to survive.
Amiri decided to study in Canada because of the University of Waterloo's strength in biomedical engineering.
English is not a common language spoken in Iran, so Amiri found it difficult to connect with peers and colleagues until he discovered the Training in Global Biomedical Technology Research and Innovation program.
"I have mentioned it thousands of times to Kenrick [coordinator of the program] how important this program was for me," said Amiri.
Training in Global Biomedical Technology Research and Innovation is administered by the University of Waterloo's Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB). This training initiative is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and is part of their Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program.
The Training in Global Biomedical Technology Research and Innovation program takes a "needs-first" approach in which students are taught to work with end-users and stakeholders in the patient, medical, and biotechnology industry communities to co-discover technology problems and solutions.
By participating in the program's workshops, writing sessions and internships, Amiri was able to meet like-minded colleagues who now make up most of his friend group and continue to support his academic goals.
Discipline continues to be the key to Amiri's success. Completing his bachelor's degree in three and a half years, receiving the highest GPA for his master's degree, and being awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, are all part of the journey towards Amiri's end goal of becoming a professor, and one day training other skilled researchers.
If I could train 20 other researchers all around the world, I could increase the chance of making a better world; of getting better results.