Azin Adibi has always had a passion for working in the field of polymer science. During high school, she won the prestigious Khwarizmi Youth Award for a project which developed biodegradable plastics from potato starch. This achievement further ignited her interest in polymer engineering, particularly in sustainable and green materials. As a result, she pursued research opportunities in this field and eventually immigrated to Canada to pursue a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Waterloo.

“I was drawn to the University of Waterloo's Chemical Engineering program specifically due to the department's strong focus on polymer science and engineering, combined with the interdisciplinary approach of the Institute for Polymer Research and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology, which offered me the ideal environment to explore my research interests,” says Adibi.

Adibi completed an industrial PhD under the supervision of Professors Tizazu Mekonnen and Leonardo Simon. She credits Mekonnen’s mentorship with helping her develop strength and perseverance to tackle challenges while passionately and patiently progressing in her research.

“Professor Simon's critical and creative thought process has been always a constant source of inspiration to not be hesitant to propose innovative and out-of-the-box solutions.”

The highlight of Adibi’s PhD program was the opportunity to work closely with IFF (formerly DuPont BioScience). This collaboration allowed her to engage with talented and experienced professionals, providing deep insights into academic research and industry prospects.

“Being one of the few women in this prominent group, I found it empowering to contribute to the team's efforts, which motivated me to push beyond my limits and achieve my goals,” says Adibi. “I believe PhD students can grow faster and in more impactful directions by collaborating with leading industry partners.”

Attaining her graduate degree was a significant milestone in her academic and professional journey. After graduating from the PhD program, Adibi took a post-doctoral position in Professor Hamed Shahsavan’s SMART-Lab. She is working in his research group, focusing on the development of soft robotics for biomedical applications. Adibi is excited to expand her research interests in polymer science to encompass biomedical applications. She is hoping to eventually land a position as a professor.

“The PhD program provided me with advanced research skills, in-depth knowledge, and expertise in my area of specialization, which have been instrumental in furthering my research aspirations. Moreover, the degree has opened new opportunities to contribute meaningfully to my field and pursue academic and industry collaborations.  By achieving this milestone, I have taken a critical step towards realizing my long-term goals and trying to make a significant contribution to the scientific community.”

Adibi advises future graduate students to maintain a positive outlook despite the challenges that graduate programs may present.

“Keep pushing forward, and don't hesitate to seek help when needed. Celebrate your small victories, learn from your setbacks, and stay focused on your goals. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and prioritize your well-being throughout the journey.”