With a B.A. in Psychology from New York University, Jacqueline Boyajian joined McGill in Winter 2020 as a new student in the Graduate Certificate in Translational Biomedical Engineering program. After two terms in the Certificate program, she joined the research lab of Prof. Satya Prakash to pursue a Master's degree in Biological & Biomedical Engineering.
We asked Jacqueline a few questions about her student experience, her hopes for the future, and what makes McGill special:
Q: Why did you choose McGill? Why the Gr. Cert. in Translational BME?
Since finishing my undergraduate degree, I had been looking for an opportunity to enter the biomedical field. However, my bachelor’s degree in psychology made me an unconventional candidate for most graduate programs and/or jobs. But McGill’s approach was different. When I found the Grad. Cert. in Translational BME, I was drawn to its interdisciplinary nature and saw it as a perfect way to combine my undergraduate background, passion for science and entrepreneurial mindset. I have always had my eye on McGill because of its global reputation and innovative ecosystem. Plus, being in the heart of downtown Montreal doesn’t hurt!
Q: What was your favorite part of the Certificate program?
Typically, the core courses in academic programs aren’t the exciting part, but the 3 required courses of the Cert program were my favorite part. Learning about clinical trials, patents, and regulatory affairs gave me practical steps to take to translate innovative research into market-ready products. I also really enjoyed the range of supplementary courses to pick from. Although it was tough to choose, I complemented my studies with tissue engineering and biosensor design courses, both of which gave me more industry insight. The program does a really great job in equipping students with applicable skills that you would otherwise only learn on the job. It also gives students freedom to make the course their own, allowing you to choose your own project topics in your fields of interest.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the Certificate program?
Although it was my favorite, the coursework was also the most challenging part of the program. Most courses had a final project that counted for the majority of the grade, with good reason! The work definitely required time and focus, but in the end, I was able to produce documents that I will likely have to recreate as a biomedical professional (e.g, clinical trial technical documentation, regulatory affairs strategy for a company, patent writing, research grant proposal). I also got very comfortable presenting on biomedical research/data, as it was a large part of several courses. Overall, the challenge was definitely rewarding.
Q: Why did you decide to transition from the Certificate to the BBME Master’s program?
As part of my Cell & Tissue Engineering course with Dr. Satya Prakash, I submitted a grant proposal as my final project. After realizing I would actually like to do the research project I proposed, I spoke with Dr. Prakash about his lab (Biomedical Technology and Cell Therapy Research Laboratory) and applied for the BBME Master’s. Although I would have been prepared for a variety of jobs in the biomedical industry upon completing the Grad. Certificate program, I found an area of research that grabbed my interest and I wanted to seize the opportunity to pursue it.
Q: What was the transition process like? What should other students know?
The process to transition was relatively simple. With that being said, there is still some preparation to do. Be sure to think ahead and apply to the Master’s before your second semester in the Grad. Certificate so you can transition seamlessly without a semester gap. Before applying, make sure to find a supervisor and lab that aligns with your interests as it will shape your experience. It’s also important to note that you cannot earn both the Grad. Certificate and the BBME Master’s, since the coursework overlaps. I chose to transfer all my credits towards the Master’s, which has allowed me to fully focus on laboratory research now as a Master’s student. I did, however, have to plan out my courses in the Grad. Certificate to make sure I was satisfying all of the course categories of the BBME Master’s. Don’t be afraid to take control of your studies and go for what it is you want!
Q: Why would you recommend other students to join BME?
Biomedical engineering is such an expansive field, with endless areas of opportunity. It was a new territory for me coming from psychology, but I found my niche within the field and can’t wait to see what other aspects I can touch as a professional. BME is for you if you are interested in designing medical devices or wearable sensors, conducting clinical trials, managing quality assurance for medical devices, researching novel drug delivery methods or even bringing research-based consumer products to market … and so much more. If you like science and technology, you can apply yourself in many ways within BME.
Q: What are your career goals?
I hope to be the founder of an innovative company that provides new products and services that use biotechnology for natural and effective solutions. My main interest is in skin microbiome and its role in skin disorders and overall health. My goal is to revolutionize the industry with new technologies.
Q: How has your program and/or BME helped you achieve you career goals? (or how will it help in the future?)
I plan to conduct quality research during the BBME Master’s and translate it into patented therapeutic products for a variety of medical ailments. I will also use the knowledge I gained from the Grad. Certificate Translational BME program to address regulatory requirements, obtain proprietary rights of my product, and continually design innovative devices/products. After completing the Translational BME program and having begun the BBME Master’s, I am much more confident in the ‘how’ behind pursuing my several entrepreneurial ideas for the biomedical industry.
Q: Did the Certificate program meet expectations you had going in?
The Certificate program definitely exceeded my expectations! The quality of the faculty and accompanying coursework was very high, and my classmates were all very driven and serious about their future. The program director, Dr. Ahmad Haidar, was instrumental in guiding my experience in the Certificate program and even beyond as a student of the Master’s. The rest of the faculty was just as positive and motivating, which encouraged me to absorb every step of the way. In order to get the most out of it, I would recommend entering the program with an open mind and excitement, and to not be afraid to show your personality through your coursework.
Q: If you could tell the world one thing about McGill BME, what would it be?
McGill is truly a motivating, supportive and innovation-focused environment that will not disappoint you! No matter your interests, you will find like-minded faculty and students at McGill that will help shape your future in the BME field. Don’t be afraid to just dive in!