Headshot of Vivan - Outreach Award. She is standing in a hallway, and is wearing a green turtle neck sweater and black frame glasses.

SBME Master of Applied Science student Vivian Zhang has received the School of Biomedical Engineering’s inaugural Graduate Outreach Award.

Outreach and public engagement are integral to connecting our School of Biomedical Engineering community to society. We value outreach that educates the public about the fantastic research that is being done in SBME, and we strive to inspire the next generation of biomedical engineers. The goal of this award is to recognize an individual that has demonstrated outstanding outreach contributions within SBME, including high quality (individual or tailored experiences for a small group) and/or wide engagement (activities that reach more people).

Vivian is a Biomedical Engineering student in Dr. Nika Shakiba’s lab. Vivian’s research focus is on understanding early embryonic development using mouse embryonic stem cells. Through this work, she hopes that an insight on the fundamental decisions that happen in early embryonic development could give us a peak into how the human embyro grows.

“It helps us understand how these pieces make their decisions to form an embryo, like building blocks,” Vivian explains. “These behaviours have implications for how the embryo turns out.”

Vivian enjoys that she is able to practice the critical thinking skills in the Shakiba Lab that will aide her in pursuing a career in healthcare. She knows that knowledge is ever-evolving and is excited to analyze research literature to build and promote critical scientific thinking.

It is precisely this curiosity and inquiry- and evidence-based learning that Vivian hopes to pass onto future scientists. Vivian interacted with high school students at the UBC Science Rendezvous and played a core role in organizing the StemCellTalks Vancouver conference that opens high school students’ eyes to stem cell research biomedical engineering each year. She is also heavily involved in smaller-scale outreach projects, like with her runner-up placement in the SBME 3-Minute Thesis Heat (and first place in the UBC-wide 3MT semi-finals!) and 1-to-1 mentorships with Undergrad and high school students, both of which allow her to share her academic experience and communicate her research in clear, accessible language.

To Vivian, this award is more than just a monetary prize. The SBME Graduate Outreach Award is a recognition of her mentorship and knowledge sharing.

“It’s validation that getting involved outside of research and beyond personal scientific achievements is valuable. It shows that outreach activities outside of the lab are important. It’s so important to advocate for youth in STEM and model a source of leadership for them.”

— Vivian Zhang | M.A.Sc student, SBME

And lead she will. Vivian believes that a leader should provide a safe space to learn from mistakes, understand and support their team in achieving self-defined goals, and lead by example. Getting recognized for her leadership with this Outreach award is just the first step in Vivian’s journey.

Outside of her lab research, studies, and outreach and mentorship activities, you can find Vivian in the pool. She is a member of the UBC Artistic Swimming team and worked with the team to win the top overall placement at the 2022 Canadian University Artistic Swimming Nationals!

Vivian Zhang swim team photo

Congratulations to Vivian Zhang for earning the first ever SBME Graduate Outreach Award. We’re excited to see you mentor, change the healthcare landscape, and make waves!

This story is part of the SBME’s Building Today, Leading Tomorrow series. Follow along as we Discover, Invent, and Translate for the future.