Headshot of Hannah Meaney. She is standing in front of a nature background.

Going through an Undergraduate degree is no walk in the park. Many students enter their programs having never been exposed to the fast-paced academic environment of an institution like UBC. Add to the mix clubs, work, and social commitments, it can be hard to prioritize mental health and stay connected.

Such was the case for third year Biomedical Engineering student Hannah Meaney, who also had the extra hurdle of transitioning from in-person campus life partway through her first year with the onset of Covid-19. Day in and day out, Hannah’s inaugural year at UBC became a barrage of screens.

So Hannah took matters into her own hands and used screens to her advantage.

Hannah started making TikTok and Youtube videos featuring her study methods, “day in the life” walkthroughs, course prep, school hauls, and more. As the pandemic rolled on and her accounts gathered a bigger following, Hannah took in viewer questions and set aside time to give her advice to incoming students who felt just as overwhelmed and isolated.

Now that Hannah is halfway through her Undergrad, she sat down with us and shared her experiences at SBME.

SBME: Tell us about yourself! What you have been doing at UBC?

Hannah: I’m in my third year at UBC and I’m in the Bioinformatics stream at SBME. I started university wanting to go into the cellular stream in biomedical engineering (BME), but after getting some hands-on experience in the wet lab, I decided it was not for me. I took CPEN 223 and realized that I really enjoyed coding and how code can be applied to solve biomedical problems. Despite having only taken 2 coding courses, I took the leap and am now pursuing informatics.

Because my interests changed from cellular to informatics over the course of my degree (in addition to doing a year of co-op), I will take a few extra years to graduate, but I’m really happy about that. I think it’s great that students can explore different interests at SBME, and I’m glad that I finally found what I’m passionate about. A perk of graduating a little later means I might be able to experience the new SBME building.

Hannah with her BMEG 257 team during lockdown after completing their remodelled Covid vaccine shipping container project.

SBME: Why TikTok? What drew you to this platform?

Hannah: I love TikTok because it is very easy to use. I film, edit, and post all my TikTok videos from my phone which means I can do it at school or during my commute. I also like it because you can use fun sounds and songs that are otherwise copyrighted on YouTube.
My TikTok account follows my journey through engineering as an SBME student at UBC. I like to show myself studying, hanging out with friends, exploring new eats (and tried and true faves) on campus, and taking part in my extracurricular activities.
I love when other UBC students comment on my videos and we get to have discussions about a hard exam or our campus experiences. I’ve even met a few fellow SBME students on my TikTok!

SBME: Why did you choose biomedical engineering?

Hannah: I pursued biomedical engineering because I love learning about the human body and healthcare systems. In high school, I considered studying biology and going to medical school until I found the BME program at UBC. I chose BME instead because I love how it applies biology, anatomy, and physiology concepts with problem-solving, teamwork, and technology. I also love the program because it is more hands-on compared to a biology undergraduate degree. I find the innovative and fast-paced nature of the biomedical field super exciting!

SBME: Where is BME taking you nowadays?

Hannah: I am currently working with Metro Vancouver’s Utility Capital Planning department for my co-op placement. At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be related to biomedical engineering, but this work is helping me learn new skills so I can pursue a career in either product management or a leadership role in a bioinformatics group. I applied for this position because I wanted to pick up applied knowledge about business, the market, and finance to understand how I can successfully integrate medical innovations into society in the future.

I’m also part of the Biochemical Innovation Team (BIT)—a sub-group of the UBC Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST)—and our current goal is to find correlations between genetic risk scores and coronary heart disease prevalence data. We have been using genomic databases to find single nucleotide polymorphism data and analyze the groups of genes around it. We then want to determine if that group of genes contribute to coronary heart disease. a

SBME: Where do you hope to go from here with your TikTok and social media? 

Hannah: I hope to someday work with some of my favourite brands on content. I also want to focus on making a community of people who are interested in STEM or even just university/professional life. I’ve found the community-building aspect of social media to be the most fulfilling.

SBME: What do you hope to achieve in the near and far future through your work?

Hannah: I want to create accessible online networks for patient information or infectious disease tracking.

In the bigger picture, I want to inspire underrepresented and marginalized groups to pursue STEM, particularly in software-related fields. I am the only person in my immediate and extended family who is in STEM, so I’ve lived the challenges of not seeing people like yourself in those roles and not being exposed to what those careers look like. Now that I’m in a position to show others the potential of a STEM career, I am very passionate about mentorship. I get to do this through engaging with fellow (and future) students through social media, co-leading the BEST mentorship program, and acting as an engineering ambassador with the UBC Faculty of Applied Science. I hope to encourage more women to see STEM as a field where they are respected, successful, and celebrated. We need more diversity in our leaders, and I’d like to be one of them.

To me, a leader is empathetic, supportive, inspirational, approachable, and goal-driven.

Life isn’t just study and screens for Hannah. To unwind, she loves to go backpacking and camping. So far, Hannah has trekked Garibaldi Lake, Joffre Lake, Elfin Lakes, and the 47km Juan de Fuca trail on Vancouver Island.

Whether it’s hiking or blazing trails in the BME field, we can’t wait to see where Hannah goes from here!

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

Watch Hannah’s SBME TikTok and Instagram takeover the week of October 17-21 to find out what a day in the life of an SBME student on co-op looks like!