When Dr. Karen Cheung (Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering) learned that she was a Research, the Sciences and Technology nominee for the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, she was understandably humbled by the honor. “To be even considered among these luminaries is a bit of a shock. Previous years’ nominees are research stars.”

Dr. Karen Cheung’s research focus is lab-on-a-chip systems for tissue engineering and high content drug screening, biosensors, inkjet printing for single-cell dispensing, and implantable neural interfaces.

The YWCA Women of Distinction Awards is one of Canada’s most prestigious honours, recognizing the work of exemplary women leaders whose work improves people’s lives across Metro Vancouver. In addition, all nominees are eligible to win the Connecting the Community Award which helps raise awareness and funds for a cause of the nominee’s choosing.  

For her cause, Dr. Cheung chose the YWCA Early Learning and Care:

I chose to support early learning because childhood science and engineering education is essential to give young children the fun, engaging activities that empower them to see themselves as problem solvers.

Dr. Karen Cheung

“I have so much admiration for the staff at Early Learning and Care centres,” says Dr. Cheung. “Their chosen calling is to work with young children, teaching them how to learn, how to participate—this is such an important contribution to society. As a biomedical engineering professor, I see firsthand how eager our students are to gain the skills they will use to transform lives in emerging areas of medicine. I chose to support early learning because childhood science and engineering education is essential to give young children the fun, engaging activities that empower them to see themselves as problem solvers.”

It didn’t take long before Dr. Cheung set to work building a network of enthusiastic support from UBC and its Faculty of Applied Science to match the $10,000 donation prize that comes with winning the Connecting the Community Award.

Dr. James McEwen (Adjunct Professor in the Faculties of Orthopaedics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at UBC), an ardent supporter of the Biomedical Engineering Student Team (UBC BEST) whose membership is at 50-50 gender parity, has engaged BEST to mobilize and promote awareness for the award through social media and their activities. If Dr. Cheung’s cause wins the voting campaign, Dr. McEwen has also offered to sponsor a table for BEST members at the YWCA Women of Distinction Award ceremony. “I’ve always admired how the McEwen family supports and contributes to the community,” says Dr. Cheung. “They encourage students to ‘demonstrate compassion by helping improve the quality of life of others throughout our education’ and I think that example is one to follow.”

So how can you help? Vote!

Starting today, Wednesday, March 4 until the close of voting on April 24, 2020 we need you to support Dr. Cheung’s campaign for the Connecting the Community Award. You can vote once per day, every day, until the competition closes. Bookmark the page, follow our campaign and spread the word across social media using the hashtag: #VoteYWCAWOD. Tag us @BME_UBC and the Faculty of Applied Science @ubcappscience on Twitter and we’ll boost the signal!

But Dr. Cheung wants this to be more than a simple voting campaign. So each time you post using the above hashtag, tell us your stories about how medical research and technologies have helped you or your family. Are you a student in Biomedical Engineering? Tell us what you’re working on, and how you hope to impact the world.

Like, retweet each other’s stories, and vote vote vote!

Dr. Cheung’s Research Team

Making an Impact

Many students are drawn to Biomedical Engineering for personal reasons. Some are engaged to solve global health challenges, to develop technologies and improve health-care delivery in low resource settings. Some are inspired by personal experiences to develop new diagnostics, new therapies, new treatments for improved healthcare solutions. “There’s often a personal connection to the work,” says Dr. Cheung. “It gives us a sense of purpose, showing us how we can make a meaningful impact in society.”

By using the opportunity of the Connecting the Community Award not just to support Early Learning and Care, but to showcase the work that students are pursuing in the biomedical engineering field, we get to demonstrate for children what engineering is, and how it can improve the quality of life for so many people.

Join us in helping Dr. Karen Cheung’s nomination reach further than it ever could have on its own.

Special Thanks

Dr. Cheung would like to thank, Dr. Carmen de Hoog of the UBC School of Biomedical Engineering (SBME), who was the driving force behind this nomination; Dr. Peter Zandstra (SBME Director); Dr. Cheryl Wellington (Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health); and Ms. Tegan Stusiak (SBME Student Services Manager) for their wholehearted support for this nomination.