MEng Biomedical Engineering student Ekgari Kasawala talks about the importance of women in the sector and her overall experience studying for an integrated master's at Aston...

Why Biomedical Engineering?Ekgari

Biomedical engineering has always fascinated me, it plays a very vital role in medical advancements in today’s society from disease prevention and diagnosis to treatment, and rehabilitation. It greatly contributes to high-quality patient care and improves the quality of life. Today Biomedical engineers work hand in hand with healthcare professionals in medical imaging, clinical engineering, and bioengineering fields as well as behind the scenes by developing software -this really appealed to me and I wanted to be part of this!

What was your reason for coming to Aston?

When I was researching universities, Aston was in the top 40 universities offering biomedical engineering courses and it is one of the most diverse universities in the UK. I truly feel like it was the best choice as throughout my 4 years here I have had immeasurable support from the biomedical engineering staff. The lecturers are all so supportive, and their research has really inspired and played a huge role for me in my career choices. 

What type of projects have you been involved in and how have these been impactful?

Throughout my time at Aston, I have worked on a variety of interdisciplinary projects in cooperating electric, software, and mechanical engineering modules. I’ve recently worked on developing a low-cost digital stethoscope and a pulse oximeter for heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation monitoring, a prosthetic knee for transfemoral amputees as well as a low-cost, high-accuracy breathalyser for drink driving accidents prevention.

I have gained so much knowledge from the course about computer-aided designs and worked on developing a paediatric transtibial prosthesis prototype that required gait analysis, simulations and testing as part of my kinematics and prosthetics module.

The medical engineering module played a huge role in growing my interest in health care. I learnt a lot about medical physics as well as the structure and operations of imaging equipment like MRI, Xray, and OCT machines and how they are used for diagnosis and surgery preparations and really demonstrated how the biomedical engineering field is helping save lives.

All of the projects I have worked on have played a huge role in my professional development while working both in teams and individually. I feel more confident in my capabilities, and I like that the overall experience has equipped me with skills that will allow me to work in other engineering fields and even in technology if I decided to change my career path.

What are your thoughts on women in Biomedical Engineering?

Biomedical engineering is currently one of the most populated engineering fields by women.

I personally did not grow up with female role models in my sector, but since starting university, I am so happy that I get the chance to learn and work alongside amazing women who are succeeding and doing amazing things. There is still a lot of work to be done to improve the representation of women in STEM in general and in some way, I hope I can inspire others especially black women that there is space in STEM for them too.

Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities? 

I am currently the president of the Biomedical Engineering Society at Aston. It's been an exciting experience so far, making new friends and being around people with similar interests. The majority of biomedical engineering graduates have been going into other fields after graduation so our main goal is to assist biomedical engineering students in their professional development through CV workshops, advice on utilising LinkedIn, networking, and inviting guest speakers as well as cooperating role spotlights where as a group we explore different roles in the biomedical engineering industry and by sharing opportunities related to our field. 

What advice would you give to students considering Biomedical Engineering?Ekgari with computer

Put yourself out there, you never know who is watching. 

I strongly advise you to make use of every resource available to you and actively seek out opportunities that can support your career development. Make it your mission to promote yourself. Do not be modest about your accomplishments because people won’t know about your potential and talents if you don’t put yourself out there and show up for yourself. It’s hard to take advantage of or receive recognition/opportunities that you aren't actively seeking.

Also, seek mentorships and learn from people who have done it before you. Engineering is not an easy field - some guidance is always useful.

What are your future plans?

I enjoy research so I am hoping to remain in academia and progress to a doctorate degree preferably in the biomedical computer science field. Alternatively, I aspire to work as an engineer in the MedTech industry and contribute to medical developments.