A Quick Study with Andrea Marshall

This ongoing series is aimed at getting to know what motivates and inspires UBC students about their learning — inside and outside the classroom.

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On family ties, improving the quality of someone’s life, the value of work terms, yoga, Zumba, and volleyball.

Meet Andrea Marshall, Biomedical Engineering, Faculty of Applied Science.

Andrea Marshall


Why UBC?

AM: I’m the third generation in my family to graduate from UBC. My grandpa graduated from UBC, my dad graduated from UBC, and now both my little brother and I are here too. My parents used to always bring my brother and me on tours of UBC campus when we would visit Vancouver, so when I was in high school it is the only place I applied. It was the only university I wanted to study at. I wanted a university that was ranked highly and well respected, but in a nice city where I would enjoy living. UBC has been perfect for me!


You are have recently returned from Africa. Can you describe what you were doing there with the UBC Biomedical Engineering Student Team (UBC BEST)?

Andrea Marshall

AM: First of all, UBC BEST is a multidisciplinary team of engineering, business and science student who design and build medical device that address real world medical challenges. It is a very new team and is starting its third year right now.

Last year I became captain with Sagar Malhi and an excellent executive team and we wanted to do something different with the team, something bigger. UBC BEST is all volunteer-based and we have about 50 students who are keen to learn and make a difference. We felt the team was in a great position to work on medical challenges for low resource settings, but we needed first-hand knowledge about those challenges. We travelled to both Kenya and Uganda on a three-week fact finding mission investigating medical challenges in low resource settings and building connections with local professionals. This initiative, which we call the UBC BEST International Medical Device Initiative (IMDI), has provided UBC BEST with that first-hand knowledge. It resulted in over 30 potential projects and excellent connections we hope to collaborate with.

We have now narrowed that down to four new projects that we will be pursuing for the next couple years. We are so grateful to our generous donors Paul Geyer, Dr James McEwen, the SpencerCreo Foundation and the UBC Faculty of Applied Science for all their support.


What keeps you motivated to find solutions for some of these engineering challenges?

Andrea Marshall

AM: I think a big motivator for me is the fact that finding solutions to these medical challenges can dramatically improve the quality of someone’s life, or in some cases, even save a life.

I really like to speak to the end users. It reminds me how my work is actually helping people and how important that is. Going to Kenya and Uganda to speak to the doctors, nurses and patients was a huge motivator for UBC BEST. Actually seeing the procedures and how changes could improve patient care pushes the team to be innovative. I think it is tough with medical devices because they take so long to go through all the regulations before actually reaching a patient, but remembering why I started a project in the first place and remembering the end user will keep me loving what I do.


If you were to pick one thing that you feel your work term gave you what would it be?

Andrea Marshall

AM: I’ve had a lot of work terms. I spent 12 months with LightIntegra Technology, 8 months with Kardium Inc. and I just finished a summer internship at Haemonetics Corporation in Boston Massachussets.

I think each work term taught me different things, both technically and personally. One big thing that all my work terms gave me was confidence in my career choice. All of my work terms were specific to blood and cardiovascular related medical devices, and I loved each one. Even my capstone project with Western Clinical Engineering Ltd. was in that area. I specifically wanted to stay in that area and each work term reinforced that I am excited and passionate about that field. They allowed me to find exactly what I love and start to specialize so that I would be better prepared when I graduate. I’m going to be working full-time as an electrical engineer at Haemonetics Corporation in Boston when I graduate working with their blood management devices, and my work terms gave me the experience I needed to get there and personal knowledge to know I’ll be happy working there.


Where do engineers go to chill on campus?

AM: I’m not sure about all engineers, but I like going to a quiet little café with a friend and chatting. I found this amazing place near the rose garden last year called Seedlings. It is the top floor of the graduate student building and full of comfy chairs and big windows facing the ocean. It is a hidden gem! It is such a relaxing environment and a great place to read or hangout with a friend. It is on the opposite side of campus from the engineering buildings, but the walk through campus is nice.


You are involved with Women in Engineering (WiE) at UBC. What would you say to young women interested in engineering as a career path?

Andrea Marshall

AM: I’d say go for it! Engineering has taught me how to think through problems differently and it has given me to tools to help people. Engineering is about working in teams to help people and I think that is really fulfilling.

I do a lot of outreach events at high schools, and I’ve noticed that sometimes engineering is not well portrayed to students because there is so much variety. I had personally had no idea what I’d be doing as an engineer until I started my first work term after second year. There are so many options for engineering; it is tough to define what a ‘typical’ engineer does. Electrical engineering, chemical engineering and mining engineering will all be quite different. It is a degree you can do so much with. I even have friends who decided engineering wasn’t for them and then went into law school and medical school. Having a degree in engineering makes you employable and gives you options. So I’d definitely tell any young woman thinking about engineering to go for it!


Favourite thing to do in the fall at UBC?

AM: Fall in Vancouver is great because it doesn’t get that cold. Going for a walk around campus with all the leaves changing colours is beautiful. In the fall I also get started with my athletics. UBC has a huge range of options at the gym and different clubs. I always join the UBC Yoga Club so I can drop in to yoga classes between my classes. I find it really helps me relax! I am also a huge fan of spin and Zumba, but there is also an enormous selection of other classes to join as well.

I have also been playing on a recreational volleyball team since first year. UBC has a great selection of intramural sports at a range of levels. I’m playing in a competitive league and it has worked perfectly for me. It is challenging but is only games on Sundays, so doesn’t take too much time. If you’re just starting out they have beginner leagues that are just for fun too! I’ve also made some great friends through the athletic activities at UBC!

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