Women in STEM: Elizabeth Wicks, Engineering Physics

"Try as many new things as you possibly can – you will learn the most when you are uncomfortable. Dream big, explore all possibilities and continuously raise the bar of your expectations for yourself."

“Try as many new things as you possibly can – you will learn the most when you are uncomfortable. Dream big, explore all possibilities and continuously raise the bar of your expectations for yourself.”

Original Feature


Why did you choose to pursue engineering as a career?

I’ve always wanted a career that would help people directly and change lives. Engineering provided a tangible means to create and implement solutions to relevant problems. Also… my dad did his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, so I can’t say I wasn’t influenced by him!

What are some of the most memorable moments from your time in the program?

I absolutely loved my time being a part of and eventually leading the UBC Biomedical Engineering Student Team (BEST). It was through UBC BEST that I had the opportunity to pursue my passion for biomedical engineering innovation. Our team is made up of over 80 UBC students, who work on six different projects geared towards solving identified challenges in the healthcare industry. Working with the talented and enthusiastic BEST members for two years, I gained leadership and teamwork experience while building long-lasting friendships.

What are the most valuable things you have learned?

The purpose of my degree was not just to learn academic or technical skills in classes. It was about pursuing all opportunities in order to find what you love to do. I made sure to try as many different and new things as possible throughout my degree with the hopes of discovering my passion. I joined the UBC Synchronized Swimming team in first year with zero experience and learned that it was possible to balance sports with engineering. I applied for any co-op jobs that sounded interesting even though I didn’t have all the skills for them, which led me to working at the most incredible biomedical engineering places in Vancouver. I decided to minor in commerce to ensure that as an engineer, I had a concrete understanding how businesses were run.

Although none of my courses were related to biomedical engineering, I purposely chose all my co-op work terms, two capstone projects and extracurricular student team activities to be focussed on biomed, in order to increase my exposure to and explore the field.

The lesson is to take every single opportunity that comes by, in order to discover and learn as much as possible throughout your degree. The relentless pursuit of opportunity is what drives personal growth.

How are you applying the skills you learned through your studies at UBC?

Through my 16 months of co-op work terms, I learned how to apply the academic skills I learned in class to real world engineering problems. In particular, I had the opportunity to apply my passion for biomedical engineering at my technical roles through co-op terms at Kardium (a local medical device company), BC Cancer Research Centre and the UBC MS/MRI Research Group. I even had the chance to present my research work at MS/MRI at an international medical imaging conference in Toronto, Ontario.

Most importantly, through balancing eight courses per term – while running a student team – I learned exceptional time management and prioritization skills that I can apply to everyday work at my startup today.

How do you feel a degree in engineering has benefited you compared to other fields of study?

Studying engineering has been an empowering experience. It has given me both the confidence and ability to create something from nothing, whether it’s software or hardware. Especially going through the engineering physics program, I realized that I’m only limited by my imagination. My degree is not just a line on my resume – it has provided me with tangible skills to turn ideas into reality, while solving real world problems.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

Try as many new things as you possibly can – you will learn the most when you are uncomfortable. Dream big, explore all possibilities and continuously raise the bar of your expectations for yourself.

What are your goals for the future?

To pursue my entrepreneurial itch, I recently moved to Toronto to be a part of Canada’s Next36 entrepreneurship program. With the mentorship, resources and network from the Next36, I am working with two co-founders on my own startup called Tandem, a collaboration tool for remote software development teams. We believe that remote teams should be as efficient as co-located teams, and are aiming to revolutionize the way that they collaborate.

In the long term, I aspire to use my toolset of technical, managerial and analytical skills in order to create significant and sustainable value for the world.

What is your ideal job?

My dream is to start my own medical device company that will create significant and sustainable value for healthcare industry, while improving quality of life.