Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

My fascination with science began when I was a sickly child in China who endured too many injections. Whenever doctors approached me with a needle, I screamed and cried for my young life.

One day, my doctor showed me a little rubber tube. He guided my finger into the toy-like device, and promised I’d feel just a tiny poke. Before I could cry,  the ordeal was over. Turns out that device was just a tube that concealed the needle–but to a 9-year-old, the magical tube freed me of my worst fear.

As Canadian student, I remained fascinated by medical innovation. As I delved deeper into both computer science and life sciences in high school, it’s clear that biomedical engineering (BME) is my next step towards my aspirations: a career in making doctor’s visits less scary to tomorrow’s kids.

The tables turned a decade later when I became a certified First Responder after 70 hours of emergency medical training–now, I was the patient advocate who was preparing needle injections. After each injury I treated at a sporting event, I let my imagination run wild: How could technology be leveraged to heal ACL tears after? What could First Responders improve to guarantee a full recovery?

 

In the laboratory of my mind, nothing was impossible. I imagined self-dissolving bandages that would melt away as the wound healed. What synthetic fibers could allow that advancement? I procrastinated on Google Scholar to test the feasibility of my fantasies, and found that I often to source answers from several different fields–medical advancements, apparently, were interdisciplinary efforts.

 

When I volunteered at a flu immunization clinic, the room was often filled with sobbing children exactly like my younger self. To my frustration, it often took up to 20 mins to calm a patient enough to administer a shot. But yet again, a medical innovation saved the day; after two weeks, the clinic received a shipment of vaccines that used nose sprays instead of needle injections. Not a single child who came to the clinic ever cried because of needles again.

 

Through my memories as  patient, my hands-on experience as a medic and my nerdy internet adventures, I learned that real-life scenarios added layers of complexity to pure science problems. Applied science is about much more than just hard knowledge—outside of lab results, advancing technology also requires an understanding of sociology, interpersonal skills, and patient psychology.

 

For example, even the simple pulse oximeter I use to measure the O2 saturation of patients in shock requires an understanding of both how oxygen binds to hemoglobin and a mechanism to measure it. Designing the oximeter required an electrical engineer, a physicist, and also a mechanical engineer to design the prototype. Next, hundreds of clinical tests were needed to optimize the patient experience–essentially, every step of the healthcare process must be taken into consideration.

Although I don’t yet possess the skills or experience to create life-changing medical devices, my plans are ambitious. Currently, I am working to establish a program to provide free first aid training to lower income classes. This demographic can benefit the most from emergency response training, yet sadly, they are the least likely to get it. This year, my goal is to close this knowledge gap–I hope that the graduates of my program will be prepared for medical emergencies and be able to spread awareness of the necessity of first aid knowledge.

Beyond high school, my goal is to revolutionize trauma medicine through applied science. Armed with a BME degree, I aspire to making encounters with medicine a better experience for all patients, whether at 7 or 70 years old.

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