PhD (Mechatronic Systems Engineering), 2014
Though it might look like a glove to most people, for Dr. Parvind Grewal it was an open door.
Grewal is a Research Project Manager at the BC Cancer Agency. She completed a PhD in Mechatronics Systems Engineering at SFU in 2014.
Grewal manages an online program that provides professionally facilitated support groups for people with cancer. As part of her role, she analyses chatroom data to help treatment providers understand how to better meet the needs of their patients.
For someone with an extensive background in software and hardware design, Grewal's current role represents a pretty big career shift—one that she is very happy about.
“Before I started my PhD program I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I had recently emigrated to Vancouver from India. I knew I liked working in the technical field but I also craved something more,” she says.
For her doctoral project, Grewal designed a glove embedded with multiple types of sensors that doctors could use to more accurately detect breast cancer. Through the process of setting up medical trials to test the glove, Grewal discovered a new and unexpected calling: helping improve patient supports.
“I realized what I really loved was using my technical knowledge to find solutions to patients' problems. In my new role I am able to continue to do that by helping them use online communication methods to access the supports they want and need,” she says.
Grewal explains that not only did her PhD program help her define her direction, but also gave her what she needed to pursue it. “I gained so many skills through my PhD, like how to learn and experiment with new software, how to lead clinical trials and how to analyze the clinical data. As well, I got a lot of experience managing people, which is a big part of what I do now,” she says.
Grewal adds that one of the most important resources she gained from her doctoral work was a network grounded in Vancouver’s health-service providing community.
“It was hard reaching out to new people, but my supervisor, Dr. Farid Golnaraghi, really pushed me to talk to people at the BC Cancer Agency. The relationships I created through my program are what led me to where I am today,” she says.
- Written by Jackie Amsden and the Office of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows.