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Shirin Farrahi

2007 Shrum medallist is MIT bound

June 1, 2007

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By Marianne Meadahl

The field of engineering science is drawing more than a few good women—and Shirin Farrahi is one of them. She is also an advocate for increasing women’s presence in engineering labs across Canada.

Farrahi (right), the recipient of the Shrum Gold Medal for all-round graduate-level excellence, is heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this fall to pursue a PhD in the institute’s electrical engineering and computer science department.

She’ll start as a teaching assistant and hopes to begin research by May 2008.

Farrahi says her research will likely involve biomedical applications such as implanted devices to help paraplegics regain motor control.

The National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) granted Farrahi a graduate scholarship and made an exception to allow her to study outside Canada.

Besides maintaining stellar marks in engineering, Farrahi served as president of SFU’s women in engineering science group, setting up a mentorship program between lower- and upper-level female students, and earning a National Research Council (NRC) 2003 Women in Engineering and Science award, worth $30,000.

"I like to think that the field of engineering science offers unlimited career opportunities for women," she says.

Farrahi’s co-op education terms with the NRC and PMC-Sierra gave her a mixed experience of industry and research. She says that her greatest accomplishment was getting published in the Journal of Biomaterials Applications, a feat she believes had a big impact on her acceptance to MIT, the top engineering school in the U.S.

An accomplished pianist and violinist who has performed for the Prime Minister and Governor General, Farrahi started a string ensemble and continues to play at community events.

She raised money for the Division for the Advancement of Women in Engineering and Geoscience by organizing a Vancouver-wide 10-km fun run.

Farrahi will spend her summer working at Jewell Instruments, a New Hampshire company, where she is designing a digital device to improve the accuracy of the company’s sensors.

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