Alaa Eldin Abdelaal
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
Because my goal is to work in research either in academia or industry, and a graduate degree is probably the best thing to do to prepare me to achieve this goal.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
Because of its reputation as a leading research university. Being in a great city such as Vancouver was also a major factor in my decision to attend UBC.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
My supervisor, Prof. Septimiu E. Salcudean is a well-known figure in the area of medical robotics. Our lab (The Robotics and Control lab) has three da Vinci Surgical systems (from Intuitive Surgical Inc.); they all have "read" interfaces that allow one to track the positions of the instruments, while one of them has a da Vinci Research Kit (dVRK) that enables researchers to hack the system for their own purposes. Only 30 research groups worldwide have access to the dVRK interface, and only four of them are in Canada. The lab also has strong ties with the Vancouver General Hospital (with Drs. Peter Black, Larry Goldenberg and Chris Nguan). This facilitates the observation of real robotic surgeries and getting input from clinicians about my proposed work. Our lab also collaborates with other established groups including Dr. Gregory Hager's group at Johns Hopkins University. This makes it easy to have Dr. Hager as my co-supervisor.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
For me, it was how beautiful the campus and Vancouver are.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
I think the main aspect is having a very supportive family. I am indebted to my mother, my father, and my wife for all their encouragement and support. I am also very grateful to all my mentors throughout my life especially Dr. Mohamed Hefeeda and Dr. Tamir Hegazy who were my advisors during my MSc degree which I completed at Simon Fraser University.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
I advise them to have a clear goal of why they want to pursue a graduate degree, especially a PhD. Another piece of advice is to learn about all the available resources they have during their studies and make use of them to achieve their goal. Last but not least, I advise them to have fun and to make sure that the journey towards a PhD is enriching all aspects of their personal life, not just the professional one.