Matthew Hickey

Investigating Mechanical Causes of Failure in Total Knee Replacement
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Graduate school was only on my mind in the later half of my undergraduate engineering degree, to be honest, I thought I was going down a traditional consulting path. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to do several co-op terms in a research lab, that I discovered my real passion for research and innovation. There is nothing like identifying important knowledge gaps and then constructing well-thought-out experimental plans to fill those gaps. It can be a long process, but every time I get a result, I feel like it’s a contribution to the field I can call my own, facilitated by standing on the shoulders of giants that posed questions, did experiments, and shared their work before me.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

Honestly, why not? UBC is a top-tier research university in engineering and medicine. I am extremely privileged to be surrounded by leaders in engineering, medical research, and education. The excellent recreational facilities mixed with ocean and mountain views don’t hurt either.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

Problems are rarely solved by lone individuals. The interdisciplinary and diverse culture within my program is truly an environment where problems get solved.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I’m from Newfoundland where much of the year it snows and is quite cold (except for some beautiful summers). I’m surprised by how much I have enjoyed Vancouver’s milder weather and gorgeous greenery.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

The research itself is always cool, but for me, I really enjoy the opportunities where I get to share my work and ideas with others in my field through academic conferences. It’s a great way to get great feedback on your work from leaders in the field (in addition to healthy amounts of constructive criticism) while meeting new people from all over the world.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

I feel like I’ve had support from a wide variety of places. First and foremost, from past and present academic mentors and supervisors who always advised me to go further, learn more, take calculated risks, celebrate when I succeed, and try again when I don’t.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Cooking fresh and new meals, especially using vegetables and herbs from the garden. Also, spending as much time as possible with my high-energy and goofy rescue dog, Winston.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Embrace curiosity and be okay with making some mistakes along the way. It may feel like one at times, but it's not a race; most people are here just to learn.

Outside of your academic work, what are the ways that you engage with your local or global community? Are there projects in particular that you are proud of?

I am extremely proud of the work I have done within my university and local community surrounding education. I truly believe that education is the key to creating a more equitable world. That’s why for the past few years I have designed and participated in Science World’s Girls in STEAM Symposium, showcasing displays on biomedical robotics, using simple electric circuits to measure vital signs, and delivering a full workshop on 3D printing and modeling. The students are always so excited! In addition, for ~4 years I’ve been a volunteer tutor and mentor with Pathways to Education, an organization specifically for youth in low-income communities (I volunteer on the downtown east side) and provides them with the resources and support to help them graduate from high school and build a base for a successful future.

A big part of my work is figuring out the best way to use CT scanners to image a knee with an implant already inserted. Best way to experiment with that? Try your best to follow a surgical technique with woodshop tools on a foam bone model, attach the implants with hot glue, then scan as much as you like.

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