Making the Most of Your Undergrad: An Interview with Daniel He

 Daniel He Speaking at the 2017 Engineering Iron Pin Ceremony Courtesy: Joy Cummings of UNB Media

Daniel He Speaking at the 2017 Engineering Iron Pin Ceremony Courtesy: Joy Cummings of UNB Media

In the midst of the hushed bustling of the Commons area in the Harriet Irving Library, we find Daniel He in a study room, removed from the mad-dash of study groups and the hyper-focused ambiance one could only notice during finals season. He greets us enthusiastically, seemingly detached from the stress that final exams bring. We sit down and begin a conversation, to reflect upon his years at UNB; his accomplishments, his challenges, and his advice for other students.

To those who know him, Daniel’s energy seems unlimited, and his accomplishments, impressive for a 21 year old. More often than not, undergraduates look up to students like Daniel, but also feel as though they are missing the “magic quality” needed to accomplish similar feats. Meeting with Daniel, showed us the exact opposite – it is in-fact, how in sync he is with his truly human qualities, and humble outlook on life that have led him down the path he is pursuing today.

Becoming Involved

Prior to university, Daniel had been a shy student who was not routinely involved in extracurricular activities and clubs. When Daniel first began his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering at UNB, the Engineering Undergraduate Society changed his outlook and  kick-started his engagement in the community. When attending their events, he says he met his first mentors – upper year students. Daniel described, passionately, how he feels that it is very unfortunate that too many students do not take advantage of some of the most important opportunities available to them, simply because they aren’t aware. To Daniel, the first of these opportunities came by a means of informal mentors - upper year students, who became essential to his personal growth alongside the EUS and inspired his commitment to engagement with both the UNB and the Fredericton communities.

By the beginning of his second year at UNB, Daniel became a Pond-Deshpande Student Ambassador, a select program designed to develop local students’ entrepreneurial potential. Here, he gained exposure to aspects that were missing from the student community and took action by becoming the President of the EUS, as well as co-founding the UNB Mathematics Society. Although he remained genuinely humble about the impact he had in these roles, both societies went on to win Society of the Year awards in 2016 and 2017.

From Community Involvement to Academic Involvement: Research

In the summer of 2016, he began working with Dr. Erik Scheme from the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) at UNB. The project was centered around developing an understanding of the myoelectrical signals that are sent from your muscles, and how these signals should be interpreted depending on the nature of the muscle contractions. Furthermore, Daniel did not only study these signals, he also helped to build the tools required to do so. This research contributed to the design and construction of future prosthetic limbs which can be controlled by myoelectric signals.

 

I saw that electromyography research was going on at an institute locally and I wanted to get involved.

There was no program at UNB dedicated to connecting students with researchers, the one major obstacle that prevents many undergraduates from pursuing their curiosity in research. When asked about how he became involved in such an innovative field, Daniel laughed as he disclosed “secret trick”, consisting merely of casual inquiries he made about the local research climate through personal research, and encounters with professors and staff.

Although the research aspect of academia is not cut out for everyone, Daniel strongly emphasized how important he felt his experience with the IBME was in providing him with context to the theory and mathematics that he was taught in class. To him, seeing knowledge and principles applied to real-world problems with the potential to impact others’ lives – such as his work in developing more effective prosthetic limbs – kindled his drive and passion for the subject material he was presented with in the classroom. He strongly recommended that students considering exploring the world of research, do so as it will help them solidify where their interests in academics lie – enriching the educational experience.

 

One thing that I especially liked about doing research, was the context. In electrical engineering, you are constantly bombarded with a lot of theory and math – it is easy to get lost. Doing research and applied work gave me some context which helped my understanding of the field and kept me motivated to learn more.

Experiment, Explore, Fail... Then You Succeed

We asked Daniel what advice he has for students aspiring to achieve similar levels of success in their communities. His advice is to have both long-term and short term goals while never fearing the prospect of failure.

 

University is a time of experimentation; there is no better time to try new things. This is one of the only times in your life that you can fail without taking serious risks. Explore your curiosity, and participate in everything you enjoy doing.

 Daniel He Speaking at the 2017 Engineering Iron Pin Ceremony  Courtesy: Adam Travis of UNB Media

Daniel He Speaking at the 2017 Engineering Iron Pin Ceremony

Courtesy: Adam Travis of UNB Media

Demonstrating his willingness to take chances to help the community, Daniel became involved with the White Ribbon Campaign, a global initiative targeted towards ending violence against women and girls and working toward gender equality, after he was exposed to the negative, gendered culture shared among some engineering students. By working to change this culture, Daniel gained what he described as, invaluable experiences that have helped shape his perspective as a member of our larger society, which he may have missed had he only focused on opportunities that appeared to be directly related to his studies and career aspirations.

Looking Ahead

Most recently, Daniel has been accepted into the Doctor of Medicine program at the University of Alberta after completing his third year at UNB. As a physician, he hopes to bring his breadth of experiences to the clinic where he will continue to positively impact the lives of others. It was clear that Daniel uses his passion to guide him and to address issues with his skill set in any way that he can.

To see more detailed research about the field of research that Daniel worked in, Click Here for an article by Dr. Abdelmaseeh et al. at the IBME, or Here for another related article by Dr. Erik Scheme & Dr. Kevin Englehart, researchers at the IBME.

Please Note: this article was not peer-reviewed as it does not contain direct research.


Authors

Jeremy Slayter_.jpg

Jeremy Slayter

Jeremy is studying Biology at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton. He has a passion for all realms of science, but predominantly health related as well as the psychological sciences. During his time as a student he has worked in various fields of research, including neurology, geriatrics, physical therapy, and rehabilitation medicine.

 

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Andrew Ward

Andrew is an alumnus of the ASRJ Executive Team. He Co-founded the ASRJ alongside Chair, Jeremy Slayter, while studying Biology at the University of New Brunswick. Andrew has a passion for the biomedical sciences as well as the social determinants and ethical principles of health, which has led him to his current studies in Medicine at the University of Toronto. In his spare time, Andrew enjoys cycling and all things coffee related!

 

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