New MIT recruit Jessica Van Brummelen wants to make the world a better place, one robot at a time
April 6, 2017
Jessica Van Brummelen
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
Bachelor of Applied Science (Class of 2017)
“Engineering school isn’t only about solving equations, completing interesting projects and learning about how the world works, it’s also about learning who you are as a person.”
AS A KELOWNA KID, Jessica Van Brummelen loved taking apart old remotes and calculators to figure out their inner workings. When she enrolled at her hometown School of Engineering, she was in for a nice surprise.
And then another nice surprise, and then another, and another…
Flash forward to September 2017: Van Brummelen will start a Masters/PhD program in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
“I never knew how much I would enjoy writing computer code, building robots, and researching sustainability or autonomous systems until I came to UBC,” she says.
“For example, there’s nothing like writing computer code, building a circuit, and watching my robotic creation move by itself. One day, I want to use the knowledge, passions, and skills that I’ve gained here to make the world a better place!”
But her calling didn’t appear overnight. Van Brummelen first had to understand that higher education wasn’t just about learning the curriculum: “It’s also about exploring.”
In doing so—with supportive professors and student clubs along the way—she’s worked on an educational video game to help promote sustainability in BC; researched environmental engineering in Sweden through UBC’s study abroad program; helped demonstrate the wonders of physics and computer science as a teaching assistant; programmed a giant robotic arm to mimic human motions; and “made some pretty incredible friends through it all,” she says.
“I feel I’ve really gained a passion to learn about how the world around me works, and to think creatively.”
“Not only is it a beautiful campus,” Van Brummelen says, “but UBC Okanagan also has a tight-knit community, a wealth of opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students alike, world-class education, and professors who care deeply and take time to reach out to get to know their students.
School of Engineering professors really take an interest in their students, she says, crediting such professors: Drs. Mohammadi (dynamics), Ray Taheri (CAD/CAM), Mina Hoorfar (thermodynamics), and her current research supervisor Homayoun Najjaran. “Each of these professors inspired me to keep learning, dig deeper, and pursue my passions. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!”
“One of the main reasons I chose mechanical engineering,” she says, “was because of my experience in first year. I loved my dynamics course and learning how things moved and reacted to each other. In mechanical engineering, you get to design different physical systems that you actually get to see in action. Plus, robots are cool!”
BEYOND THE CLASSROOM
Apart from involvement in such student associations as the Mechatronics Club, Concrete Toboggan Club, and Women in Science and Engineering Program, Van Brummelen took advantage of a Go Global summer research scholarship in 2014.
“The Go Global program gives students the opportunity to go almost anywhere in the world to study. Through this program, I went to Sweden, a country known for its dedication to sustainability, to do environmental engineering research. There, I looked at the amount of lead found in common brass products such as water valves. Knowing that I had a hand in research aiming to decrease the risk of lead poisoning and negative environmental impacts was extremely rewarding.”
EXPLORE YOUR PASSIONS
“Engineering school isn’t only about solving equations, completing interesting projects and learning about how the world works,” she says, “it’s also about learning who you are as a person.
“Explore, take new courses, join clubs, meet new people, find out what you like, find out what you don’t like, and most of all, don’t be afraid to follow your passions—even when those passions are different from the people around you.”
A variety of experiences, new perspectives, and relationships has whet Van Brummelen’s appetite for the world of engineering at UBC.
“I’m excited to see what the future holds!”