Breaking gender bias in biomedical engineering
Introducing Saige Andreychuk, the most recent intern to join our HQ in Stavanger. Saige is a highly skilled individual with an exciting background in STEM, specifically biomedical engineering and physics. To continue celebrating International Women’s Day, we caught up with Saige to discuss gender bias within biomedical engineering and capture her experiences in this exciting field of work.
Saige Andreychuk, EV Private Equity Intern
From 2016 to now, you’ve been involved in a wide range of innovative projects, from assisting the development of a new spinal cord injury device, to deriving deep learning for foetal 2D image registration. What has been the most exciting and/or rewarding experience you’ve had so far?
All my experiences have been rewarding in their own way. If I had to pick, I would say it’s been the greatest privilege to work on the foetal 2D imaging project. As well as being academically challenging, the project had a tangible impact to improve healthcare. The importance of this work cannot be underemphasized, as each year many women suffer the consequences of poor-quality imaging. Diagnosing foetal abnormalities in the early stages of pregnancy can significantly improve key health indicators and is an incredibly exciting area of research.
Since its conception, AI has become embedded within every industry and has been at the forefront of innovation in the tech sector over the past years. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the technology and have this skillset in my toolbox. This project provided a great opportunity to put these new skills into practice in an area of healthcare I am deeply passionate about. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the project transitioned to online learning, steepening the learning curve but making the final result feel even more rewarding.
Women are traditionally underrepresented within STEM subjects, including biomedical engineering. Who/what inspired you to delve into this research area, and what do you think can be done to encourage other young women to join this thriving sector?
I wanted to be within STEM because I always had an interest in how the world works, and have wanted to build skills that could be used to materially contribute to the dynamic changes that we are seeing today across all industries.
Engineering has been a very natural choice for me as I am academically strong in science-based subjects and enjoy problem solving. My attraction to medical engineering in particular stems from a desire to improve public health. Although becoming a doctor was high on my list for a while, I realized that in the field of engineering there is the potential to tackle some of the big questions and challenges facing the healthcare system. With this comes the reward of improving population and individual health at scale. One of my role models, my father, is also an engineer, which provided a lot of exposure and insight into what being an engineer entails.
I think there are a multitude of reasons as to why women aren’t pursuing careers in STEM. Some are structural barriers (i.e., lack of mentorship) others are cultural (i.e. beliefs that boys are “naturally” better at maths and science).
One of the most important areas we can contribute to encouraging other young women to pursue a career in STEM is through mentorship. By providing positive experiences in STEM, we can help to build confidence in young women in their STEM abilities. This confidence will hopefully encourage determination to succeed and, in turn, create new mentors and enable organic sustainable representation of women within STEM.
In line with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, which is #BreakTheBias, how do you think gender bias can be tackled within biomedical engineering?
One very positive aspect of medical engineering is that the percentage of women in the workforce is around 40%. This is almost double the overall percentage of women in engineering globally. It may be that this particular discipline of engineering has successfully attracted women due to cultural perceptions of “care” and an acceptance that women have a valuable contribution to “care”.
Whilst this is a wonderful development, we need to see other engineering disciplines with similar percentages. Again, I believe that mentorship is key, as when young women and girls are confident in an area, they are more apt to pursue it further and have success.
Overcoming gender bias is a complex discussion that will take time to achieve. I believe that actively discussing, sharing and celebrating women’s history will help transform the narrative of the world’s male dominated past.
There are many incredibly motivating women currently paving the way for the next generation of professional females – someone who stands out for me is Neri Oxman, an American Israeli designer and professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she led the Mediated Matter research group. Her work in material ecology (a combination of computational design, synthetic biology and 3-D printing creating compostable structures) is truly inspirational, and the 2013 Silk Pavilion captivated my imagination.
By looking at the work of Neri and many other talented scientists, and by considering some of the achievements of female scientists that have perhaps been overlooked in the past, there is no doubt in my mind that women have a bright and fulfilling future in STEM.
What motivated you to shift your focus from biomedical engineering to sustainability and ESG? What attracted you to this opportunity at EV Private Equity?
The principles learned in engineering are a catalyst to engage in any industry. Problem solving is fundamental to all industries. Teams that are created with individuals diverse in backgrounds and personalities provide a strong foundation for creativity, innovation and ultimately, enable positive change.
The current sustainability landscape on achieving net-zero and the targets highlighted in the Paris Agreement will take a great feat of creativity and innovative engineering. During the past two years I have had the opportunity to understand (through a Masters in Control of Infectious Disease) how the climate is driving an increase in incidence of certain diseases (i.e. malaria). I also had the opportunity to engage in a green energy start-up that is hoping to advance the ability to appropriate the earth’s heat in a sustainable way. Both highlighted how interconnected and dependant the world is on our eco systems and the transition to green energy.
EV Private Equity encompasses all of the above, the team, the creativity, the innovation and the commitment to fully engage in the ESG transition.
What does your day-to-day look like currently within EV Private Equity? What are you enjoying most about your role?
My current role at EV Private Equity entails performing data analysis on the metrics obtained from our portfolio companies. I am currently working with my colleagues to finalise EV’s 2021 Sustainability report which entails liaising with our portfolio companies’ ESG Officers to confirm and validate their sustainability KPI’s. During this process, I am learning about the various portfolio company technologies and can see their progress towards net-zero targets. Additionally, I am continually attending webinars to stay up to date on the dynamic ESG landscape to enable EV Private Equity to be positioned well for the future.
What are some trends or projects you’re noticing in the energy technology space that excite you? How do you think these developments will impact the sector?
One particular trend in the energy sector that excites me is energy storage. Currently, cost-effective energy storage solutions are deficient. With the development of energy storage solutions, stable energy pricing can be achieved by proactively managing energy demand from consumers.
By enabling consumers to potentially build up energy for future use in off-peak times, the resulting grid load during peak times will be reduced. This will enable prosumers to earn more, as buying energy becomes more expensive. Furthermore, energy storage is a vital component in a healthy energy transition as it helps overcome barriers associated with intermittent renewable energy.
How do you see your career evolving in the next 5-10 years?
I am really looking forward to the next 5-10 years of my career. At this very early stage I am fully engaged in absorbing as much information as I can in all aspects of the industry.
Whilst the evolution from engineering to private equity is reasonable, there is much to learn in the transition. I am hopeful that the efforts I engage in now will see my opportunity for both personal and career growth enhance. I have also thought to attain a Master of Business Administration (MBA) after being engaged in the industry.
What advice would you share to students or graduates considering a career focussed on private equity or ESG?
I would recommend that student or graduates stay up to date on current information, trends, policy changes, and regulations. This can be accomplished by following pages on LinkedIn, attending webinars, applying for courses, and reading the latest news.
I would also recommend that you speak with people who are working in the industry and get a better idea of what their job entails, and what skills you can develop to have the best chance of success in the role. If the opportunity presents itself, spending time shadowing with a mentor is also extremely helpful.
Want to learn more about our team of energy experts? Discover more here.