What led you to choose science and/or engineering as a career, particularly in the medical device field?
Zahabi: I always had a passion to understand human behavior and how to improve the performance of human systems. Therefore, I decided to choose industrial and systems engineering as my major and future career with a focus on human-systems engineering. I am especially interested in applications of human-systems engineering in healthcare and rehabilitation domain to enhance the quality of life for specific population.
What has been your most rewarding moment/accomplishment as an engineer/scientist in the medical field?
Zahabi: The most rewarding moment for me as an instructor is when I see my students applying the knowledge their learned in their courses to make the world a better place for everyone. I am very proud of their success and am grateful to have an impact on their journey.
As a researcher in health and human systems engineering area, the most rewarding moments are when I see the outcomes of our research can help people and improve their quality of life. For example, our research in electronic medical records led to a set of design guidelines to improve the usability of these devices that can ultimately reduce documentation errors and improve patient safety. In addition, our studies in upper-limb prosthetic devices have led to understanding of mental workload in using these devices and identification of algorithms that can reduce mental workload of prosthetic users and improve their performance in activities of daily living. Seeing these outcomes and their potential impacts are the most rewarding moments of my career as a scientist.
What advice would you give to other women looking to work in biomedical engineering and science?
Zahabi: Human (or the user) should be the center of all designs. Understanding human capabilities and limitations is the first step for a successful human-system interaction. Each individual has different needs and preferences and the best engineering solutions are those that are customized to match individual user needs. To all women in engineering and science: follow your passion and be confident. Trust what you do and don’t hesitate to ask questions.