BHSc Alumni Spotlight

Biomedical Sciences

Mayall

Robert Mayall, BHSc'13

CTO & Founder at FREDsense Technologies | Synthetic Biologist, Chemist, Nanoscientist

  • BHSc - Biomedical Sciences - University of Calgary
  • Ph.D. - Physical Chemistry, Nanoscience, Electrochemistry - University of Calgary

The inquiry-based learning from the BHSc program really taught me how to think and tackle problems where the answer wasn’t immediately clear.

Robert Mayall, BHSc'13

What is your favorite BHSc memory? 

My favourite times in the BHSc program were when I was working with the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) team. It was a great experience to be able to work with others to develop our own ideas and to apply what we were learning in our courses. I wouldn’t have even thought about participating if the program hadn’t encouraged students to get involved with summer research projects.

Looking back, what advice would you give yourself as a student?

Try everything that you can to see what you like! I only discovered that I loved research by trying it and was planning a totally separate career path before that. There are so many opportunities to try new roles, to shadow different careers, or to grab coffee with someone in a different major. You can never know too much about what is out there in the world!

What is the best thing about your current job?

The best thing about my role as the CTO at FREDsense is being able to work with a phenomenal team of scientists and engineers to develop technologies that can solve real-world problems. There is something magical about being in the field with end-users and seeing a technology that was previously just a drawing on a whiteboard make a difference in someones day to day life.

How has your career evolved?

My role has changed a lot over the last few years. After my BHSc I completed a PhD in chemistry, focusing on developing ways to produce electrical outputs from biological systems so that we could easily track what is happening from a computer. At the same time, I co-founded a start-up company, FREDsense Technologies, out of the 2012 iGEM team. After my PhD I joined the company full-time, first as a scientist, then as a project manager, and now as the Chief Technology Officer leading up the R&D team. The one thing that has been consistent throughout is always striving to work with others, as very little is done in isolation these days. 

How did your BHSc degree help you get to where you are now/current career? 

The inquiry-based learning from the BHSc program really taught me how to think and tackle problems where the answer wasn’t immediately clear. From undergraduate research projects to grant proposal and literature reviews in classes, the education was both practical and thorough! Now that I’m leading a team of researchers, these skills are invaluable and I rely on them every day to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction with our work.

What is the best piece of advice you have received during your career journey?

I was once applying for an award and I was stressing about not getting it when one of my friends asked me “so what if you don’t get it? What is the downside?” That really stuck with me and has given me the confidence to ask dumb questions, to apply for awards and scholarships, and to push for more in everything that I do. Even if someone says no, maybe the next person will say yes!

Robert Mayall in the news

FREDsense

FREDsense secures $2.5M financing from BDC Cleantech Practice

FREDsense will utilize the funding to grow their current and future sensor expansion plans, developing new solutions for various water quality parameters in conjunction with global partners.

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biosensor

What problem are you trying to solve? Detecting bacteria quickly

PhD student and entrepreneur Robert Mayall creates a hand-held biosensor capable of detecting bacteria in minutes instead of days — for less than $100! 

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