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Born and raised in Vaughan, a suburb in Toronto, Bernadette Ilagan was always intrigued by the medical/healthcare field. However, she knew more impact could be made if she looked beyond becoming a doctor or nurse. Her mom had chosen this path and while the work she conducted over the years was inspiring, Ilagan was keener on turning her passion for chemistry into a profession.

She was determined to one day improve people’s lives by creating products for treatment instead of administering it. After gaining key foundational knowledge in chemical engineering during her undergraduate years, she was ready to achieve mastery — and the only way to do so was with a master’s degree.

Exploring her options, she discovered the research conducted by Professor Brian Amsden at Queen’s University’s Department of Chemical Engineering. His team explores the creation of effective biodegradable and biocompatible polymers for biomedical applications. “It really aligned with the field I wanted to pursue,” she says.

Her transition to life in Kingston, Canada was smooth, and the academic journey she embarked on hit the sweet spot between rigorous and nurturing. “As a master’s student in the research stream, there were only a few classes that needed to be taken,” she says. “My favourite class was biomaterials as this was directly related to my research. My supervisor, Brian Amsden, was very supportive. He would always invite all his students to his cottage every summer.”

Spending a majority of her studies in some of Queen’s University’s many state-of-the-art laboratories thoroughly prepared Ilagan for the expert-level research she would go on to conduct as a professional. After graduating, she began her career at Ripple Therapeutics as a junior chemical engineer, where her discovery-filled days continued.

Today, she has worked her way up to leadership within the company, serving as both a senior engineer and project manager. So far, she’s participated in a drug coated balloon development project that received ORF funding, coated medical devices, and worked on various drug delivery systems. “I am currently working on developing an injector to support the Phase III clinical trial of Ripple Therapeutics’s lead product IBE-814 IVT,” she explains.

Ilagan credits her Queen’s experience for giving her the confidence she has to make positive changes on a global scale. Critically acclaimed for both teaching and research, the Department of Chemical Engineering was designed specifically for these transformations.

Its mission is to provide internationally recognised leadership in education and research at the interface of science and engineering. It also aims to anticipate the needs of its students and society before innovating and contributing responsible solutions for this generation and the ones to come.

The department’s success so far is evident through its reputation for excellence. It is recognised nationally as a top three research department and internationally acknowledged as a leading division in North America.

Queen's University Department of Chemical Engineering

Source: Queen’s University Department of Chemical Engineering

The department explores many exciting, world-changing fields of research, including Bioengineering; Process Systems Engineering and Systems Biology; Materials and Interfaces; as well as Clean Energy and Sustainable Development. Students are more than welcome to join in.

During Ilagan’s studies, she learned about tech transfer and intellectual property by reaching out to faculty members who are experts in these areas. Many of them informed her of the resources surrounding her and the courses that would best complement her interdisciplinary interests.

Following in her footsteps has never been easier, thanks to the Department of Chemical Engineering’s Master of Applied Science (MASc), Master of Engineering (MEng), and PhD degrees.

The first master’s degree is thesis-based while the second is academic-based — however, both educate students in advanced concepts and techniques. They entail conducting research inquiry at the forefront of discipline knowledge and fostering independent and critical thought — leading to the honing of the critical, scholarly skills needed to conduct impactful research.

Meanwhile, the doctoral route comprises far more, focusing on the technical leadership competencies required to make original contributions to existing knowledge in the field of study. Through a combination of formal coursework, independent research, teaching and research assistantships, and a research thesis; candidates are ready to launch careers in academic research and teaching, industrial research and development, and government research.

To determine your path and learn more about the Department of Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University, click here.

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