Alumni spotlight

Rachael L'Orsa, MSc(Eng)'16, PhD'19


Rachel L'Orsa

Building the future space station robots

Rachael L’Orsa completed undergraduate degrees in both Arts and Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Calgary. She’s now a PhD student with Project neuroArm’s Surgical Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary, where she’s working on teleoperated and semi-autonomous medical procedures for a future space station robot. She is passionate about youth robotics and maintains a Primary Care Paramedic license with the British Columbia Ambulance Service.

If something doesn’t come easily to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it or won’t get good at it with practice.

Rachael L'Orsa

PhD student

What is your favourite memory from your time at UCalgary?

There are too many! Most involve spending time with either the Dinos rowing team or kids and volunteers via the Schulich Community Robotics Program.

What was your favourite campus hang-out spot?

Anywhere with lots of light: the top platform in the ICT building’s south stairwell is a good example. I’m also pretty fond of the new engineering complex due to its large windows and comfortable chairs.

What advice would you give your student self, knowing what you do now?

Gaining fluency with a new skill takes large amounts of time and effort; try not to get frustrated with the process. If something doesn’t come easily to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it or won’t get good at it with practice. Also, always set aside some time for yourself: if your hobbies become work, then you risk losing your passion for them.

How did your engineering degree help you get to where you are today?

It was a necessary step! Carving out a career in research and development would be very challenging without a graduate-level degree in engineering.

How has your career path evolved and changed since your graduation?

I fell in love with robotics at an early age, but didn’t know what careers might be available in this area or how to prepare myself for them. I did a Master’s for a number of reasons, but didn’t expect to fall head over heels for research. Where a younger me planned to look for a stable career with a robotics and automation employer after my Master’s, I couldn’t be more excited now about my decision to pursue a PhD. I’m fully invested in becoming an expert in my field, and can’t wait to contribute back to society with crucial innovations!