David Moises Baca Lopez’s first visit to Canada left a lasting impression. “As an undergraduate student, I had an opportunity to spend six weeks in Toronto,” he remembers. “I was exposed to Canada’s diverse, multicultural nature as I connected with students from all over the world. I knew then that I wanted to become a part of this society.”
Five years later, David won a prestigious scholarship from the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACyT), a Mexican government agency that has a longstanding relationship with UAlberta and Canada. He arrived in Edmonton with equal parts excitement and apprehension about beginning a new chapter in a foreign country. “I knew it would be challenging,” he says. “I was confident in my English skills, but I was used to a warmer culture. In my home state of Sonora, Mexico, for example, it’s normal to greet strangers on the street. That’s something I miss.” David was also accustomed to a significantly warmer climate. “It was difficult to adjust to the cold weather and lack of sunlight in the winter. I had to learn how to layer up and go out. Thankfully, I was more prepared for my second winter.”
David credits UAlberta International (UAI) for creating opportunities for international students to make connections and adapt to their new home. “I moved to Canada alone without knowing a single person,” he says. “Through planned social events and trips, like a three-day trip to Banff with 30 other students, I started to get to know people. I’m still friends with some of the students I met on those trips.”
David’s decision to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering at UAlberta has reaped professional as well as personal rewards. While he had previously honed his skills in mechatronics engineering in an automotive industry setting, his experience in the Laboratory of Intelligent Manufacturing, Design, and Automation (LIMDA) sparked a new interest in 3-D printing. “I’m a hands-on kind of person, so I chose to create a system as the basis for my research thesis,” he shares. Most 3-D printers only use one type of plastic material, but David invented an innovative system that uses multiple materials in the same machine. He published his findings in a high-profile journal and shared his knowledge with the local community. “One of my favourite memories was demonstrating mechatronics and 3-D printing to a group of Pakistani youth in Edmonton to showcase the value of engineering as a career,” he remembers.
After the onset of COVID-19, David put his 3-D printing expertise to use to design and print PPE in the LIMDA lab. “It’s been exciting to be part of the effort to support frontline workers,” he says. “Thanks to UAlberta, I’ve worked on projects with people from different backgrounds with all kinds of perspectives and ideas. My experience here has pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me just how much there is to do and explore. I feel like I’m in the right field at the right time.”