Student Innovator Spotlight: Anka Chan

The co-founder of Ruth sustainable pads is keeping plastic waste out of our landfills.


What’s one big problem you want to solve through your work?

I’m solving the issue of menstrual waste with my work at Ruth (formerly Hempact). Compared to traditional menstrual pads — most of which are made from 90% plastic and can take up to 800 years to degrade — Ruth pads are made from 93% bio-based and renewable materials including kenaf fibre, bamboo fibre, cellulose, and starch-based bioplastic.

Who do you look up to as an innovator?

Whitney Wolfe Herd, the CEO of Bumble who was the youngest female CEO to IPO. She founded Bumble after experiencing sexual harassment while on the exec team at Tinder and built a billion-dollar company based on integrity and making dating safer.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to venture into innovation but is afraid to?

Figure out why you’re afraid and ask if those reasons are good enough or not. Even if you fail, at least you learn something! 

How do you balance your work with your other studies, personal life and self care?

As a Christian, I pray a lot. I also always make time for at least one social thing per week (a call or picnic with friends). More practically, I schedule my entire life on Google Calendar. 

What do you think are the biggest issues facing young innovators right now?

There’s a lot of noise in the world, so it can be hard to know what voices to listen to. Be picky about what advice you follow – I try to listen to people who I want to be like and am cautious about taking advice from people who I don’t want to be like. 

Shout out your work! What do you have coming up in your future?

We launched our sustainable and disposable Ruth pads on Kickstarter on June 22, 2021 and were 110% funded in just 48 hours! Check out our Ruth pads here, where we’re making sustainable periods easy.

After the campaign ends on July 22, people can purchase Ruth pads on our website

We’re committed to fighting against period poverty and have finalized a deal with the University of Alberta Students’ Union to supply Ruth pads on campus for the Free Menstrual Product Initiative!

Innovator Spotlight is a series that introduces you to students whose big ideas are making a big difference.

Do you know someone who’s breaking boundaries at the U of A? (Maybe it’s you!) We’re interested in hearing from students who are creating new solutions to make our world better, no matter their discipline or year of study.

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This interview has been edited for clarity.


About Anka (She/Her)

Anka is a freshly graduated fifth-year neuroscience undergrad student (Class of ’21). Her work at Ruth began in the lab when she was a Research and Development Officer in the student project previously known as Hempact. Anka has experience in a variety of U of A academic research labs, including studying depression in mice brains, child language and literacy, movement and decision-making neuroscience, and social neuroscience. Her research experience equips her with the scientific rigour needed to design innovative products.