“Nothing excites young people more about science and engineering than when an experienced professor can guide them in a subject,” says Nikolova, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Canada Research Chair in High-frequency Electromagnetics.
“There has to be a mentor who students can look up to – someone to meet with weekly, to show the little tricks of the profession. Someone who will lean over the equipment to show how it works.”
Another way she motivates her students to succeed is by creating opportunities to build their interpersonal skills. “There are big emotional and mental rewards from attending international conferences and workshops. Students become part of an elite community of experts. This elates them and gives them the desire and energy to do more.”
Perhaps the ultimate reward her team gets, is the satisfaction of knowing their research has a high social impact. Currently, Nikolova and her research group are developing a radar scanner for early stage breast cancer detection that can distinguish between a healthy and malignant tissue.
Radar technology employs electromagnetic waves to reveal objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye, including human tissue. Thanks to researchers like Nikolova, radar imaging technology will soon become a medical imaging method.
“We are developing a compact, cost-efficient and safe technology that can be easily used in a family doctor’s office so that women can be checked as often as necessary.”
Nikolova and her team are also working on a fully automated, concealed weapon detection system using radar technology. A small radar unit, the size of an iPad, inspects people for foreign objects as they walk by. The system is currently being developed for commercial use by Patriot One, a company based in Burlington, Ontario. “This technology will be of great aid to security personnel.”