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The power of positivity and persistence

Mohammad Fazel Bakhsheshi

Mohammad Fazel Bakhsheshi, PhD, doesn’t take no for an answer. And it's this personality trait that has driven him to achieving success in his work.

Growing up in Tehran, Iran, Bakhsheshi remembers taking apart small machines like his father’s electrical razor or his neighbor’s bike, and trying to improve their design and functionality. Even though the majority of these attempts would result in failure, Bakhsheshi would try again and again until he achieved success.

Fascinated by how things work, Bakhsheshi came to Canada in 2007 to pursue his master’s degree in mechanical engineering. However, he felt the work he completed during his training was not practical.

“I always wanted to use my engineering background in a practical way — I wanted to build something that would help people,” he said. “That’s when I discovered Robarts Research Institute.”

Robarts Scientist Ting-Yim Lee, PhD, spoke to Bakhsheshi about a project he was working on involving cooling the brain and measuring the brain temperature — research that had a practical use. He was looking for a mechanical engineer to help design this kind of device.

Since then, Bakhsheshi has been working with Lee to develop an effective, safe and simple device that selectively reduces and maintains brain temperature while keeping the whole body relatively warm to avoid systemic complications. The device works by blowing cold air through the nasal cavity.

The device, which is the first of its kind in North America, is also very portable, and does not need to be connected to a power source — it can work inside or outside of the hospital.

Bakhsheshi explained the device could be used to help patients who have experienced traumatic brain injury, as hypothermia has been shown to be neuroprotective for cardiac arrest and brain trauma patients.

The team has recently filed a patent through Western University. The main goal is to get the device into clinical trials, and to eventually commercialize it.

Bakhsheshi credits his patience, perseverance and supportive team for his success with this project.

“I feel so proud to be working with such a supportive group — together we have learned how to reject the failures we have endured and used them as a learning experience,” he said. “If you are a persistent person and have a passion for what you do, it will lead you to success.”