STEMM Profile: Tegan Cheng | Group Leader – EPIC Lab | Kids Research | Children’s Hospital at Westmead | Sydney | NSW

Dr Tegan Cheng: child prosthetics research, bones, 3D printing at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead [photo: University of Sydney]

“As much as I try and plan my life out, it doesn’t end up that way. Many good things in my career have come down to a combination of hard work and good fortune – like Seneca said ‘luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity’”

Dr Tegan Cheng is Group Leader of the EPIC Lab and a biomedical engineer and scientist based in Kids Research at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. She works closely with clinicians to develop novel solutions to address unmet needs in paediatrics. Her main research areas are the development and commercialisation of implantable and wearable medical devices for children’s musculoskeletal conditions and the application of 3D printing to improve health outcomes for children. is Group Leader of the EPIC Lab and a biomedical engineer and scientist based in Kids Research at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. She works closely with clinicians to develop novel solutions to address unmet needs in paediatrics. Her main research areas are the development and commercialisation of implantable and wearable medical devices for children’s musculoskeletal conditions and the application of 3D printing to improve health outcomes for children.

What would you say is your most valuable personal attribute that has helped you succeed?

Stubbornness. I can get really stubborn about a particular idea and choose to pursue it, even if it isn’t easy. I don’t think I’m close-minded in these pursuits though – I take on new approaches and suggestions if they align with the goal of the project and I am happy to pivot if that is what is most appropriate. I love challenging the status quo and my supervisor, so I work hard to prove them wrong (but accept when it’s me that’s wrong). It’s often said I succeed in spite of some challenge.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to women just starting their careers in STEMM?

Back yourself. If your inner imposter is crying out – hear her out and challenge her. What if you ARE meant to be invited to that big meeting? What if you ARE qualified for that exciting new job? Think about someone you look up to (any gender) and consider what they would do given your situation? They probably would have just done it. Remember, you’ve got to be in to win it. I attribute many things in my career to being in the right place at the right time, but I also work hard to put myself in potential right places.

Do you set boundaries? If yes, which is the most important one?

I set boundaries around my time off work. I am routine driven and unless there is a special reason, I stick to my working hours and leave the lab at the same time every day. My down time is mine and I take great pleasure in my hobbies (my main ones are cooking and rock climbing). I have a strict bedtime schedule because sleeping well has always been a priority to me. I find my best ideas come when I allow myself to wind down and am well rested physically, emotionally and mentally.

How can we best support the next generation of women in STEMM?

Our next generation need to be able to see themselves in the future of STEMM – are there women who have been successful in these professions and careers? We also need to expand the ideas of what a STEMM career can be. When I speak to girls in high school, I tell them to ignore the labels or what they think an ‘engineer’ or a ‘scientist’ are. Instead, ask yourself: do you like solving problems? Do you like helping people? Do maths and science interest you? Then you can use pathways of engineering and science to do those things.

Do you have a strategic 5‐year plan or do you just ‘go with the flow’?

As much as I try and plan my life out, it doesn’t end up that way. Many good things in my career have come down to a combination of hard work and good fortune – like Seneca said “luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity”. I keep an open mind and pursue things that interest me. My career planning analogy is super nerdy but I think of it like building up character specs in a video game. I make sure I’m hitting all the key areas I need as an academic and focus on weak areas to make me a strong as possible overall.

LinkedIn: Tegan Cheng

Twitter: @tegancheng

Instagram: @epic_lab


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