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Luli Bursztyn, B.Eng. '04

(Chemical Engineering) | From Wrestling Mats to Eye Surgery

Ask Luli Bursztyn (B.Eng ‘04 Chemical) to trace the path that led her to a career in neuro-ophthal- mology and she’ll name a few unusual waypoints—like wrestling and Dofasco—as part of her tale.

It was the combination of McMaster’s academic reputation and its wrestling team that initially brought Bursztyn to Mac engineering. And during her four years at the school, she excelled at both. In addition to wrestling her way to two OUA medals, she was awarded the Chancellor’s Gold Medal in recognition of her scholarship, leadership and influence, and was named a “Top 8 Academic All-Canadian” by Ontario University Athletics.

A fourth year co-op placement took Bursztyn to Dofasco, where she says she earned good money, had a great experience and decided engineering wasn’t the right career for her.

Looking for something with less computer modelling work and more hands-on involvement, she applied to both medical schools and post-graduate programs. When she was accepted at Queen’s University for both programs, she arranged to do them concurrently, earning both a medical degree and a master’s degree in neuroscience.

Discovering a love for ophthalmology led her to combine her interests. She now works as a neuro ophthalmologist in London, where she does eye surgeries for conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma, as well as treating patients suffering from neurological prob- lems like multiple sclerosis that can interfere with vision.

But even if her career doesn’t involve engineering, Bursztyn says her undergraduate degree helped differentiate her from the crowds applying to medical school with a life sciences background, and provided her with a myriad of practical skills. “I spontaneously tell people all the time how grateful I am to have studied engineering,” she says. “I just feel really competent in a lot of useful areas because of what I learned.”

Along with the ability to understand statistics, analyze scientific literature and use Excel, her days at McMaster gave her the skills to design and build her own backyard deck. And thanks to the renowned concrete toboggan competition, she can even pour concrete. “Honestly, you can do anything with an engineering degree. I think it’s useful for any direction you go,” she says.