Where Research Begins, Night Science, and the Quest for Breakthrough Research

Date & Time

Wednesday, November 29, 2023
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm



Offered by

Graduate Pathways to Success

Registration Closed / Past Event


In this session, Dr. Tom Mullaney,  Dr. Chris Rea and Dr. Itai Yanai will share practical tips for making key decisions about:

  • which research projects to choose,
  • how to make them your own, and
  • how to communicate the significance of your research to potential employers

Taking the time to understand the stakes of your chosen research project—not just “what” your thesis or dissertation is about, but knowing your “why” for this topic will help with: 

  • your research and writing
  • pivoting if you are hitting research roadblocks,
  • writing more compelling grant and fellowship applications, and
  • giving more magnetic presentations and job talks.  

Knowing your “why” can also provide you with a sense of purpose and belonging to carry you through challenging times, help you meet your intellectual “fellow travelers” far faster, and shorten your time-to-completion. Simply put, there is an immense value to knowing who you are as a scholar, both pragmatically and personally.


Tom Mullaney is Professor of Chinese History at Stanford University, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He is the co-author of Where Research Begins (University of Chicago Press, 2022, with Christopher Rea), The Chinese Typewriter: A History (MIT Press 2017), and Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China (UC Press, 2010), among other works. His writings have appeared in Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, Quartz, the South China Morning Post, TechCrunch, the Journal of Asian Studies, Technology & Culture, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy. His work has been featured in RadioLab, The Atlantic, the BBC, and in invited lectures at Google, Microsoft, Adobe, and more. He earned his BA and MA from the Johns Hopkins University, and his PhD from Columbia University. YouTube

Christopher Rea is Professor of Chinese and former Director of the Centre for Chinese Research at UBC. His nine books include Chinese Film Classics, 1922-1949 (2021), The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (2015), The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (2017), and Where Research Begins: Choosing a Research Project That Matters to You (and the World), co-authored with Thomas S. Mullaney. He is also a prolific translator, and creator of the world’s largest public collection of early Chinese films with English subtitles: chinesefilmclassics.org. YouTube @ModernChineseCulturalStudies

Itai Yanai is a Professor at the NYU School of Medicine, where his work revolves around the study of dynamic biological processes through the lens of gene regulation and systems biology. Itai received his undergraduate degrees in Computer Engineering and the Philosophy of Science and his PhD in Bioinformatics from Boston University. He completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and Harvard University. He started his lab as Assistant Professor at the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. He was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a visiting professor at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. In 2016, Itai moved his lab to New York University. He has co-authored a popular science book, entitled “The Society of Genes”, along with Martin Lercherfrom Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf. With Martin, he is currently also publishing editorials and podcasting on the topic of ‘Night Science’, the scientific creative process. Night Science Podcast

Registration Information

General registration opens on Tuesday, November 14th at 9 am.

Registration is open to current UBC graduate students. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email at the e-mail associated with your community.grad.ubc.ca account. If you experience any difficulty using the online registration tool, please email us at graduate.pathways@ubc.ca.

Please email us if you are registered and are no longer able to attend this event.


If you have a disability or medical condition that may affect your full participation in the event, please email graduate.pathways@ubc.ca, 604-827-4578, well in advance of the event.