Amy Kirkham

Be persistent in the pursuit of your goals and do not let others dictate your capabilities.
University of Alberta
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Kingston, Canada
Edmonton, Canada
Exercise Cardio-protection from Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer
Kristin Campbell

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

Research. Specifically, my work involves the development of new studies, writing research grants, writing manuscripts, data analysis, supervision of undergraduate students, and collecting and analyzing MRI data

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

My PhD was absolutely critical in preparing me for a research-intensive postdoc, and my future career goal of attaining a tenure-track position. I became very familiar with the research process and learnt how to deal with numerous barriers.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

I love the opportunity of spending 100% of my time on research. Being a postdoc is challenging as you are in between a student and professor and sometimes it is hard to navigate where you fit in and what your appropriate responsibilities are.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

I originally started graduate school with the intention of applying to Medicine. After just one year of my MSc I decided I would rather pursue a PhD than a MD.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

I originally looked at UBC as an option because my spouse worked in finance and could only work in Toronto (current location at the time) or Vancouver. I had excellent academic opportunities at both U of T and UBC. I ultimately chose Vancouver over Toronto because I wanted a change and thought Vancouver would suit my active lifestyle.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

As mentioned above I have always been confident in my ability to achieve my goals and have tried, even if others were not confident. Keeping my head down and working hard has always paid off for me.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

Don't limit yourself - there have been many times where I've been told that my chances of achieving something are not likely, or that other people don't usually do what I wanted to do. Be persistent in the pursuit of your goals and do not let others dictate your capabilities. 

Did you have any breaks in your education?

I was forced to take a one-year medical leave of absence from my PhD due to injuries sustained in a car accident. This definitely interrupted my productivity and delayed my progress, but the decision to take the leave and focus on my health was the right one. After the year off I was able to return fully focussed, rather than continuing to struggle with injuries that limited my productivity.

What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?

My PhD dissertation involved a very difficult clinical population to recruit. This certainly prolonged my degree but I would not have changed it because my projects were much more interesting, and I learned a lot that will be critical preparation for my ability to pursue clinical research in the future.


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