Where and what is your current position?
Conducting and supervising research at the intersection of biology, crowdsourcing, and the Semantic Web.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
I never really had a specific plan, but I'm pretty happy with the way it worked out.
How does this job relate to your graduate degree?
My current work is, unusually, a direct extension of the research that I performed in graduate school. Key things I learned in graduate school include scientific writing, project management, and public speaking.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
At the time it was one of the few bioinformatics graduate programs around, and it was heavily recommended to me by my employer at the time. I was also inspired to come live in beautiful British Columbia for a time.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
Outside of the work, which was exciting and fulfilling (mostly), I really enjoyed trips up to the mountains for snowboarding and backpacking along the coast of Vancouver Island.
What are key things you did that contributed to your success?
Throughout grad school I actively blogged about my work and published my work in preprint archives at the earliest opportunity. These activities made my work known to the people that would ultimately hire me – even though some of the work I described never ended up being published in a normal journal.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
It may sound like a broken record, but the most important thing you can do (aside from excellent work, which is a given) is to get yourself out there and meet people. Go to conferences and use social media to make yourself known (carefully).
Did you have any breaks in your education?
I worked for several years in between undergrad and PhD. I think those years were an important way to get perspective on what I wanted out of graduate school and why. Generally speaking, I think PhD students with some work experience under their belts have some major advantages over their peers who have never emerged from academia.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
I met my current employer at a conference. That connection became an opportunity to do a postdoc in his laboratory more than a year later. Since that start, I have been promoted internally up to my current position.
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
I joined a brand new laboratory as the first student and was also the first PhD student to graduate from my degree program. Though I don't regret that decision and would make it again given the same options, things certainly would have been easier with some more structures in place and role models to follow.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
We have standard job posting boards associated with the institution, but our laboratory also advertises at presentations and major conferences. A personal connection is very useful, though we do occasionally hire people who arrive through the HR channel.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
The most challenging aspect of my current position, aside from grant writing, is managing many different projects simultaneously. I enjoy the research process and the interactions with scientific collaborators, students, postdocs, and staff, but sometimes I long for the days when I was only responsible for a single project.