Where and what is your current position?
Executive Director: responsible for daily running and operation of the Animals in Science Policy Institute.
Is your current career path as you originally intended?
Sort of - I had wanted to found a non-profit exclusively to work on issues related to the use of animals in science for many years before co-founding AiSPI and becoming ED. However, my original career plan was to become a veterinarian, which obviously didn't happen, but if I were offered the chance to go to vet school now, I'd turn it down.
How does this job relate to your graduate degree?
My graduate degree (and post doc) involved my exploration of the ethics of using animals in research, teaching and testing. The Animals in Science Policy Institute is a registered charity, founded in 2015 by myself and other UBC graduates, with the aim of building an ethical culture of science that respects animal life by promoting the reduction and replacement of animals in science.
What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?
The Animal Welfare Program is a world leader in animal welfare science research. I visited the department twice before beginning my PhD.
What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?
I greatly enjoyed the collegiality of the Animal Welfare Program.
What are key things you did that contributed to your success?
I asked for help when I needed it. I was lucky to work in the Animal Welfare Program - we'd have lunch together every day and were all encouraged to present our work, ideas, research problems, etc. at lunchtime talks. I was also fine to admit when I didn't know something - even now, I think it's way better to admit I don't know than to fake my way through things.
What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?
It's ok to not have a plan and to follow your passions and see where they take you. A grad degree (especially a PhD) simply won't be possible to complete unless you are passionate about what you're doing.
Did you have any breaks in your education?
Yes - my PhD program granted me permission to take a year's leave of absence to accept a position that was supposed to be a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Canadian Council on Animal Care.
How did you find out about/obtain your current position?
My position was created with the founding of the organization - it did not exist until we created it.
What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or in launching your career?
Honestly, I really enjoyed my PhD. My post-doc was way more challenging, but that's not the question. One of the biggest challenges was the admin work needed to get my committee members together for meetings, and for my comps exam and defense - getting busy profs together in the same room at the same time was tough! Another challenge was financial. I don't come from a wealthy family and I held down several part-time jobs in addition to doing my PhD - after my first year I nearly quit, but was gifted some money for tuition so I could carry on. Vancouver is a very expensive place to live on a graduate stipend. I don't think I'd have done anything differently per se, but it would have been better if I had enforced better time boundaries as I was nearing the end of my PhD - as PhD candidates, people are often asked to mentor students, teach guest classes, and do other things "off the sides of their desk" (at least, that was my experience). It's all great and resume-building, but these days I'm better at being honest about my time limitations, and setting clear boundaries. I like to think that will make me a better leader/manager when it comes time to hire staff for our charity.
How are jobs normally posted and filled in your organization or industry?
None so far - we are only 1.5 years old, and a small charity.
What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?
I enjoy thinking about creative ways to make a social impact in the way science is taught in secondary education - our current focus is on getting non-animal alternatives to dissection adopted in BC secondary schools. The most challenging part of my job is juggling a lot of balls at the same time, and being responsible for all of them - I do everything from social media, to accounting, to the development of society policies, to conducting our research projects.