Elitza Tocheva

Surrounding yourself with mentors, colleagues, family and friends that are supportive and want you to succeed is crucial.
Universite de Montreal
Assistant Professor
Sofia, Bulgaria
Montreal, Canada
Structural and functional studies of copper-containing nitrite reductases
Michael Murphy

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

As an Assistant Professor, my duties include teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, doing research and supervising students, and participating in administrative duties.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

During my graduate work, I was exposed to grant and paper writing, assisting in teaching of undergraduate classes, and training people in the lab. All of these duties gave me the experience but also the opportunity to see different aspects of academia.

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

I love the fact that I get to develop and explore my own ideas. I enjoy building a lab, hiring students, and interacting with my peers.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

Absolutely not. I was aware of the challenges and competition associated with becoming an Assistant Professor. I needed to do well as a postdoc, have my own research ideas, publish well, and there were no guarantees that it would happen (hard work doesn't always pay off). In addition, I switched fields after my PhD and ventured into a novel area of research. I took a risk that ultimately paid off, but I couldn't have predicted that.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

I joined a lab as an undergrad and really enjoyed the work. My advisor suggested that I stay on as a graduate student.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

I had the opportunity to establish collaborations with researchers from different departments and universities. I think having a stimulating work environment is key to motivating oneself and succeeding.

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

Looking back, I think the biggest key to where I am today was the fact that I took major risks and kept challenging myself. I wasn't afraid to do things that people said would never work, switch fields, or start a project from scratch. I just made sure I liked what I did.

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

Get to know yourself, and find a place that fits you. There isn't one answer for everybody, and we can all contribute to different aspects of science.

Did you have any breaks in your education?

No breaks. If I were to do it again, I would probably take some time off to travel before and after grad school.

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

I think the biggest challenge is to motivate yourself when the going gets tough. Your experiments might not work, it might be exhausting to write that thesis, or you might have gotten numerous rejection letters. Somehow, you have to pick yourself up and keep going. Also, surrounding yourself with mentors, colleagues, family, and friends that are supportive and want you to succeed is crucial.


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