Sharada Balaji

Characterizing white matter: Adventures with quantitative magnetic resonance imaging
Shannon Kolind, Alex MacKay
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I got my first taste of the research and development process during my undergraduate degree in UBC Engineering Physics and worked at a small company in that capacity for a few years after the degree. The idea of working in a field I cared about and doing similar kinds of exploratory work, but where I could also make an impact on people’s lives, drew me back to grad school and the work I do now.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

My supervisors! Having done my undergraduate degree at UBC, I was looking for a change of scenery for my graduate work. Meeting with both of my (then potential) supervisors, seeing the work they did, and their enthusiasm and friendliness made me change my mind about heading elsewhere.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

A degree in Physics can give you the ability to work out a whole variety of problems, and leaves room to take up nearly anything afterwards. UBC’s Physics program offered the opportunity to teach and work with the dynamic and fun UBC Physics and MRI research community, which all made me excited to pursue my graduate work here.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

UBC often feels like its own world, and it's fun to take a break and go on long endless walks to different parts of the campus. Also there’s no lack of coffee shops to develop a healthy coffee addiction.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

Presenting my work to different types of audiences was an aspect of my graduate program that has been unexpectedly enjoyable and something I have gotten to practice over the past couple of years. Presenting at conferences, sharing ideas, and getting advice from researchers around the world doing similar work has allowed me to make new friends and collaborators.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

My undergraduate degree and my job between degrees showed me how to learn, try, and persist even through failure. Research often involves things not going your way, and during graduate school it is important not to get discouraged but to persist— it usually pays off!

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I’m an avid watcher of TV shows, and love adding to my useless hoard of movie knowledge. Outside of this, I enjoy urban hiking (to faraway coffee shops across the city), yoga and running in my neighbourhood and on the beautiful Vancouver seawall.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Take the time to make friends! The graduate degree experience can occasionally feel overwhelming, and it’s helpful to feel like you’re going through it all with friends and commiserate together, even if you don’t work with them on the same types of research.


Read tips on applying, reference letters, statement of interest, reaching out to prospective supervisors, interviews and more in our Application Guide!