Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I enjoyed my initial exposure to research and the research process through my honours program and pursued my Master’s degree to explore the hands-on, independent thinking that came along with research. Through this, I began to more fully appreciate the long-term value that research provides to society, as well as the personal value of training to think independently and creatively. With that in mind, I specifically chose a PhD in a new field to challenge my current structures of scientific thinking. In addition, my PhD will also provide future opportunities for leadership and decision-making where I can be the person helping to direct programs. Specifically, I’m looking forward to developing abilities that allow me to directly influence how an organization works to build a community with both those in science and the general public.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
First and foremost, I was interested in pursuing my PhD in the Zandstra lab. My Masters work exposed me to the question of “how do we build systems to best understand the mechanics behind cell behaviour”. When I researched where in Canada would be a good environment to learn about cellular engineering (either through mechanical or genetic approaches) many of my mentors suggested Dr. Zandstra. The lab offered the right environment to explore these scientific questions, learn from those with diverse backgrounds and improve my ability to approach problems computationally. Being at UBC also offered mountains, and after only a year in Calgary prior to starting this program, I wasn’t quite ready to move away from the lifestyle they offer.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
Alongside the draw of the lab and the city itself, biomedical engineering appealed to me due to its integration in several areas of health sciences. There are labs that focus on tools to understand basic science, projects that focus directly on patient research and the department is closely intertwined with biotech/pharma industry players. The exposure to, and integration of, all these aspects of science offers a place that I’m able to learn how to best move forward within the greater science community.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The biggest, but not best, surprise about my new program was most certainly the SARS-CoV2 pandemic. The best surprise has been, since I started just before the shutdown, how those in the lab really supported me in exploring the alternative approaches that I can take to research through this time. I will be forever grateful for their help.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
I really enjoy the pursuit of finding the best way to answer a question, which is something that I’m learning a lot about from my lab. Taking the time to explore what’s out there, how people have looked at these pivotal questions and how you can build on that immense knowledge in a thoughtful and creative way is the most fun detective hunt for us science nerds. It really feels like a privilege to be able to explore these areas so deeply.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
Through my MSc, I developed a patience and appreciation for the failure that is inevitable in research. (For those new graduate students reading, there was over a year and a half that I did not have any valuable experimental results, but the successful experiments came after). In saying this, I also have to give a shoutout here to my support circle: my wonderful advisors, family and friends who make other things feel meaningful when your science does not. If you’re looking for a hard skill for grad school, robust and frequent scientific reading is a must.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I try to be outside as much as possible. The city boasts being by the mountains and beach, and it is definitely something I take advantage of through snowboarding, hiking and surfing. In my indoor life, I also love to read, cook and have fully given in to the COVID craze of baking bread.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Ask all the questions! Imposter syndrome is definitely something I have felt very acutely, especially towards the end of my MSc and the starting in a new field/lab for my PhD. However, coming into my PhD, I set a simple, but valuable personal goal to just ask a question when I don’t understand. It’s likely that someone else has the same question, but even if they don’t, I would rather try to understand as much as possible because sometimes these ideas from others can enlighten your own research or help you to think differently.