Madison Chapel

Evolution of gene regulatory networks
Carl de Boer
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I completed my undergraduate studies in microbiology at the University of Manitoba. Towards the end of my studies, I became interested in the field of bioinformatics. After graduating in 2020, I spent my spare time completing additional courses in computer science. A graduate degree in bioinformatics allows me to leverage my experience in biology and computer science to tackle new problems.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC was my top choice for graduate studies. It offers a dedicated bioinformatics degree program and is a top university both in Canada and worldwide. On top of this, living in Vancouver is a great way to escape the Manitoba winters for a few years, which is a tough opportunity to pass up.

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

I wanted to pursue a thesis-based masters degree, but I also wanted the opportunity to take classes to further my knowledge in the field. The masters degree in bioinformatics at UBC offers a nice balance between research and coursework.

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

UBC has a sailing club! My hometown in Manitoba was located right beside the river, so I grew up kayaking and swimming, and I absolutely love being on the water. My grandpa used to race sailboats, and I have been wanting to learn for a few years. The sailing club is super welcoming and offers lessons for new members.

UBC was my top choice for graduate studies. It offers a dedicated bioinformatics degree program and is a top university both in Canada and worldwide.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

One concern that's I've always had is the question of "Where am I going to work?". I am studying in British Columbia, my family is in Manitoba, many of my friends are in the United States, and I've also fallen in love with Southeast Asia during previous work terms. I know that deciding where I want to live and work is going to be a difficult challenge in the future.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

A degree in bioinformatics gives me a strong foundation to search for jobs in multiple sectors and different geographical regions. I am confident that I will graduate with the skills necessary to search for work in either wet or dry lab environments, and be a competitive candidate for jobs in other countries if I decide to relocate in the future.

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

The Science Co-op program at the University of Manitoba was probably one of the best things I could have done to prepare myself for grad school and my future career in general. It allowed me to explore different work environments (academic, industry, or government) and develop a better understanding of what options I wanted to pursue in the future. Despite the fact that the pandemic absolutely and unquestionably sucked, there were some big silver linings for me. Many of my undergraduate peers struggled to find work after graduating, but I was able to secure a position doing COVID-19 data processing and border surveillance for PHAC. This job meant that I could put aside money for graduate studies (the cost of living in Vancouver is not so friendly), while also completing computer science courses through University of the People during my evenings and weekends. Without the financial stability from my previous job and the additional qualifications from my CS studies, I don't think this graduate degree would have been possible for me.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

In the winter, I bake and crochet. In the summer, I enjoy hiking, cycling, and have now added sailing to the list.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

One of the first pieces of advice I received was "If you're going to fail, fail early". You shouldn't let concerns about an experiment or project potentially failing delay you from starting it. It's better to have a project crash and burn in the first few months than to spend a half a year preparing for it only to discover that it doesn't work. The sooner you can get a minimum workable version of your idea in action, the better.


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