Samantha Dziurdzik

Identification of membrane-targeting factors for neurodegeneration-associated VPS13 proteins
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I’ve always been interested in biology and found myself further captivated by cellular and molecular biology during my BSc. In particular, I was interested in how genetic variation can result in disease by altering our cellular machinery. At first, it seemed incomprehensible to me how researchers have been able to uncover these complex pathways and further discover novel therapeutics to combat alterations in our cells. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to work in research labs through co-op placements that made research tangible and gave me hope that I too could contribute to our understanding of biology. These experiences made me want to pursue a graduate degree where I could focus on a specific research question and contribute to the understanding of rare diseases. Beyond that, I wanted to challenge myself to take on a leadership role over a project and develop the independence to identify gaps in our understanding and develop studies that could address these.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I chose to study at UBC because it is a top-ranked Canadian university that is known for its academic excellence, first-class research, outstanding facilities, and diverse, knowledgeable faculty. Secondarily, living in Vancouver is a definite bonus with beautiful scenery and mild winters.

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

The Medical Genetics program has a large interdisciplinary faculty spread across multiple institutes in Vancouver that perform research from basic science to translational clinical studies. The department is very collaborative and the ability to learn from such a diverse group was appealing to me.

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

The transit in Vancouver is phenomenal! It’s very fast and easy to travel without a car in Vancouver, whether it’s going to lab to do research or to the mountains for a hike on weekends.

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

The opportunity to work in a research lab during my BSc was important for preparing myself for my program. My co-op placements gave me an understanding of how research is performed and how to break down complex problems into smaller questions that can be addressed experimentally. This was also a great time to discover that I enjoy the pace of lab work including the flexibility in what you can study and the constant change in your research approach as you get new results. I also found that my previous leadership roles in my community were very beneficial in learning how to take the lead of my research project.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I love being outdoors, especially here in Vancouver where hiking trails are easily accessible. It’s also fun to explore the city, see the cherry blossoms in the spring, and try new restaurants. When I’m indoors I enjoy baking and gaming.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Graduate school is a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure you have a good work-life balance where you set time aside for yourself so you don’t burn out. It’s also important to have a good support system so remember to make time for friends and family and try to engage with other graduate students. Also, set time aside in your weekly schedule to read papers. It’s easy to get caught up with your research and fall behind on reading newly published work. Staying up to date with literature helps you formulate new hypotheses, design better experiments, and analyze your own results which in turn will make you more productive.


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