Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
During the last year of my undergrad, I decided to do a 4th year thesis project in a plant molecular biology lab. I thought it would be a good experience and it could give me an idea of what it's like to work in the lab. I didn't expect to enjoy it that much and I realized that I definitely wanted to work more in the lab but I still wasn't sure what field I was particularly interested in. So, after graduating from my BSc, I worked for a year at University Health Network (UHN) Biobank in Toronto. I learned a lot of valuable skills working with clinicians, researchers and pathologists in cancer research and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The combination of my research and work experience made me decide to pursue a graduate degree in cancer research.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I read a lot about the Medical Genetics program at UBC and realized that the program's mission and interdisciplinary research reflects what I was looking for in a graduate program. Apart from the program, visiting the UBC campus made me feel a sense of community and belonging. Lastly, like many others who moved from Ontario, I couldn't resist the temptation of living in Vancouver's much warmer climate.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
The Medical Genetics program combines both clinical and basic research in the first-year courses that are offered. In addition, it consists of both a thesis-based program and the genetic counselling program so students partaking in either program will work together during the mandatory Medical Genetics first-year courses. This appealed to me because I am fascinated by the application of basic research in the clinical field. This program exposes students to various fields of genetics starting from studying very basic molecular biology in model organisms, all the way to solving case studies for human clinical genetic diseases.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I didn't expect to meet so many people at UBC and that was definitely a pleasant surprise. UBC has a lot of opportunities for grad students to meet and make new friends and I was lucky enough to meet lots of wonderful, intelligent and inspiring graduate students from different disciplines.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
My job at UHN Biobank has prepared me for my graduate program because I worked on clinical trials for pancreatic cancer patients. Some of my work on these clinical trials involved collaborating with researchers to help identify targeted treatments that can be used for patients depending on the tumor's genetic mutations. This information was highly relevant in my first-year courses for Medical Genetics as we learned about personalized medicine. I also continue to apply the knowledge and work ethic I obtained from my job to my current research.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, attend different events and meet people outside of your program. Participate in competitions and initiatives that allow you to communicate your research and showcase your skills. It's not enough to do your research and go home, you need to find ways to educate and inform others about the importance of the valuable work that you do!