Louis-Alexandre Fournier

 
Investigating the molecular consequences of a commonly mutated gene (ARID1A) in cancer development
 
The Interdisciplinary Oncology Program (IOP) attracted me primarily because of its interdisciplinary aspect, as I believed it would allow me to learn about various facets of cancer biology simultaneously. This is important in my mind because graduate students inevitably become experts on niche subjects and often miss important connections between their research focus and other disciplines.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

My interest in scientific investigation was sparked at a young age by my grandfather, who introduced me to the incredible complexity of human biology using his microscope. This passion eventually translated into obtaining a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and immunology at McGill University, where I developed a fascination for the molecular mechanisms of cancer. During my undergrad, I was lucky to take part in research internships that consolidated research as the career I wanted to pursue. Through these experiences, I realized that the problem-solving nature of biomedical research is unique and finding solutions to complex problems is tremendously rewarding. Ultimately, my passion for human biology, along with the hope of improving the lives of cancer patients is what led me to pursue a graduate degree.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I decided to study at UBC for multiple reasons. First, UBC fosters a cancer research program recognized world-wide and is host to cutting-edge research facilities. Second, I firmly believed that my supervisor possessed the mentorship qualities I was looking for. Last, I fell in love with the natural beauty and vibrant diversity of Vancouver when I visited to interview with my supervisor.

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

The Interdisciplinary Oncology Program (IOP) attracted me primarily because of its interdisciplinary aspect, as I believed it would allow me to learn about various facets of cancer biology simultaneously. This is important in my mind because graduate students inevitably become experts on niche subjects and often miss important connections between their research focus and other disciplines. In addition, learning about IOP's dynamic and collaborative training environment from people in the program convinced me that it would be a good fit.

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

The mountains and the beaches - you can ski and lounge at the beach on the same day! I was also surprised by the tight-knit communities that are fostered on and off the UBC campus. Meeting my girlfriend was also a nice surprise!

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

Scientific outreach. It is a great opportunity to engage with academics and members of the community to share a common excitement about science. I am actively involved in programs like Let’s Talk Science and REX at UBC that aim to improve scientific literacy in the community. The IOP program also encourages students to attend conferences to meet experts in our fields and even provides funding for it!

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

Becoming an academic scientist is difficult due to the limited number of faculty positions and the high number of qualified individuals I think one of the biggest challenges of attaining such a goal is to define yourself as a leading expert in your field. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance throughout this process can be challenging, the importance of which should not be overlooked.

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

IOP does a tremendous job of promoting scientific communication and collaboration within the program, especially through its seminars. Developing good communication skills is essential to convince people about the significance of your research and helps tremendously in getting your work funded. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of the program enables collaborations that lead to more impactful work and new learning opportunities.

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

My past experience in research during my undergrad prepared me well for the challenges of grad school. I am also lucky to have great mentors, friends, and family who challenge, yet support me through whatever project I undertake.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Sports in general, both watching and playing! I also like exploring BC, cooking, drinking coffee, and hanging out with friends!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Join a lab that studies a topic you are passionate about and with like-minded people. You will inevitably be faced with challenges during your time in graduate school. Having a strong support group and being enthusiastic about your project helps to stay motivated. Also, get involved in things other than your research; grad life is about more than just your project. Above all, interact with people and build yourself a network that may lead to new opportunities in the future!

 
 
 

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