Petar Iliev

Developing selective small-molecule probes for STAT3 using thermal stability assays
Dr. Brent Page
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I pursued graduate studies because I wanted to get further hands-on experience with research as well as develop key skills for independent and critical thinking. Building on my previous MChem degree, I joined the PhD program to go deeper and make a higher impact through my doctoral project. Overall, I believe a graduate degree is a great chance to be part of exploration, learning to spearhead into the unknown, gaining proficiency in a range of techniques and getting immersed in a field of interest.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I have an interest in target-based drug-discovery and in my PhD I wanted to explore the use of the latest target-engagement techniques for developing new inhibitors. I joined UBC and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in particular, because I wanted to work with Dr. Brent Page, who has pioneered the use of thermal stability assays as tools for developing STAT3 chemical agents. Overall I made UBC my first choice, due to its strong academic community and its location in beautiful Vancouver, which offers many other opportunities to enjoy the university experience.

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

A major reason to join the PharmSci program was the opportunity to join the Page Lab and delve deeper into the chemical biology field. I believe one of the best things about the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is that it is a multidisciplinary hub, which brings together experts from a range of different fields. This is an excellent opportunity for collaboration and also learning, broadening your horizons of how your research impacts different aspects of the pharm field in the big picture.

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

I was personally surprised to find out how outdorsy people in Vancouver are. Whether it is hiking, cycling, winter sports or just hanging out in the outdoors, most people here try to be active all year round and this has been a fun community to be part of. In addition, UBC’s facilities are great for sports and recreation, and having a student package cover extended health services was another pleasant surprise from UBC, which I found is a fantastic way to promote a healthy lifestyle during your degree.

The diverse portfolio of research disciplines in the PharmSci program offers a great platform to learn about how your research impacts other fields and also to explore a range of hard and soft skills that will help you be a competent and successful researcher.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of the program and in particular exploring a range of different techniques for my research project. As a chemist delving into chemical biology, learning more about the biochemical and biological properties of my target has been intriguing and I look forward to expanding my horizons further by understanding the biological role of STAT3 in cancer signalling.

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

I believe a challenge for researchers in academia is to transition to industrial positions following graduation. It is important to consider the track of your career while you are in graduate school, and keep in mind what experience and skills you would like to develop in order to pursue your dream position.

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

The diverse portfolio of research disciplines in the PharmSci program offers a great platform to learn about how your research impacts other fields and also to explore a range of hard and soft skills that will help you be a competent and successful researcher.

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

I have always found research in life sciences intriguing due to its direct implications in improving the health of people around the world. During my undergraduate program, I took part in a traineeship in target-based drug development at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, where I spent a year working on a medicinal chemistry project. I found working in an interdisciplinary research team stimulating, and I was curious to explore the field further which motivated me to pursue graduate studies in Pharmaceutical Sciences.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Outside of the lab, I enjoy socialising, listening to music and dancing. I like coffee, walking around nature and staying active. UBC Vancouver is a large place and one of my favourite things about it is the beautiful scenery -- having this landscape at the doorstep of the faculty is amazing and always a good time to stroll and relax.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

My advice would be to find a good support network during your studies. Be proactive and introduce yourself to classmates and peers in your faculty. Join the graduate society and become part of the community. The graduate programme is challenging, but incredibly rewarding, and having a group of people that you can share the experiences with, will make your time so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.


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