Calem Kenward

Structural Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 Proteins
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I've always loved taking things apart and figuring out how they worked. I like to think working in a research lab is the ultimate version of that. In science you get to drill down to the tiniest, most fundamental parts of a system and see how they interact to create incredible complexity around us. In some small way, I hope to contribute to our understanding of that complexity.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

I wanted to continue my career in science and UBC has many renowned professors and research groups. Here, I have the opportunity to get involved in cutting-edge research and expand my abilities as a biochemist. I can't lie though, after visiting BC I was hooked on the lushness and mountain views.

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

I study the pinnacle of microscopic machinery, that is the proteins that compose almost all living things. These little machines are composed of the simplest repeating sub-units but work to make machines thousands of times more efficient and smaller than we can artificially. Understanding how these proteins function and interact is a significant challenge, and UBC has the tools (and connections) to make studying these challenging targets possible.

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

I was probably most surprised at how good the food is here. Although a close second is the diversity and number of people, Vancouver really does attract people from all around the world.

I wanted to continue my career in science and UBC has many renowned professors and research groups. Here, I have the opportunity to get involved in cutting-edge research and being able to expand my abilities as a biochemist.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

My research obviously fascinates me but beyond that, the part I enjoy the most is probably hanging out with all the other grad students and lab members

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

Science is always changing at a rapid pace, but it feels like that pace is increasing more than ever. Staying on top of all the advancements in techniques and methods while contending with the global competition is going to be a significant challenge.

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

I have worked as a TA for an undergraduate introduction to Biochemistry lab. One day, a student came to me frustrated that we weren't learning current techniques and instead focusing on more fundamental understanding. I remember telling her, "it's not about the techniques or the machines, but encouraging you to develop a foundation and so you can later adapt to solve any future problem you encounter." I feel like my program is teaching me in the same manner.

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

I obtained my MSc from Dalhousie University in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (following a combined Honours program) which was my foundational experience in science and research.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I may or may not be totally addicted to buying way too many plants for my small apartment.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

New graduate students should know that studies and research are important, but it is your time outside the lab or classes that will make your experience memorable and unlike any other period in your life. Vancouver and BC have tons to offer, so make sure you take advantage of the best the city and surrounding nature have to offer.


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