Helena Koniar

 
Assessing the Dosimetry and Biodistribution of Actinium-225 for Targeted Alpha Therapy
 
The CAMPEP accreditation was a major draw because of the opportunities to do a clinical residency after graduating. The medical physics faculty have a very wide range of research interests from radiation oncology, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound and nuclear medicine. The medical physics program is very well connected with lots of external institutions including TRIUMF, BC Cancer Agency, and Vancouver General Hospital, and has many collaborations with other universities.
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

In my undergrad, I participated in research in experimental biophysics. After graduating, I knew I wanted to continue on in physics research but I wanted to see tangible societal impacts from my research, which is why I was drawn to graduate studies in medical physics.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

For me, the decision to study at UBC was a combination of the program, the research facilities and supervisors, and the city. UBC's medical physics program is organized such that classes are finished in your first year and then you focus on your research with the foundational courses completed. TRIUMF is Canada's national particle accelerator centre and is an unparalleled facility for conducting research on medical isotopes which has been led by its Life Sciences division. And of course, Vancouver itself was a big draw to choosing UBC with the mountains, ocean, and city all in one.

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

There's a few things that attracted me to the medical physics program at UBC. Firstly, the CAMPEP accreditation was a major draw because of the opportunities to do a clinical residency after graduating. Secondly, the medical physics faculty have a very wide range of research interests from radiation oncology, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound and nuclear medicine. I had a lot of very interesting options to chose from for research projects and in my first-year classes, I was taught topics by experts in the field. Finally, the medical physics program is very well connected with lots of external institutions including TRIUMF, BC Cancer Agency, and Vancouver General Hospital, and has many collaborations with other universities. This attracted me to the program because of the opportunity to work with industry partners outside of the usual framework of academia.

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

The best surprise about UBC was meeting all the other incoming graduate students in the physics department. It's been wonderful to make so many new friends from all over the world who are also passionate about physics. Another pleasant surprise about Vancouver is that the rain is not nearly as bad as everyone says, especially for someone who grew up with Ontario winters.

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

Working at TRIUMF is really exciting because they have resources to isotope production that aren't available elsewhere. I'm looking forward to conducting cutting edge research on the frontier of developing radiopharmaceutical and seeing that research have a meaningful impact to the way we treat cancer with medical isotopes.

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

My undergraduate was at McMaster University in Integrated Science, which is a small program that is based on interdisciplinarity and collaboration in science research. From my undergrad experience, I learned to work really well in teams, advocate for my research, and communicate complex physics concepts to non-physicists. These skills have been tremendously helpful in graduate school and definitely prepared me for working in the interdisciplinary field of medical physics.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

Like most Vancouverites, I love being outdoors, so in the winter I go skiing and in the summer I go hiking! Vancouver also has lots to offer as a city, and I like exploring and trying new things.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Everyone's path in graduate school is their own, and no two students will have the same experiences. So my advice to new graduate students would be to try new things that make you step out of your comfort zone, learn by making mistakes, and ask for help when you need it. Find a project and supervisor that you're excited about and that will challenge you to grow.

 
 
 

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