Fang Fang Li

Viral imprinting in shaping childhood immune responses and chronic inflammatory diseases
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I’ve been at a crossroads about what I wanted to do for most of my life before graduate school, mostly because I loved a bit of everything and struggled with choosing one field to concentrate in. Then I got introduced to research and discovered that there wasn’t a need to choose: the reality of modern-day research is that it’s a network of disciplines working in tandem to answer questions together as a single team. For me, research requires me to draw upon the skills and experiences I’ve gathered from every facet of life, and challenges me to become a well-rounded global citizen. I decided to pursue a graduate degree in order to get the training I need to join that world and contribute to the collective effort of improving health as a whole.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

UBC is a world-class institution known for its many multidisciplinary collaborations, particularly with its many industry, government, and non-profit partners. I was fortunate to find supervisors at UBC matching my research interests who also had clinical appointments in public health. Through this, I’ve had the privilege of training in both academic and clinical settings, and have been able to partake in many collaborations from each of those fields as a result.

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

Viral exposures can contribute to a diverse repertoire of inflammatory diseases across different systems in the human body. To fully understand exactly how it all takes place, there is a need for multidisciplinary collaboration — both in knowledge and technique. This made the program offered by the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine an easy choice for me to make. Every researcher in the department is linked together in the study of human disease, no matter how diverse our topics and methodologies may be. I’m a strong believer that a diversity of expertise and perspectives lends its way to transforming dream to reality, and my program offers me the perfect setting for me to do just that.

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

Definitely the diversity of cuisines Vancouver has to offer! Whenever a friend visits from out-of-town, I always try to bring them around to as many places to eat as I can.

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

“Science is all about failure. If you don’t fail, you can’t improve. You just have to keep on trying.” This was a piece of advice that my undergraduate research mentor had given me one day when she tried to cheer me up after another failed experiment, and has been a piece of advice that I carry with me even as I step into the lab today. There is no given that your experiments will work out properly the first time, second time — or even the fifth time. What’s important is that you pick yourself back up and try again from another angle each and every time. Slowly but steadily: this advice has been instrumental in helping me pick up the skills to conduct the research that I do today.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I’ve been especially enjoying calligraphy and pottery lately, but I love all things arts and craft in general. I like to think that they help train my creativity to be more flexible and out-of-the-box!

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Like any journey, there will be both good days and bad days. Within the good days, there will be days where you will feel invincible — as if you’re standing on top of the world. On the flip side, you may find that the worst of the bad days are filled with hopelessness and dread. It is so important to have a support system in place for that reason. Family, friends from outside of graduate school, friends in the lab, your own supervisor — you name it! Graduate school can be very lonely at times, but having people to share your success and happiness with on your good days, and to provide some comfort and encouragement on your bad days, is just so incredibly important for your well-being.


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