Dorothy Lin

Epigenetic age acceleration as a mediator between prenatal exposure to phthalates and behavioural outcomes in children at 2- and 4-years of age
Michael Kobor
Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Understanding the biological contributions of human psychology has always fascinated me, which lead me to pursue a graduate degree in genetics. My goal when applying to this degree was to learn contemporary methods in computational biology/genetics to understand the underlying biological factors of mental illness. My interest stemmed from my own persistent and ongoing struggles with depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. My hope with pursuing a graduate degree, then, was to contribute to the field that is important to myself, those around me, and others who struggle similarly. From a broader perspective, I hope to eventually pursue a career as a clinician-scientist who may work at the intersection of researching the biological basis of mental illness and translating this research into ways that will reach patients. At the end of the day, I think that pursuing a graduate degree will be the right choice for anyone who gets genuinely excited and curious about a topic that they are passionate about.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

This answer is a lot less inspirational than it likely should be – after moving to Ontario from BC for my undergraduate, I had grown a deep homesickness for the mountains and oceans that surround Vancouver. When applying for graduate programs, one of the most important factors for me was to return to Vancouver and be nestled back in the pine-scented lands. It just so happened that I became highly interested in the Medical Genetics program after searching for graduate programs that could speak to my interest in mental health and genetics. After finding the UBC Medical Genetics program and comparing the scope of research at UBC with other graduate genetic programs, the diverse scope of research at UBC Medical Genetics surprised and attracted me. The research seemed innovative with psychiatric genetics, with labs that have investigated these topics computationally, and the community seemed welcoming. Moreover, after speaking with several members of the lab that I am currently in, I was sold on the program. UBC seemed like the perfect school to learn about research with its wealth of workshops, faculty, and programs offered on campus.

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

When browsing through the supervisors at various graduate genetic programs across the country, UBC stood out to me with its vast scope of research covered by just one department. It was exciting to see topics ranging from cancer genomics to computational genetics and psychiatric genetics all rolled into the overarching topic of Medical Genetics. This was especially attractive to me as I thought about the many resources and diverse ideas that I would be able to consult over my time as a graduate student at UBC.

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

The scientific community at UBC is friendly, non-intimidating, and encouraging. I was beyond nervous when the days counting down to the first day of classes were trickling away. Before starting graduate school, people had warned me that a career in research would be isolating and that people prefer to do their own things. People also warned me of how large of a jump undergraduate to graduate studies would be. These cautionary tales successfully transformed me into an uptight and nervous individual prior to the start of the school year. My worries were surprisingly, yet thankfully, disproved as soon as the first day of classes began. My professors were understanding of graduate student stress and encouraging in terms of pushing us to think more critically and explore ideas in genetics that I have never pondered before. I found myself being deeply curious about subjects that were far removed from my research, and I was having a very unexpectedly fun time. I was also amazed at the sheer number of seminars and workshops offered by UBC, and I was additionally amazed that these events were a normal part of the school and offered all year long.

When browsing through the supervisors at various graduate genetic programs across the country, UBC stood out to me with its vast scope of research covered by just one department.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

Learning how to be comfortable with putting myself out there, such as joining clubs in my undergraduate, taught me how to learn how to work with others, speak in front of large groups of people, and meet others that share similar interests. Integral to putting myself out there were inevitable moments of rejection, frustration, and time management mishaps. Going into graduate school, I am thankful for my undergraduate self for going these experiences first, as I believe that these experiences have likely helped me navigate through some tough experiences that I’ve met throughout my first year. Over time, I have learned how to be more resilient in times of uncertainty. And this resilience has helped me a lot when going through uncertain times with waiting back to hear back from scholarship applications, collaborators, and more. Staying optimistic and positive during challenging times remains something that I continue to work on.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

When I felt myself burning out from school and research, I took a little break for myself and was able to return to the activities that bring me relaxation and joy. These activities range from bike rides (which are a big treat when you live in Vancouver) to exploring different avenues of art. Lately, my interest has turned to tattooing, which is something I took up around May when one of my friends in my cohort bought a tattoo gun online to give us matching cohort tattoos. Having a creative outlet and going through the process of learning something from scratch in a more artistic, rather than scientific, way helps me decompress from all the analytical thinking that I do with my research. Besides tattooing, I also enjoy dreaming up sewing projects and other graphic design-related activities.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Having only completed one year, I am unsure as to whether I am in the best position to pass on advice to new students, as I was in their shoes just a year ago. Taking things as they come, and being appreciative of every experience, negative or not, has been something that has kept me going throughout graduate school. Building friendships with those in your cohort is also something that is helpful. The best friends that I have made this year have all been in my program’s cohort and having others that were going through the same experiences as I was comforting. We all wanted the best for each other, and when one person was stressed, we could empathize with how they were feeling as we were likely either a) feeling the same way, or b) have felt that way not long ago due to similar reasons. It was nice to have a group of people that you knew you could rely on within your academic life. Something very difficult for me was the transition from the end of courses to focusing solely on research. Because my lab is mainly a bioinformatics lab, transitioning from seeing my cohort every day for classes to working from home most days of the week was disorienting, and I felt quite lost (and still sometimes do). One day, I came to the realization that I was probably burned out. A lot happens in your first year of grad school – you meet a lot of new people, you are in a new lab, you are trying to figure out your project, and in many cases, you are in a new city as well. My one piece of advice here would likely be to make time for reflection. With how fast-paced everything goes, it can be easy to lose yourself in the process of trying to figure everything out at once.


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