Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?
I wasn't sure I wanted to go to graduate until the last the last year of college, but it was always an option that I considered. Honestly, it is very hard to pinpoint what made me decide to pursue academia at that point, but I can identify the narrative I have now for why I am in academia: it is the sense that I am helping push the limits of human knowledge for the whole human community, and that I am building a great and diverse skill set that I can use to help solve problems. This what keeps me decided on wanting to pursue academia.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
I think three factors had a differentiating effect on this decision:
- UBC's unique multidisciplinary environment which is key to my research as a computer scientist and bioinformatician.
- UBC being on the West Coast generally and Vancouver specifically and the amazing weather and nature that comes with that.
- UBC being in Canada which made it possible for me as a Syrian citizen to get a student visa in contrast to our neighbor to the South.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
I think the foremost reason was my supervisor, Dr. Faraz Hach. Faraz was my advisor during my Master's degree at Simon Fraser University and he was the reason I wanted to join the UBC Computer Science PhD program to continue working with him. His work falls exactly at the intersection of computer science and bioinformatics that I love and I highly value his advising to me.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
The views. The views are just incomparable.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
Building connections with scientists and researchers working on the pressing problems of humanity.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
Presenting and teaching skills. These communication skills are so useful for me before they are useful to the people I am communicating to. When I started my graduate program, I relied and leveraged these skills from the get go to make sure I understood people around me and that they understood me. This saved me tremendous time, and effort and helped me form bonds with colleagues and friends.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I enjoy having home brunches with friends!
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
- The greatest gift to yourself will be to make good friends; they will keep you anchored and sane when the inevitable lows of grad life hit you.
- The hardest skill to learn for me is knowing myself and my habits. I still often fail to manage my time and projects, but the more I learn about myself, the better I get at it.
- Take almost every opportunity to share and present your research regardless of how incomplete it is! Presenting your work will help you understand it better and will provide you with early invaluable feedback.